For some reason, optimistic people often stand out among their peers. Sometimes they’re viewed with awe, while other times, people simply find them annoying. Regardless of whether nature or nurture is responsible for their more than pleasant personalities, it is interesting to note that there is a unique group of individuals who excel in the area of optimism. The reason they don’t annoy anyone with their positive outlook is because they often go unnoticed. They are our children. Sadly, between the temper tantrums (theirs, not yours), the messes, and the squabbles, it’s easy to overlook this amazing attribute. But if we watch and listen carefully, we just might learn something.
One thing that plays a large role in the lives of little people is water. We buy wading pools for their summertime fun, take the little cutie pies to water parks, and set up sprinklers in our backyards. Little kids and water are like two peas in a pod. In fact, the good news is that as they reach the ripe old age of three, they often want to help with any chore that involves water. This doesn’t ensure that dishes actually get clean, of course, or that the windows get washed above the one-foot mark that limits their reach, but it does keep the little tikes busy for the better part of five minutes. Now, once children gain confidence in their cleaning skills, they often want to move on to bigger and better things like mopping the floor. As a naïve, nurturing parent, you figure, what could it hurt? After all, it’s just water. Well, think again. It is water when it’s in the bucket; it’s a lake when poured all over the dining room floor. And although we are taught not to cry over spilled milk, trust me, we do sometimes cry over a spilled lake. However, there’s always a silver, albeit slightly soggy, lining. Anyone who can proudly create his own indoor lake must be the type to see the proverbial glass as being half full.
There are some children who are not only immune to crying over spilled milk but actually embrace the source of it. Many years ago, we planted grass seed over a large portion of our backyard. Aware that we had competition from various forms of wildlife, we covered the area with a healthy dose of hay. As we stood around admiring our handiwork, one of our optimistic offspring wandered over and said with complete sincerity – and a great deal of enthusiasm – “I didn’t know we were getting a cow!” Now, I didn’t want to break the news to little farmer Jack, but all zoning issues aside, I can’t even keep a goldfish alive. Clearly a cow was out of the question, at least for the time being.
Optimism can also rear its endearing though somewhat naive head when it comes to gifts. I’m not talking about gifts our children request from us, like a pony (or in my case a cow). I’m talking about the gifts they want to give to us. Take Mother’s Day. It starts out simple and gets progressively more “optimistic.” Here is a timeline of Mother’s Day gifts that many a fortunate woman has been privileged to receive: First grade was a macaroni necklace. I wore mine proudly and then cooked it for dinner (just kidding). Second grade was a beautifully decorated list of fill-in-the-blank attributes that may have given away just a little too much information. It included statements such as, “I like my mommy because she always buys me candy,” followed by “My mommy makes the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner.” By third grade, we were up to a beautiful homemade card and tissue paper flowers, which still adorn my dining room today. As children get older, however, they begin to devalue the handmade gifts and think that purchasing something is better. The problem with the dawning of this notion is that they don’t always realize that they are supposed to pay for the gift out of their own hard-earned cash or hit their fathers up for a couple of dollars. So on that fateful day, when your children wish you a Happy Mother’s Day and beg you to take them to the candy store because they “just have to buy something for someone,” you play along. Upon arriving at the store, the children anxiously try to convince you that you don’t need to come in because they’ll “only be a minute.” Still happy to go along with the ruse, you tell them that you’re fine waiting in the car. Just as they’re about to close the door, they poke their heads back in the car and say, “Mommy, do you have $30?” It’s at that moment that you have to make a decision. Do you dash their enthusiasm by saying “no” or do you jump on the optimism train. After all, your child just made it clear that they think you’re worth at least 30 bucks! I, for one, am happy to say, “All aboard!” Trust me, when you see the smile on their faces when they hand you your gift wrapped in a plastic bag and tied with a bow made from the receipt (complete with coupons for your next purchase), it is well worth it.