It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a young child sent in search of an urgently needed object, must be in want of any idea how to find it.
In our house, as in any house with several children, it is (dis)organised chaos much of the time. I thought it was quite tidy, but my darling sister put me straight in that refreshingly honest manner teenagers have. For years I have borne the exasperation – haven’t we all? – of asking a child to fetch a hairbrush/toothbrush/dustpan-and-brush from its place (or from a carefully described location) only to have them return empty-handed with a blank expression. “It’s not there,” they will lament. Muttering, I go to fetch it myself, and of course they are absolutely right. The much-needed thing is not there at all. It is 2 inches to the left.
Surely it is obvious that if something is not where it should be, or indeed not in the described spot, the first thing to do is look to left and right, above and below. Perhaps (go on, I dare you) lift something up. Maybe even go all out and peer behind something.
And then I read something one day and it hit home. It is not at all obvious. Children (and not a few adults) need to be trained in how to find things. A one-day course should do it. The worst offenders might need a weekend residential. Seriously, they need hands-on training, where you actually show them how to look underneath and behind things. They need to see someone looking on the shelf above in action. You’ve got to demonstrate how to rummage in a drawer. Children are not born with this skill hard-wired. Adam and Eve had no trouble locating the fruit. Having so much stuff is a modern, 1st-world problem. I realised with a mixture of embarrassment and gratitude, that my own dear mother had done precisely this – taught me to find things.
Recently I was chatting with friends about this, and one of them exclaimed passionately, “Wow, that explains it! ” And you could see she was excitedly scheduling in a training course for that very weekend.