Boy Wonder remembered everything: an “open” and “closed” sign and a cup with loose change in case anybody needed change back.
And they sat there for two hours, hoping someone would come by to browse their wares. Nobody did.
Periodically, Boy Wonder would get on his bike and ride down the street, looking for people. There weren’t many.
I finally begged Grandma to go buy a couple of things to make their day.
I sat outside for those two hours in a camping chair with my laptop, watching my two kids try to figure out sales and marketing and entrepreneurship. But I knew that their business venture would likely fail.
I told them what they were doing wrong. They needed to improve their display. They needed to knock on a few doors. They needed to call out to people and tell them what their store was all about – if any walked by.
This isn’t the first time that Boy Wonder has had an idea. He’s no different than any other child of his age.
I often find him in his room, taking some old electronic toy apart with a screwdriver or prolifically using Scotch tape, paper and string to make something.
He has a giant tub of tools, screws, bolts, motherboards, circuit wires, springs and other pieces of stuff that have been discarded by me – the person who most despises clutter or anything extraneous in the house that doesn’t serve a purpose.
On some days, he comes to me with fanciful ideas. He wants to build this invention or that contraption and where is a plank of wood, Mom? And can you help me, Mom? Because he has it all sketched out in his notebook that he keeps. He has a vision.
Today, I watched the short film Caine’s Arcade. It’s gone viral so perhaps you’ve seen the film in the last few days. If you haven’t, do yourself a favor. Stop reading this. Go watch it. It’s 10 minutes long.
If you haven’t seen it, it chronicles the story of a 9 year-old boy, Caine. While spending the summer at his father’s auto parts store in east L.A., he constructed a giant game arcade out of cardboard boxes, and tape, and stuff he found around his dad’s store.
The arcade was completely lacking in customers until Nirvan, a filmmaker, came into the auto parts store for a part. He bought a Fun Pass to Caine’s arcade. Delighted by Caine’s innovation and creativity, Nirvan set out to make the kid’s day by using social media to have scads of people show up one day to play at the arcade. And he did just that.
I sobbed the entire way through the film.
Not because it’s an amazing feel-good story about what one person can do to enrich a boy’s life.
But because I realized that I am not the person enriching Boy Wonder’s life in the same way that Nirvan enriched Caine’s.
I am not letting a feel-good story happen in my own house. In fact, I undermine it.
I tell Boy Wonder what about his inventions might not work instead of showing him what can.
I give him a dose of reality – business advice – when he really doesn’t need any just yet.
I tell him I am too busy or that I’m not good at building things instead of realizing that what he needs is so simple: time and encouragement.
I am jaded, and I make him bear the brunt of 43 years of life experience instead of letting him live his own.
In the subtlest of ways, I crush dreams instead of fostering them.
He should be able to dream, and imagine. And believe.
Believe that he can do something. Believe that it is possible. Believe that it is in his own hands. Believe that if he builds it, someone might come.
He shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of my cynicism, my realism, my knowing that cardboard box arcades don’t get any customers.
Because clearly, I am wrong. I shouldn’t tell him that his cardboard box idea won’t get any customers. Or that his invention might not work.
Because they do. Ask Caine.
So when Boy Wonder comes to me with his next big idea, I’m going to stop. And wait. And realize that it only takes one person to make a kid’s day. And next time, it’s going to be me.