BY DAVID DEWITT
On a recent afternoon I was raking, removing the winter quilt of leaves from the flower beds.
A few yards away Finn was busy with a project of his own. He was piling sticks and bricks on the patio where I had just cleaned.
I feel as though his response to any space being clean these days is: “Oh good, now I have more room to create.”
He and his friends have been building little forts lately from a supply of bricks beside the garden shed, leftover from some past construction project.
By the time I had finished my raking, Finn had constructed a couple of walls with bricks and incorporated some lawn chairs for end caps.
I resisted the inclination to stop him. When he chooses an activity within close proximity so I can watch him and be productive myself, it’s worth a little clean up later.
The bricks have become kind of outdoor Legos for the boys. A few days ago they built “A bakery.” They made countless trips across the lawn, each carrying one or two bricks. It was a full day project. They all slept well that night.
With his walls complete, Finn carefully placed sticks across the top and eventually covered them with leaves.
I reminded him it was going to rain later.
“Well it’s a good thing I put a roof on it!” he said
Later, after we had gone inside, it began pouring rain.
He wanted to go out and check on his work. I told him to put on his rain coat.
“I don’t have to! I can just get in my shelter!” he said, as if he was having a eureka moment. “Then I can enjoy being outside in the rain!”
I let him go outside. His disappointment was immediate.
“Awww Daddoo! The rain is coming through the top!”
“What happened?” I asked.
“Not enough leaves! I have to put more leaves on,” he said.
I can remember building forts as a kid. You stack some things together and your imagination fills in the rest.
A few times, my brothers and I made forts under kudzu. Kudzu is a vine in the south that covers entire trees and sometimes whole forests.
From outside it looked like the perfect shelter. On a hot summer day it was cool underneath.
But it was always a surprise to us after a rain to find our fort and whatever we’d managed to drag in there sopping wet.
Finn piled more leaves on his shelter. More rain came and this time with wind. The roof fell in.
The next morning as I watched him survey the damage, I could almost see the wheels turning in his little head. He talked aloud trying to figure out what to do next.
I heard him mutter something about stacking large stones on top. Then he dismissed that plan. Then his interest was pulled elsewhere.
More striking to me was watching him build and discover. Experience disappointment. Learn from his mistakes.
And when it didn’t turn out the way he expected, he moved on.