In the Webster’s Dictionary alone, they list nine unique definitions for the just the noun version of the word while adding six more for the verb. From a series of mountains to a stove, from a mathematical term to a musical one, the range of uses is wide and varied.
Now, while your first reaction may be to proclaim this fact to be ironic, I will quickly verbally box your ears and chastise you for, like SOOOOO many others, not understanding that word. Wait! Don’t get mad. I don’t blame you. Alanis Morissette needs to own a ton of it for bastardizing the word in her song of the same name. I know she’s Canadian, but everything in that song is either coincidental or just plain bad luck. Sorry, Sister, but there is no irony in “a death row pardon two minutes too late”, just really crappy timing.
Now as to not get hung up on commonly misused words or bad 90′s music, I was thinking about range today in a different way. As a parent, the number one thing that we have over our kids in almost every situation is experience. Even at 40, though sometimes it feels like an eternity, it hasn’t been THAT long since I was 13 or even 3. I know what they’re going through. I know what they’re feeling, because I’ve been there. And while, I like to think that I’m mostly the same fun-loving kid in a larger, hairier and slightly more dilapidated body, the truth is there are a lot of things in life that feel completely different as a kid compared to how they feel as an adult. Some of your favorite things in childhood become a sworn enemy as you get older and vice versa.
They have a lot of range.
They’re the same exact thing. They haven’t changed. You have.
So, much like I did when I was a kid and thankfully still do today, I took some time to daydream and come up with a short list of some of the things that I’ve decided have the biggest range in life. I’ll invite you to share some of your own.
DANDELIONS — What kid doesn’t love a dandelion? In fact, if you went into an Elementary School class right now and asked the kids their favorite “flower”, how many would say dandelion? I’m betting all of them. Sure, maybe there is that one precocious kid in the corner whose Mom cuts the lawn with scissors that’s going to throw hibiscus at you, but, deep down, he knows that it’s dandelion. And, in fairness, what’s not to love when you’re a kid? Awesome name! It’s basically got both dandy and lion. They are bright yellow. They bunch up into beautiful little bouquets that are perfect for your little hands. There are always a million of them (except in the yard of that brown-noser kid we discussed earlier). Plus, added bonus, wait a week or so and they become giant puff balls that you can blow all over the place! They’re almost like nature’s perfect kid toy.
Now you’re an adult. Now you’re responsible for that field of dandelions that’s covering your yard. Suddenly, those beautiful little yellow beauties are the scourge of your existence. Kill one, six come back. You think you’ve pulled them all, but it only takes a 30 minute rain for a hundred more to pop up. You try chemicals that never work. You try to pull them by hand, but it always breaks off before the root comes out. Then once they go to seed, you’re in a non-stop battle with your kids to resist the temptation to do the pick and blow to spread the seed again. I’ve actually come just short of physically throwing myself between a kid and a dandelion “puff ball” like Tom Cruise disarming a villain in his latest flick. Heck, even if you have that perfect dandelion-less lawn, inevitably the next-door neighbor is going to have a patch that goes to seed and with one good windy day starts a dandelion apocalypse.
GLITTER – Now, I know there are a few adult professions that still require glitter, but, most adults hate glitter for the simple reason that glitter is forever. My kids and carpet still have glitter on them from their 1st Birthday party. But, of course, it’s glitter, and kids LOVE the stuff! Every project. Every art assignment. Every excuse they can find, the kids want to use glitter. The glitter in our house is double-Ziploc-bagged in the top of a locked utility closet and I still find mystery patches popping up in the dead of the night. Glitter is like the crop circles of the arts and crafts industry.
NAPS — This one goes in reverse, but the range is just as huge. No kid likes to nap. They need them. Most benefit from them. Cry as they might, the protest is usually short-lived and they’re sawing logs in a matter of minutes. The nap for a kid is so crucial, the day they stop taking them becomes a marked milestone by most parents. I don’t remember when my kids lost their first tooth. I’m not 100% certain what their first words were – though I feel pretty confident it was “Dad”. I forget their middle names half the time. Oh… but I remember the day they stopped taking naps. Parents love the nap. Is there a more productive time than nap time? I miss their naps more than I miss my own.
Speaking of which, who wouldn’t love a nice mid-day snooze as an adult? If I even propose the idea of a nap to my girls now, they are horrified by the notion. They don’t want to go to sleep at night, let alone during the day. Meanwhile, the wife and I would jump at a siesta. Even in school, do you remember when it was a punishment when the Teacher would turn off the lights and make everyone put their heads down? Do that at the office and people would be climbing over each other racing to the light switch.
KNOCK-KNOCK JOKES — What was the last good knock-knock joke you heard? Trick question! There are no good knock-knock jokes! But, don’t tell that to a kid. Not only do they LOVE them a knock-knock joke, but they love to tell the same knock-knock jokes over and over and over again. They don’t have to understand them. They don’t even have to tell them correctly. They just have to tell them…. and often.
And a knock-knock joke never comes alone. Oh no! No child has ever told one knock-knock joke and walked away. Daisy-chained to the end of every knock-knock joke is the next excruciating knock-knock joke. And, that’s not to say it isn’t cute the first time. Every parent likes to hear their child tell a cute little joke (even if it’s a bad joke), but I have a weird a PTSD from being woken up with a poke and a “Knock-Knock, Daddy…. Daddy….Daddy…Knock-Knock…. Dad…. Knock-Knock…. Daddy….”
CHICKEN FINGERS — This one comes with the small caveat that it is loved by both children and drunk adults, but, in fairness, drunk adults are a lot like children. Kids love chicken fingers. It’s a kid’s menu staple and, in my experience, the fall back order for any kid at a new restaurant. Most kids aren’t adventurous eaters, so the chicken finger is kind of the warm blanket of their culinary life. They have no range in their palette. They know they can count on the chicken finger, especially when dunked in ranch dressing, honey, ketchup or whatever taste deadening condiment that can get all over their chicken, their face and the table.
Then, as an adult, it’s a two-part battle with the chicken finger. You don’t really want your kid to eat all of that deep-fried junk (what part is the finger anyway?), but you also want to go out to a restaurant every once in a while and do it with as little drama as possible. Then, add to that, our relationship with the chicken finger as a meal ends at the kid’s menu. Again, drunk adults, or those in the process of getting drunk, may go chicken finger as an appetizer (though often “classed up” as a chicken strip), but never as a meal. Does Morton’s have the chicken finger on their dinner menu? Do they even have ranch at the Four Seasons? Can a good Sommelier pair a nice Sauvignon Blanc with your McNuggets?
I know I didn’t hit them all and your mileage may vary, but the older I get, the more I recognize the amazing range in this life that we’re given. It’s really the great beauty and mystery in the whole thing.
But, as we get further and further away from childhood and even our children’s childhood, I’m not sure things change all that much. I’m not sure that what’s really at our core changes that dramatically. I think the simple pleasures in life can be exactly the same whether you’re four or 44. Maybe we just need to work on our view a little bit. Learn to appreciate that range in life, but also work shorten it up some. Sometimes we need to stop and refocus on the simpler things.
Pick a dandelion…
Take a nap…
Tell a knock-knock joke…
But, for the love of all things holy, stay away from the glitter. It’s like a shiny plague.