As a father of three boys, weekends are packed with activities. This leaves little time to take on house projects that need my attention. You know, dad stuff. Moving things, building stuff and fixing that which needs fixing. Recently I had on a weekend I made time to tackle one of those projects. I won’t bore you with the details, but I was outside. My sons naturally wanted to be outside as well. My two oldest sons, Johnathan and William, set up the slip-n-slide. Perfect outdoor fun for a warm spring afternoon.
Before I go on let me tell you about a lecture several years ago by the great Milton Glaser. He told a story about teaching his young grandson’s art class. As the co-chair of the School of Visual Arts MFA Design Department, Glaser has experience with teaching but said he hadn’t ever taught young children. So, he simply asked the children to draw a tiger. He said the end result was some of the most interesting and creative tigers he had ever seen. Glaser wanted to see what up and coming artists would do with this same project so he gave it to one of his MFA classes at the School of Visual Arts. The result was a forty-five minute Q and A about the tiger. The masters students were overthinking the project and that was getting in the way of the creative.
Back to my backyard. As the boys were playing, I heard Johnathan suggest to William that they could somehow make the backyard into a water park. I was mildly curious so I asked Johnathan what he was planning. He said, “Dad we have two big slip-n-slides. What if we hooked them together?” My fatherly instincts began to kick in and I thought about all of the trouble that could be caused by two boys with access to multiple water sources. I also thought this is a project that needs my guidance and input. We need to think this through and mull it over. My wife Holly and I are trying to raise independent boys who do for themselves. So I thought of Milton Glaser and I told Johnathan, “Build us a water park.” Then I went back to my project curious to see the end result no matter how messy it might be.
Johnathan and William went to work moving hoses around and unrolling slip-n-slides. Within a half hour I heard the sound of my two boys running, sliding and laughing. Holly brought Mason, our five-month-old, to the back porch to watch his brothers. The boys had indeed connected two slip-n-slides together and placed them in the perfect part of the yard with a downhill slope. Our yard became a water park.
I find it interesting that children picture something in their in minds, then they try to make it happen. As adults, we define limitations and set up walls. Then we try to develop creative ideas. Very often, when the ideas are slow to come, we seek even more information in hopes that we will somehow see something magical in the paperwork like we’re reading tea leaves or tarot cards. When generating ideas, the knowledge and wisdom of adulthood too often is our greatest enemy. I think we should try thinking like a child. I know I could really use a water park in my backyard.