Every week in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.
My elder daughter has developed a mild obsession with the book Here Comes Gosling, written by Sandy Asher and illustrated by Keith Graves. The story tells the tale of a frog who spends all day eagerly preparing a party to meet his friends’ new baby gosling. Froggie even makes up a song about waiting, and repeats the song and the line “Can’t wait!” until the baby arrives. But when the gosling gets there, she’s not what the frog expected: she’s LOUD and nearly inconsolable… until, of course, Froggie saves the day with his ditty about waiting. Given the content of the book and our family context — where we recently added a new, and sometimes rather noisy, baby — I can understand my toddler’s interest in this book.
Over the last few days, though, she’s taken her love of Gosling to a new level. We went to the park and spent most of the time searching for Gosling; she asked all our friends to please “keep an eye out” for the baby goose. Sometimes, she claimed, she could hear a faint honking in the distance. We got home and made lunch and she took a nap and we watched a movie and set up a tea party — all while waiting and discussing Gosling’s seemingly imminent arrival. The goose did not show up. At bedtime that night, my daughter asked me to make pancakes in the morning. For Gosling. I did, and we went to the swimming pool, wondering if Gosling would meet us there. Stood up again.
My daughter continued to express anticipation, excitement, and disappointment as we waited on this fictional goose. I tried to convince her several times that Gosling was over there — in the shallow end, on the swings, etc. — only to receive a pitying look and a “No, mama, that’s not her.” This pseudo-imaginary friend was becoming more and more frustrating (for me at least), and I struggled to understand why anyone would want a fictional friend who couldn’t even be bothered to make an appearance. Isn’t the point of imaginary friends that they play how we want? The whole experience got me thinking about Beckett’s drama Waiting for Godot, where the main characters wait around grimly for the title character, who, like my daughter’s version of Gosling, never turns up.
Critics often claim a parallel between Beckett’s play and the act of faith (or of despair) of waiting on God; Beckett himself resisted that analogy, saying that if he’d meant God, he would have said God and not Godot, but audiences will find what they will in spite of authors’ intentions (realized, admitted, or otherwise). Unlike Godot, Gosling actually does show up in her book, and turns out to be a pleasant baby by the story’s end. Yet that wasn’t the way my daughter chose to interpret the story into her own life, and I found myself both bemused and disturbed by this style of play. I love her imagination, but it sure seems to have taken an early existential turn. It reminds me so much of my faith life at times: the excitement, the preparation, the anticipation. So much of church liturgy is about waiting, and my toddler is practicing with more patience than I am able to muster.
You see, I want Gosling to show up. Desperately. I wanted her to join us for pancakes and a morning swim. I wanted to see the look of delight on my daughter’s face when that imaginary goose waddled through the door. They denied me at every turn. It feels so much like faith, longing for the burning bush and the loaves and fishes. The miracles. Big ones. All the time. But faith, as I seem to need to learn again and again and again, is often quieter than that. Like a little tea party set out and swept away at nap time, only to be set out again in the afternoon, and put to bed once more in the evening. It’s the practice of active hopefulness that sustains our faith, the obedience in spite of disappointment and not understanding. My daughter says things like “Maybe tomorrow, mama.” And I keep on waiting.