try

“Try it.”

Your mother coaxed the over-cooked broccoli toward five-year-old you, didn’t she? And you eyed that steaming pile of slime, put your hands over your mouth, and shook your head until it almost rattled off your neck. Because every child knows broccoli is disgusting, right? Even if they haven’t tried it.

I experienced the other end of this dilemma when we took our guideson Cooper to Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park for his sixth birthday. (And yes, I plan to share parts of the trip as an overall Cooper update. If you read Not Without My Father, you met him when he was almost three. He even walked part of the Trace with me!)

Here’s what eating with Cooper was like:

SCENE 1:

“I don’t eat butter on my pancakes!”

“Did you try it?”

“No, but I don’t like butter on my pancakes! Take it off! TAKE IT OFF!”

Scrapes butter off and slathers on my pancakes. “There? Happy now?”

“And I only eat syrup in a bowl on the side. YOU RUINED MY PANCAKES BY PUTTING SYRUP ON THEM. I’M NOT EATING ANYTHING EVER AGAIN!”

SCENE 2:

“I said I wanted a hot dog.”

“But I gave you a hot dog.” Holds up two fresh-grilled wieners. “See? Two yummy hot dogs all for you.”

“I ONLY EAT THEM CUT IN PIECES THIS SIZE.” Makes gesture of indeterminate size. “I’M NOT EATING THESE YUCKY HOT DOGS.”

Cooper set food boundaries, and they impacted his enjoyment of any meal. His inflexible rules became a self-contained prison from which there was no gastronomic exit. I love him, but he’s not my kid. I couldn’t force him to color outside the lines.

I sometimes wonder how much my adult self resembles the child who shunned everything without giving it a chance.

We live in a world with more boundaries than ever. Thanks to the internet, we have more information at our fingertips than at any other time in history. And because of our slow-processing minds, we’re buried with options.

What do our brains do when presented with too many options?

We shut down. We make snap judgements. We scroll by. We decide we won’t like something before we try it. We base the value of a thing on the experiences of others rather than form our own conclusions. We take the same route to work, eat at the usual places, hang out with our cliques, consume redundant news, and cloister ourselves in boxes of our own making.

Why do so many adults choose bound-up lives with no exit? I don’t know. I can’t fix what other people do with their lives, but I can knock down barriers I create in my own life.

That’s why my last trip was to a place I never, ever would’ve chosen. I’ll tell you about it in future posts.

When was the last time you tried something you thought you wouldn’t like? How’d it go? Share your experiences in a comment.

 

Dear Cayleigh:

You leave today. I told myself I wouldn’t cry.

I lied to myself. I couldn’t stop the flow. Since you came along almost 10 years ago, I could always pop in the car and see you whenever I wanted. You lived just across the river. It wasn’t far. Now, I wish I’d made a double dose of that drive. A triple dose. I never should’ve taken the closeness of giggling with you for granted.

Especially now that I don’t have its warming beacon in my world.

You’re somewhere in Georgia now. Maybe Alabama. On your way to Baton Rouge. Lots of cool experiences await you. Don’t hold yourself askance. When you’re scared to death, fight that fear. Experience all the nuanced richness of life. Embrace its flavors and textures, its colors and its hues. Do those things, even when facing them or leaving them brings you to tears.

Part of living is leaving every single thing we care about behind someday. It’s letting things go when it rends our souls. It’s forging something new in the daunting disarray of what’s left. It’s knowing that people love you, even if they can’t see you every day.

Until October, when I see you again. Be a firework in your world, Cayleigh.

I love you.

Andra