A few months ago when my wife asked her 5-year-old grandson what he wanted for Christmas, Wyatt clicked off a list of wishes. Among them: “A robot that will clean my room.”
Silly boy… wanting a robot to clean his room. Not! It was actually a great idea and, I suspect, will be something we see in the future.
Wyatt’s answer brought to mind the numerous “silly” ideas that filled my head more than six decades ago. When I was a kid, day dreaming was one of my favorite activities. It showed on my report cards.
I was somewhere around the age of seven when a friend and I decided to dig a swimming pool. His parents were building a new home down the street and there was plenty of dirt to dig in. My friend and I worked for days digging a hole in which we planned to build a swimming pool. As you might expect, we didn’t make much headway and eventually we found something more fun to do. The pool didn’t get built, but it was a great idea.
Behind our home stood a small barn, recalling the day when town residents kept a horse or two for transportation. I spent hours in that barn dreaming of building a club house in the small hay mow. I had neither the funds nor skills to make that a reality but I enjoyed dreaming about it.
In the recesses of my memory I recall getting in trouble with that dream. It’s a bit fuzzy but I remember kicking an ornery younger kid out of the barn and a few minutes later his mother came looking for me. I hid in an outside cellar entrance to our house and asked my oldest brother not to reveal my location. He did a great job of lying to the mother who, I could hear, was hot under the collar over my perceived maltreatment of her little snot-nosed brat.
I loved that old barn but I still detest brats, snot-nosed or not.
A few years later a new county road was built past our house. I was 14 at this point and was a budding young capitalist. I dreamed about opening a lunch counter to serve the road crews and the amount of money I could earn doing so. Though my mother had taught me some cooking skills, I had no capital with which to build a lunch stand and I assumed there were more than a few regulatory hoops to clear. And I was only 14.
Alas, my lunch counter dream never materialized, but I still vividly remember dreaming about it.
I attended high school in Blairsburg, Iowa, which was located at the intersection of U.S. Highways 20 and 69. Before I-35 was built less than four miles east of the intersection and U.S. 20 was moved less than two miles south, the “Blairsburg corners” was a busy spot.
Sitting in study hall I could see all the cars and trucks passing by and dreamed about being out there… instead of in school.
The early ’60s was the dawn of the space age and I began dreaming about a neat stunt I could do at “the corners.” I was the nerd boy who read Popular Science regularly and read that one could purchase 8’ weather balloons. I dreamed of purchasing such a balloon, filling it with helium, attaching battery powered flashing lights, tethering it to a point on the ground with 200 or 300 feet of rope and letting it float above “the corners” at night. Hundreds of motorists would see it!
UFO scares were relatively common in the U.S. at the time and I was sure my balloon would generate more of the same.
I called a helium provider and determined that even if I could afford the balloon, I could not afford to fill it with helium. Alas, my dream was dashed. I had not given thought to negative consequences of faking a UFO but sitting in study hall dreaming about it was a joy I still remember.
As I grew older my dreams matured and became goals. Over the years, some of them materialized.
From my childhood daydreams, however, I learned an important lesson: don’t squash kids’ dreams. If anything, encourage them to dream even more.
So, Wyatt, dream some more… and after that dream even more. If you don’t get a room-cleaning robot in childhood you may be the one to invent one in adulthood.