My dad and the “I CAN.” I wish I still had a picture of the “I CAN.” Imagine a large size of Campbell’s Tomato Soup. The giant size that feeds a family. Take off the soup label so you just have the can, and take two bottle caps and nail them in to make eyes. (Forgive me for forgetting what my dad used for the nose and mouth). He then took a large strip of yellow paper and in large letters wrote I CAN. He gave one of these each to my sister, brother, and me. The I CAN sat on our desks, and we used them for pencils, pens, and markers.
So now that you know what it looked like (sans the nose and mouth), the purpose of the I CAN was a reminder to each of us that we could and were capable of anything. Now, I am not sure my dad was always thinking of the bigger world and all the mountains we could climb or all the things we could accomplish, but his point did hit home. Whenever we were asked to do something and we either did not want to or felt we could not do it or were not capable and the words I CAN’T came out of our mouth, my dad would say: “Should we go get your I CAN?” He would often also add: “Can’t didn’t do anything.” His point most of the time was that we could switch the laundry, clean up after the dog, reach something that was too high (that was what the stool was for), and that most of the time we just did not want to try. Maybe he did not want to do the task at hand, maybe he just wanted us to know we could do it ourselves, whatever the true motivations behind the I CAN, it was a prevalent fixture during my elementary school years.
I am not sure I thought much about the I CAN after my dad moved out, or when I left home, or when I later did not have the option to physically speak to him each day. Regardless, I sometimes thought of the I CAN sitting on my desk, and thought of him saying: “Can’t didn’t do anything.” Thank you, Dad. Whatever was your motivation, I hope I have grown up enough to say: “I have a choice as to whether I am going to do this, but I am not going to NOT do it because I do not think I CAN, or because of fear, or because I do not want to try.”
Hopefully this inspires you to go into your day with a little inspiration that you CAN do more.
I love that your dad cared and shared his life-perspective with his kids in his own unique way. Let’s face it, it’s rare that children appreciate their parents’ actions (or humor) at the time. But obviously it worked … here you are, years later, sharing this quirky, original, and effective idea with the rest of us! Now I’m going to search for a big can….
Yes, I agree. It is good to be able to look back and see that his life perspective which I did not always agree with has made an impact on me!