Imagination At Play
While watching my daughter in ballet, then both my kids during tumbling class, and then the next day, watching my son play soccer, I started noticing not just how wonderful it looked and how much fun they were having, but really looked. And what I saw was this, during ballet, a pirouette was a butterfly dance, during tumbling they didn’t cartwheel, they monkey played, and soccer class was strangest of all, they weren’t kicking the ball and making goals, they were avoiding the alligator and making bunny ears so they wouldn’t touch the ball.
Something was wrong and it took me only a moment to figure it out, kids can’t just play ball or somersault, they have to have death defying adventures and space traveling expeditions to achieve what I thought was merely making a goal. I’m pretty sure I’m not comfortable with this.
Let’s forget for a moment that our kids don’t know what cowboys are or why we need to chase the bandit since he seems pretty cool. Let’s for a moment pretend that this is child’s play and we are observing. We’re enjoying the way their imaginations can make leaps that are far fetched and wonderful all at the same time. We’re marveling at their capacity to play for hours on end with just a stick and a hat made from tree leaves (yes, you can laugh now, because it’s just not going to happen). This scenario is absurd for a couple reasons.
One, the child is using natural elements and turning them into innovative play tools. Branches, leaves, rocks, water, can become the weapons and means of creating other worlds. Fantastical places that leave a parent wishing they had such creativity. Instead of the way it really is, parents buying every toy imaginable for the child to pretend play. There are costumes, realistic looking pistols, swords, holsters made from leather lookalike materials, everything ready, taking the fun out of fantasy.
We are creating children who get bored without the proper direction from outside sources, usually parents. I don’t want to create games for my children, I want them to figure it out on their own. I don’t want to have to mediate their disputes, how will they be able to accomplish the same task as adults. I want my children to be imaginative, creating alternate realities that allow them to be themselves. I want them to get hurt once in a while and learn to pick themselves up. I want them to fight with a friend, run away mad, and then go back and figure out how to work things out. Yes, I want my kids to fall every once in a while, because I know the next time they have to pick themselves up, they will be just that much stronger.