Wednesday, September 02, 2009


After dinner Sara and I sat down to do a puzzle or two (or three).

And you must know: doing puzzles with Sara is a painful experience. Painful. I think because she is so smart I expect too much from her sometimes; typical three-year-old tantrums baffle me because she speaks with the vocabulary and complexity of someone closer to five or six -- a big emotional and intellectual leap, all things considered. But these puzzles... man, oh man. I really think she should have a better grasp on them than she does. Just 12 pieces, filled with edges and corners to guide the way. What I realized as those painful 30 minutes unfolded was that this is just an area of relative weakness for her, this business of seeing the Big Picture.

In watching her tonight I remembered again how much alike we are, my girl & me. Losing sight of the Big Picture is a constant struggle for me, too, and that flaw reveals itself in a seemingly random but nevertheless consistent manner. Countless half-completed projects, dreams abandoned, lifelong struggles with weight, stubborn attempts to engineer the future -- they're all the result of missing the Big Picture.

Sara sat tonight quickly pulling at random pieces and forcing them together, happily oblivious to the pictures she was trying to create. Rather than envisioning Eric Carle's train cars full of hippos and lions and giraffes Sara saw purple lines or yellow blobs or "big teeth!" She had the bottom at the top and the top on the side and tried with all her might to meet the middle pieces with edges and the corners with the middles. As she did it she filled the room with self-talk, alternating between murmurs of "this is hard for me" and singing "I! CAN! DO! THIS!" Blissfully, peacefully, doggedly working the pieces and more often than not failing but never pausing to wallow in that failure. Never kicking herself, never giving up. And when the pieces did fit? Celebration and pride the likes of which you only see in a three-year-old.

How many times have I grabbed at random pieces of my life and tried to force them together in ways that seemed so logical, so right, but in the end could not have been more wrong? How many times have I tried to start at the end with no thought of the beginning? How many times have I missed the clues that help you fit the pieces together the right way, refusing to slow down and take the time to really work the puzzle out?

(Countless times, I am sad to say.)

We've got a lot to learn, she and I, about remembering the Big Picture. But tonight as I sat and watched my daughter chip away at those 12 piece puzzles bit by bit by topsy-turvy bit it's she who taught me something about approaching this work with perseverance, joy, and celebration.

The girl never ceases to amaze. She's only three. How much more is she going to teach me in the years ahead? I only pray I'm a good and worthy student.

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