The Wand of Power
My son Tino, who is nearly two and a half, like all two year olds, has become an all absorbing sponge. It is evident now more than ever largely because he can verbally repeat everything he hears (and does so on a regular basis). We were recently snuggled up on the couch one night watching Toy Story for the one-billionth time when the little green Martians tell Hamm (the piggy bank), Buzz Light-year, and Mr. Potato Head that, in order to make the car drive, they need to use… and before they could say it, Tino proudly shares, “The Wand of Power,” (meaning the stick shift). Perhaps the very next day, I was telling Tino he needed to pick up his Legos after he was done playing with them and he, in a matter of fact tone, said, “no thank you.” I looked at him and said just as matter-of-factly as I could, “Oh no Tino. You misunderstood. This is not an option. I need you to help me pick up your toys.” The conversation comes to a dead halt when Tino stops and looks at me and says, “No Daddy, it is an option.” Inside I was laughing so hard I could not muster a response. I knew I needed to see this through, and ultimately we did clean up and move on. But this child’s rationale really throws me sometimes.
It is this sponge-like ability to absorb and repeat information that is really both delightfully astonishing and utterly terrifying. It makes me very cautious of the environments he is in and what he is constantly picking up. We were in a playground at one of Maui’s parks one day when a group of older boys were playing with toy guns, shooting at each other, and acting quite violently towards each other. Tino immediately wanted to play with one of the guns and join in. Distracting him to move elsewhere to play with children his own age became very difficult. Since then, he turns sticks, grass, Legos, and anything else into swords and guns. It really has me perplexed and probably overly concerned. I know Tino has not seen any violent programming, games or visuals. We just don’t watch anything like that in our home. And yet somehow he has managed to pick up the concept of pointing an object and going “bang bang!” It comes with no sense of destruction or meaning to cause pain or be hurtful. It’s just a sound and a gesture, but I know it comes from mimicking what he sees older children at play doing.
I believe in non-violence, I believe in peace and compassion, I believe in non-violent communication, and I hope, I act, and embody that which I believe. As I see my son so observant and so ready to reenact what he sees in the world around him, I feel concerned when he sees behaviors and actions that appear to be fun, but in reality are embodiments of violence towards others.
I have to remind myself of the “normal” games and play that children engage themselves in their own imaginations, and that imagination and pretend are both creative and healthy. As a boy, I use to play “cowboys and Indians.” How politically incorrect is this game today? Because I was a Chinese dark skinned minority, I was always cast as the Indian. That was a given. The Caucasian children I played with were always the cowboys. Who knows, maybe this could be the reason I continue to be a fighter for the underdog, the underserved, and the outcast communities to this day? I have always known the fight, determination, and plight of the minority. As I grew older and found myself belonging to two minority groups, each with unique challenges and obstacles to overcome. These conditions made me stronger, they made me a fighter, and they made me compassionate. Playing bang bang shoot-em up cowboy and Indians as a boy did not make me a violent child, they made me imaginative, dramatic, and even brought out some leadership skills. I might have always been cast as the Indian, but in my village, I had the most fabulous headdress, did the best pow wow dances, created the best makeup, and my village always came out on top – and we always got our land back!
As I remind myself of these days of play, what I recall the most is there was never any intention of violence, there was never any intent to hurt my playmates, it was pure and it was fun. So the moral of my story of remembrance is to “lighten up” and not to worry so much. I know that Tino will see evidence of compassionate living in our home, that he will grow up in a community that loves and embraces him, and that he will use his imagination to play and pretend. And who knows, it might just be this play that brings forward his ability to be a world leader, a teacher, or a spiritual being. Because in his little soul he already has the Wand of Power.
What I have learned from my two year old, is that he is open to dialogue and communication. If something concerns us, or we want to communicate a learning opportunity to him, the best way is straight forward dialogue He seems to appreciate and respond to this most of all.