“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein
I welcomed the opportunity. Caralyn, my wife, had to go to a meeting and asked if I would take care of our daughter Dhyana who was then seven months old. “Of course!” was my instant response (I truly love being a dad, it is my favorite thing in the world, and to spend time with my children is always welcomed by me – even though they are now 37, 42, and 46 years old – and the three best children on planet earth.)
I was playing with Dhyana when she became fussy and started to cry. I KNEW how handle that! Her crying meant one of three things – she needed her diaper changed, was tired and needed to rest, or she was hungry and needed to be fed.
I checked the diaper, clean and dry. She had just woken up from a long nap and was not tired, so she must be hungry (I was proud of my brilliant deductive powers). Caralyn was weaning Dhyana from only having breast milk and was giving her freshly squeezed orange juice as part of the program. I got the bottle of juice she had prepared, and Dhyana instantly quieted down. I am “GOOD” I thought to myself. Dhyana sucked the nipple a couple of times and threw the bottle down and started to cry again, a little louder.
I checked her diaper again – clean and dry (and no pins that could be sticking her). OK, she’s really tired – I tried to put her to sleep but she would have none of that as her crying decibel level increased. Back to the bottle – she instantly quieted down, sucked a couple of times on the nipple, threw down the bottle and cried with an intensity I had not heard before.
“Put her attention on other things,” I thought – I had her look at pictures, touch various objects, etc., she would have none of that and her crying grew so loud and strong I thought she would crack some of our glassware. OK, now verging on desperation, I tried one more time – diaper, nap, food – the result was more crying and upset.
It was now about 20 minutes since Dhyana started crying and I was really getting concerned – was her appendix bursting open, was there some parasite eating away at her intestines, was there some other condition ravaging her body? I began to seriously think about calling 911, that is how much distress Dhyana seemed to be going through (and me as well).
I then had a thought that has become a key concept in my work with parents, educators and others in helping them handle or prevent difficulties in the rearing or education of their children/students.
Instead of thinking in complexities (like internal mayhem occurring with her body) I looked for the simplicity. I thought, “What could be the single most obvious cause for her upset.” It wasn’t the diaper or her lack of rest, so it must be something to do with her drink, and then I had KNEW what it had to be:
Orange juice has pulp; pulp can block the nipple and prevent juice from getting through, thus Dhyana’s frustration and upset.
I looked at the nipple and there it was, the “dreaded” pulp. I cleaned the nipple, strained the juice to get rid of any remaining pulp, and brought the bottle to Dhyana.
Dhyana was lying in her crib, screaming, when I again gave her the bottle, this time without pulp in the nipple. She sucked a couple of times, relaxed and looked at me in a way that I still remember today. “It is about time *&&^%$# you figured this out, don’t let it happen again!” She contentedly sucked on the nipple as I finally relaxed in my chair.
What I truly learned from this experience is that just because a situation seems complex, it doesn’t mean the solution has to be. I have worked with educators, parents and children (of all ages) throughout the world delivering seminars, workshops and doing consultations. I have found that in 90 to 95% of the cases, looking for and finding the simplest most obvious cause results in the simplest most obvious solution that handles the situation.
As a further example, one time I was looking for the bottle of soy sauce I knew I had placed at the back of the top shelf in my refrigerator. I opened the refrigerator door, looked at the back of the top shelf and it wasn’t there. I checked the other shelves and it wasn’t there. OK, one of my kids must have taken it and put it somewhere else. I checked every cabinet, not there; back to the back of the top shelf in the refrigerator, where I knew I put it, not there.
Now it went beyond just wanting the soy sauce, it became a true and righteous cause – I WILL FIND THAT BOTTLE OF SOY SAUCE!!!!
I searched every room in the house, even the bathroom, NOTHING.
I thought things are starting to get complex, and went back to my successful operating basis, “Find the simplest possible solution”, and then I got it. I went back to the refrigerator and looked at the FRONT of the top shelf, and there it was patiently waiting for me to find it.
How often do we look beyond the simplicity that is right in front of us, because we believe in the solution is complex and difficult to find.
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