Our third daughter, Marlena Grace, is a miniature tank with the face of an angel. Of our three girls, she’s been by far the quickest to upgrade her mobility skills, learning to crawl by six months and walk by nine months. (We aren’t the Parents Who Want Our Kids to Be First, either — Marly just did these things, probably because she was constantly being manhandled by her sisters and needed escape mechanisms.)
But this aggressive, fuzzy-headed mobility had a drawback when it came time for one of my favorite activities with Haddie and Laura, our two oldest daughters: making puzzles on the living room floor.
Prior to Marlena’s transformation from a fixed point to an erratic scribble, the girls and I could make puzzles on the floor with impunity, taking our time. Should we start with the edge pieces, or just go at it? There was no need to rush those kinds of decisions.
And then Marly attacked.
At first, Marly’s invasions caused great unrest with my older girls — they’d screech while Marly clambered into the middle of our work-in-progress, reaching down to annihilate it before wobbling off, unfazed and disinterested.
Puzzle time wasn't very fun at this point. Until one day, the girls were freaking out about Marly’s invasion, and, on a whim, I said, “Girls, it’s okay. It’s part of the game. The game called Marly Attacks. Hurry, she's leaving — it's time to build the puzzle! Fast!” Light dawned in their eyes as they realized that they weren’t actually making a puzzle anymore — they were playing a game in which disruption is expected on the path to making a puzzle.
Now, they love Marly’s invasions. They get excited about them.
Because now, when we make puzzles and Marly’s in the room, we’re not simply making puzzles: we’re playing Marly Attacks.
The great educators are those who realize, before the year starts, that they aren’t about to sit down and make a puzzle — they’re about to play Marly Attacks. Great teaching requires equal parts preparation and improvisation, vision and perseverance.
So make your final plans. Have high hopes. Don’t forget why you got into this gig in the first place.
But come to peace now and tomorrow and every morning from now on with the fact that Life will attack, Students Who Had a Bad Night will attack, Policy Change will attack, Bureaucracy will attack, Not Following Through will attack, Netflix Binge Watching will attack.
But when these things happen, do like my kids do: try to laugh, pick up the pieces, and rebuild. If everything gets destroyed, restart as best you can.
It’s part of the game.
Thanks to my three little treasures for the inspiration for today’s post. You girls and your mama make me a rich man.