Monday, March 2, 2009

Mystery Box

The Mystery Box entered our lives on December 25, 2008 as a brilliant gift from Santa. A perfectly square box wrapped in paper with dancing snowmen and gold and silver ribbon that sparkled underneath the magical white lights of our Christmas Tree would prove to be a brilliant gift indeed. Although the package read To: David Love: Santa we were well aware that labels meant very little to a smart, gregarious, little girl named Aly who had just turned six and a curious, independent, adorable, little boy named David who just turned five. What we were completely unaware of was that the Mystery Box was actually a gift for me.

So what exactly is the Mystery Box? Most people would describe it as a game designed for children ages 3-6 to motivate learning. It comes with the standard precaution of ...choking hazard.... not for children under 3 years old. It is a vibrantly colored box full of little toys each starting with a different letter of the alphabet. The object of the game is to select an item from the Mystery Box and place it on the game board letter that the item begins with. Simple enough.... Let's play!

Still snuggled in our pajamas, Aly, David, Daddy, and I sit down on the playroom floor and begin to play. David pulls out a tiny green alligator and quickly places it on the letter "A". Yeah!! We all applaud loudly. Now it is Aly's turn. Aly pulls a jeep from the Mystery Box and hesitates before putting it on the letter "T" for truck. We all pause for a moment as it is our first time playing the game and we are unsure if this little, green, plastic jeep belongs on "T" for truck or "J" for jeep. I notice a slight tension in my shoulders as I am focused on "getting it right". We decide to leave the jeep on "T" for truck and continue playing. Daddy takes a turn, I take a turn, and then it is David's turn again. David who is currently walking around the playroom comes back to the game, picks up his alligator and begins walking his alligator around the room. The alligator walks on the walls, the windows, the table, and finally the floor where David notices crumbs from a gluten free breakfast. David picks up the crumbs and begins feeding his alligator. Now let me ask you this... Aly is reaching into the Mystery Box, selecting items one by one, and placing them on a piece of cardboard over and over again. David is creating an entire experience for his alligator and laughing hysterically as the alligator jumps from the window to the floor... which of my two amazing children is the one labeled "different"? You see, like my children and their Christmas packages, I too have no use for labels.

The Mystery Box has proven to be an amazing catalyst for personal reflection. I grew up in a family that always played games according to the instructions. I never realized how limited my experiences have been. Quite frankly, the Mystery Box is an incredibly boring game as designed. Are you living your life as designed by someone else's instructions? How often have you paused to explore the reasons you are doing what you are doing….. being who you are being.... loving who you are loving? As I continue my journey, I am inspired each day by two unique children who experience the world in fascinating ways. Ways I could have never imagined and which I am so grateful for. Without them, I would be taking tiny toys, placing them on letters, and still trying to figure out if the jeep belonged on the "T" or the "J". Tell me, where does the "duck" belong?


  1. Hi Kathy,

    While reading this story I have to think about some of the Facebook groups that are starting up by people diagnosed with Autism, Aspergers and other related diagnoses. They don't want to be seen as different. They do no not believe they are different. Their skills might be in other areas then the people around them would expect or want, but they do not see that as a "being less then", or inappropriate, or a reason to be "diagnosed".

    I believe we all have areas in which we are Apergers, Autistic, psychotic, smart, very talented and/or anything else you can come up with. It is us and our environment that decides which talents are appreciated or judged as bad or unwanted. These are no truths but beliefs and wants!

    I love your wanting to use the Mistery Box as a way to work through your rule limitations you set for yourself. I am inspired by it. I also have been thinking about "J" and "T"s!! I belief that my ADD related "wanting to be perfect" beliefs are responsible for that. I'm exited about exploring that in a dialogue.. Thanks for inspiring me XXX

  2. What a lovely story and reminder not to follow that path we think has been set! Thank you.


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