“You Wish For What You Get”
Kid explores Zen mindset
Kina is eating a lot of snacks lately, because she is a Big Girl, and she is very particular about her choice of snacks, by which I mean: she demands that she be able to put her hand in a crate full of snacks to physically grasp one. This crate-of-snacks thing is not how I thought things might play out—like many idealistic urban parents, I imagined we would be the carrot stick house. As it turns out, we are the house with a snack crate in the pantry. This crate holds a few snacks—some crackers, rolled fruit, Bunny Grahams. I will sometimes walk into the kitchen and see her standing in front of the open pantry door, staring at the crate of snacks and waiting for one of her two parents to bring it closer to her.
“What do you want?” I ask her.
She grunts and points at the crate.
“Right, but what in the box do you want?”
“Do you want Bunny Grahams?”
Grunts. Points, more urgently.
Grunts. Grabs my shirt, attempting to climb up my body to reach the crate. I finally just grab the crate and she takes whatever she sees—a Bunny Graham, probably, or a fruit snack. This exchange is not a model of enlightened parenting. Doctor Pam would be appalled.
Today, when we were sitting on the floor in our living room, Kina was noshing on a fruit rope of some sort while I checked my email. She turned to me and chirped, “You wish for what you get.” I wasn’t sure what she meant, exactly, even as I understood the phrase she’d mangled. I like the idea that she’d inverted the fatalistic Schadenfreude of “you get what you wish for,” reclaiming it as a person who is always rewarded for her snacky wishes.
I rather prefer to imagine that Kina was saying that she might be satisfied with most any snack, finding true longing for whatever snack crosses her path, for the non-snack, for the absence of a snack. There is a certain Zen to the appreciation that Kina has for the snack at hand, even if the snack is not her first choice. It’s never clear what Kina’s first snack choice really is; she never tells us. She takes her snacks as they come, indifferent and unperturbed.
How can I wish for what I get? What have I got? A wonderful family, my job, my health (such as it is), this year, this pandemic, a tough week at work. I used to meditate (which I strangely stopped doing during the last year), and I remember feeling like I could hold a sense of discouragement or sadness in my clasped hands like a polished stone. I could appreciate that feeling for what it was, come to admire it. Once I opened my eyes, I could rest in that admiration for a few blissful minutes, in a strange state of feeling good about my own bad vibes. You get what you get and you don’t get upset. I want to get back to that: the meditation, the admiration, the sense of being unperturbed by the things that try so desperately to perturb us.
I’d also be happy with Kina’s more likely interpretation, in which I can reach into a crate and get everything I want in life. I’ll take either, really.