My husband and two daughters want to spend a recent Sunday afternoon at a corn maze. It'll be fun, they assure me.
I do not think this sounds like fun because I am, I openly admit, directionally-challenged. I once ordered a AAA Trip-Tik in order to make the journey from Dayton to Lexington.
"It'll be a good learning experience for the kids," my husband tells me, knowing I'm a sucker for learning experiences. "The challenge of a puzzle, using your wits..."
When we arrive at the local corn maze, my nine-year-old decides we should split up into teams. Her dad with her younger sister. And her with me.
Fortunately, my nine-year-old has inherited her dad's sense of direction. So I'm calm as we enter the maze and begin our quest: collect map pieces from mailboxes hidden in each of the twelve section of the maze until we've put together the whole map. All is going well until my nine-year-old suddenly stops.
"What's the matter?" I ask.
"We're lost," she says, pointing at the mud puddle in which I'm standing. "That mud puddle. We've seen it before."
Apparently, in a maze, a sense of direction is only useful for helping you know when you're lost. As the adult in the situation, it's up to me to figure out how we can work our way through the maze.
Just as I'm about to ask her to climb up on my shoulders and scream for help, a pair of young boys come whizzing by, whooping and hollering. "We got lucky! We found the piece for section two!"
Blind luck! Now there's a plan! "Let's just keep walking until we find the mailbox for this section," I say. "How long can it take?"
Thirty-three minutes, it turns out.
A young couple comes by, notes our discouraged expressions, and says, "If you're looking for the map piece for section three, it's right over there." And gives us directions.
"That's cheating," my nine-year-old scowls.
"Uh, huh," I say. "Follow me." We get the next piece.
Now we've tried a sense of direction, blind luck, and cheating to get through the maze, none of which are particularly effective. Or satisfying.
I remember what my husband said. This is supposed to be a game, a puzzle in which you use your wits, right? Fine. If I'm going to freeze to death in the middle of a cornfield, I'm at least going to go down like a good parent and turn it into a life lesson.
Plus I'm out of ideas. So I say to my nine-year-old, "You like games. How do you go about winning games?"
She thinks for a minute. "How about—we use logic? We can use the map pieces we have to get to the bottom of the next section, then work our way to the top, always following along the right..."
That's just what we do. Eventually, after about two hours, we find our way through the maze with a completed map.
As we exit, I say to her, "Honey, you really learned something today. Life is just like a maze. You can try blind luck or cheating, but using your wits is really the best way to get through. Isn't that neat?"
And she looks up me and says, "Mom? Can we get hot chocolate?"