Among the grandchildren in residence with us at the moment is 6-year-old Wendy. Wendy had a small problem one evening when we couldn't find her most essential toy animal, Bunny.
The search took a bit longer than necessary since we grandparents were looking for a rabbit-shaped doll, and none of the ones we found among her toys was Bunny.
That's because Bunny, when found, turned out to be a small white beagle that I would have called Snoopy.
Wendy's mother explained later that while there once had been a rabbit-shaped Bunny, it had been lost during an earlier trip. Rather than purchase a replacement, Wendy had selected another of her toy animals as a substitute. But since Bunny had long been the favorite, the substitute had to be called Bunny, too.
Children are often flexible in solving such problems, but the extent of their creativity can be bewildering, too. I'm reminded of an episode exactly one generation ago, when my brother and I had one daughter each. Jilana and Katrin were each about 3 years old.
Our grandmother had given each of her two great-granddaughters a small cloth frog. Jilana's Frog was pink, and Katrin's was blue. They became favorite toys, and Jilana's Frog was hand-carried on all long trips. In fact, for several years Jilana believed that the long conveyor belts in airport baggage areas were primarily for giving rides to Frog. She couldn't quite understand why people kept putting suitcases on them.
During one of our visits to my brother's house, the two girls and the two Frogs became reacquainted.
A couple of days into our visit, Katrin announced to the assembled parents, "I wish I were Jilana, instead of Katrin." Her father set out to determine the cause of this strange pronouncement.
"Why do you wish you were Jilana?" he asked her. "Do you like Jilana's house better than our house?"
The reply, after some thought, was, "No, I like our house better. But I still wish I were Jilana, instead of Katrin."
The ensuing conversation, if it revealed any parental insecurities, at least resulted in thorough reassurance from Katrin that her parents were managing life to her satisfaction.
"Do you like Jilana's car better than ours?"
"No, I like ours better. But I still wish I were Jilana, instead of Katrin."
I'll omit the rest of the interview, but eventually the adults gave up and asked what should probably have been the first question.
"Why do you wish you were Jilana, instead of Katrin?"
"If I were Jilana, my frog would be pink instead of blue."
Adults may think that their solutions to problems, or at least their identifications of problems, are more realistic. But it is nice to have a child reassure us from time to time that the new generation will have a new approach to things, and may have new ways of looking at some of the problems that we haven't yet been able to solve.