Broken toys are a pretty common occurrence around our house. Â (I guess this is inevitable when you have boys whose definition of “play” Â involves sending Â small vehicles flying down the hall at horrifying speed.) Â Whenever Scott pulls out the toolkit and reapairs the car or train in question, Matthew always looks on and issues his standard proclamation.
“Daddy can fix anything,” he says.
I love the faith with which he says it. Â It’s pure, unwavering, and adorable. Â And it’s the kind of faith that lies at the heart of the classic picture book The Carrot Seed.
The Carrot Seed is a short, simply-worded book about a boy who plants Â a seed. “I’m afraid it won’t come up,” his parents tell him. Â â€œIt won’t come up,” his big brother says. Â But the little boy weeds and waters and waits … and waits … and waits. Â And in the end, a huge carrot comes up out of the earth … “just as the little boy had known it would,” the narrator explains.
This is so clearly a story about faith, the instinctive faith of children. Â It’s also a story about faith being rewarded. Â And, as a mom, I am realizing that it’s about something else, too. Â It’s about walking the line between protecting our kids and encouraging them to dream big.
There’s an unanswered question in this book: whyÂ are the parents so sure that the carrot seed won’t grow? Â The drawings by Crockett Johnson (author of the Harold books, other faves of mine) show a kind-looking family with gentle, concerned expressions; they hardly seem like they get their jollies from crushing a small boy’s hopes. Â My guess is that they warn him in an effort to protect their little boy from disappointment. Â If he counts on this and it doesn’t happen,Â he’ll be devastated. Â Let’s prepare him in advance for that possibility.
It’s arguably a good impulse, the desire to protect your kids from pain. Â At the same time, though, it goes against the grain of the natural faith of the little boy. Â In the end, his impulse — towards belief — is the right one. Â And that, it seems, is the message of this book: that good things come to those who have faith.
I struggle a bit with this message, honestly, because life doesn’t always work that way. Â Let’s face it: there are times when we have faith, and our hopes just don’t materialize. Â As a result, there are times in my own life when I find myself deliberately expecting the worst so as to cushion the blow in advance. Â Isn’t it better to brace yourself for disappointment and then be pleasantly surprised, instead of counting on sunshine and then getting a storm? Â I fall into that pattern Â more often than I’d like. But I also know, in my core, that this pessimism is no way to live. Â If nothing else, having faith in good outcomes guarantees me a better quality of life while I wait to see what happens. Â It makes me less cramped, less tense; it makes me lighter. Â That alone is worth the faith … even though believing can be darn hard to do at times.
I’ve thought about this issue a lot over the last several years. Â There’s so much to ponder there; I certainly won’t be able to resolve all of my questions in a blog post. Â But even though I struggle at times to live up to the core messsage, I still love The Carrot Seed Â because it is a tribute to the beautiful Â faith of kids, a faith that — truth be told — I envy. Â This book makes me realize that I shouldn’t be too quick to “protect” them by introducing the possibility of worst-case scenarios. Â Faith comes so naturally to them; I want to honor and respect that.
One day, there will be something that Daddy can’t fix, and Matthew will no longer utter that ringing statement of belief. Â But for now, I want to keep his sweet faith alive and growing. Â I want to water it and weed it and keep it thriving just as long as I possibly can.