Did you not love this film, and especially Caine himself? What a marvelous, inventive child! The thing is, I don’t think Caine is special. I think every child is special—and I think that every child could amaze us if we left them to their own interests and devices. Many people have written about how we can learn so much from Caine and his father, but I think the most important thing we can learn is that kids will do some pretty incredible things if we just leave them the heck alone!
I don’t mean to just throw your child out with the dogs, of course; you must take care of your child, feed him or her, and all of that, sure. But we don’t have to throw them into summer school or summer camp or other structured activities, either. In fact, these things could be detrimental to them overall—whey not give them a break and let them experiment and explore their passions?
Caine’s father let him have the whole of his shop to explore and build and he made an entire arcade. An entire arcade! And it was complete with a sort of business plan, ticket and prize system—everything you’d expect at an arcade. If you have to peg every single thing kids do into learning objectives like so many adults must painfully do, go ahead; you’ll find every subject covered in his summer-long project.
The value in what Caine did—aside from the absolute joy of it, of course, which is even more important to me—will last so much longer within him than any summer school class or any camp. I know so many people insisting their kids go to summer school now—remember when it was a punishment or compulsory for making up a class you failed? Now it’s an “extension” of regular school hours that my husband calls “Free Summer Childcare”—and I am betting any of those kids could benefit from the kind of freedom that Caine had that entire summer. And though I lamented that I couldn’t afford the camps I wanted my daughter to attend this year earlier, I am now thankful that she’ll get to spend her summer exploring her own interests. I have seen her create some amazing things out of scraps around the house, art projects, and more; who knows what she will come up with?