• Last modified 943 days ago (Dec. 21, 2016)


Underpants and wisdom

There’s never a more delightful time at the newspaper than when our county kids send us their “Dear Santa” letters.

Every year I have to scramble to the Internet to figure out what the heck some of these newfangled toys are. Sometimes I have a hard time restraining myself from clicking through to an order page — there’s some stuff that’s far cooler than Tinker Toys.

And I’m just dying to read about the adventures of Captain Underpants. Really. When I was little, I read about the adventures of Dick and Jane. Now there’s Captain Underpants! I can’t even imagine what his superpower might be, if he even has one. Maybe I should ask one of the kids.

Our kids have fully embraced technology. More notes than ever were composed on computers. Smartphones, tablets, computers, video games, and remote-controlled cars and drones pepper wish lists.

There are familiar names among the puzzlers: Lego, Hot Wheels, Star Wars, even Cabbage Patch Kids made appearances. I can’t speak to the latter two, but I had Legos and Hot Wheels when I was a kid, although not the supercharged versions of today. I like seeing them there.

As you browse, you’ll find many common and also wonderfully inventive misspellings. These so-called errors can actually show just how smart some of these kids are. They’re trying to make sense of one of the most nonsensical languages on the planet, English, which has more ridiculous exceptions and rules than the Internal Revenue Service and Environmental Protection Agency combined, and they do a remarkable job of guessing at it.

At the outset, I promised wisdom — me, the guy who wants to read Captain Underpants. Maybe there’s a “Captain Underpants Meets Dick and Jane.” One can only hope.

Meanwhile, there are a few lessons from the letters that are good for the adults here at home.

First, you don’t have to let go of the past as you change for the future. Legos are a toy that stays true to its roots while changing over time for new generations, and that’s something the county needs to keep in mind.

Second, let go of tired old stereotypes. You’ll find dolls and guns in the kids’ wish lists, but you’ll also find girls embracing technology and science, and boys interested in reading. We have lots of stereotypes in this county, ones for home and ones for the world at large. Most of them are bunk and have outlived whatever limited usefulness they once had. Let go, grow, move on.

Third, don’t let all the old rules keep you from moving ahead in important endeavors. Kids broke the rules countless times in their letters, and they’re charming. Rules exist to preserve order, but when they become cumbersome and hold us back, it’s time to think about changing the game any way we can.

Finally, believe in magic. Reindeer can fly, and Santa can fit down chimneys and whoosh around to every home in the world in a single night. Look into the eyes of young believers and see the magic at work. We lose something dear when everything becomes rational and mechanical. There’s magic to be found for the challenges ahead if we’ll open our eyes to unimaginable possibilities.

Ooops, I left off one important one. When working at breakneck speed, take lots of breaks for cookies and milk. You don’t want to disappoint the kids. None of us do.

— david colburn

Last modified Dec. 21, 2016