A Chicken Noodle Dilemma

Our grandson was heaped in a lump, stuck because he was convinced his drawing of a chicken looked “like a noodle!” We had been laboring a while on a story he was writing for a third grade assignment, that he was to read on a Zoom class meeting. His task – to write about a coyote. His story line was adorable (of course!) and yet he ran into a wall criticizing himself to the point of inaction. Oh, how easily I could relate, the fear of being embarrassed and ridiculed hovering over my shoulder most of my life. I could understand his dilemma, yet he was the one who had to trudge through it. In a short conversation we talked about the boy who learned from his wise elder to tackle his put-off project “bird by bird.” Lamenting that his report about several birds was due the next day, he was encouraged to go one step at a time, write one page at a time, draw one picture at a time, finish one report at a time (reference: Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott.)

It took no effort on my part to praise our grandson for what he had done. It was impressive, and I loved watching the way his mind worked. He has been gifted with a brilliant imagination and sense of humor, but also a large dose of perfectionism, which unravels to underlying fear. It was interesting to see this play out as he wrestled with conquering this task.

Our grandson had completed several pages of the booklet, two to three sentences per page. The title, cover, and end pages were finished, but for the coloring. He had three more pages to compose, and then finish illustrating the entire booklet, “bird by bird,” or should I say, “coyote by chicken”?

Stuck on this chicken-looking-like-a-noodle dilemma took a funny twist long into the conversation. His worry about his classmates laughing at his drawing suddenly was solved: chicken’s name became (drumroll, please) “Noodle”! Puzzle pieces started to fall into place as our grandson’s mind clicked into humor gear: A coyote chases a chicken named Noodle who runs across the road; Coyote pauses as a car approaches, losing sight of the chicken as he stares at humans staring at him. (Earlier in the story line it was inferred that this was Coyote’s first encounter with humans, thus the stare-down.) Clearly though, the chicken had stolen the show, and our hearts. It was too good to not go with the flow: “Why did the chicken cross the road?” our grandson quoted with glee, and off his mind went again, adding an epilogue of sorts to his end page.

Now that he knew he could laugh with his classmates and not be laughed at, our grandson understood that the laughter would be from enjoyment of a fun and funny story, not laughter at him as a person. And if anyone wondered still why the chicken crossed the road, if not for the very obvious reason a coyote was chasing it, or the standard, “to get to the other side,” it is this: So he would not become Chicken Noodle soup! Oh, how very very delicious!

My addendum: Coyote’s name is Mac (really). The Chicken’s name is Noodle. And it’s all kind of Cheesy . . . YUM!

writing, chickens, kids, zerotohero

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