As much as the hippie in me likes to believe I give my children space to do their own thing, I know, just like all parents, I have expectations. This is not always a bad thing. Expectations are necessary to meet societal standards. They need to be aware it is not acceptable to bite another child (or each other. We’re working on it.) on the playground. If they wipe their runny noses on a stranger’s sleeve, they are not going to be met with a smile. But, I admit, I, somewhat selfishly, expect them to be creative.
From the time they were tiny clusters of cells, I imagined fingerpainting, gluing macaroni, and playing in mud. They have never really had much of a choice in whether or not they wanted to make art- only when and what kind. I am the certified “messy” mom of my group. Much to my husband’s chagrin, I don’t get bent out of shape about coloring on their toys or paint on the tile. In my estimation, the ability to create will serve them their entire lives- whether as an emotional release or a problem solving skill. Aren’t we always told to think outside the box?
I got my creative ass handed to me this week, by none other than my two hyper imaginative boys.
My friend, Lala, has two boys, similar in ages to my own. They came over to play one night. Lala, in addition to having the best snacks, also has a habit of coming with a fun activity to do or game to play. On this evening, she brought a kids version of charades.
The game is nothing more than a pack of cards with pictures on them. The pictures are items familiar to children- worms, ice cream cones, cows, roller skates, etc. Lala and her oldest boy pantomimed the first card- a teeter totter. From that moment, the kids were hooked. They could not wait for their turn to act out a card.
When it was Liam’s turn, he stretched out on the floor in a long line with his arms overhead forming a point. Lala and I looked at each other like “what the hell is that?” We finally gave up and Liam exclaimed “it’s a pencil!” Duh! He WAS a pencil. We asked him to act out the card- not what he would do with the item on the card. Big difference. The rest of the game was a series of experiences like that, and Lala and I were both a flabbergasted at how differently children see things. They haven’t been conditioned to do things the same way everybody else does them- they wouldn’t think to pantomime writing with a pencil.
Kellen wanted to make a picture of a robot. He LOVES the movie The Iron Giant. I enjoy doing sensory activities, so I collected nuts, bolts, pieces of toys, coins, and aluminum foil to make our robots. I gave them each a piece of cardboard to serve as the background for building a robot.
I assumed they would build a body on the cardboard but they appeared to be gluing things randomly. Oh, they must be building the body of the robot. I collected more items they could attach as legs, and cut additional cardboard they could put on top for a head.
“Do you want to put this head on?” Silence. They must not have heard me. I asked again. Nothing.
They kept working, and I watched their progress. Kellen began to tell me all the components of his robot- this coin is the laser, that nut is the power button.
Liam requested markers. I grabbed them from the craft closet. He draws three feet at the bottom of the page. Ok, now he’s ready to put on feet, arms, etc. I ask again if he wants to attach a head.
“No, that piece of foil on top of the legs is his head. His body is on top of his head. Isn’t that funny?”
Kellen tells me that his robot has no head, legs, or arms- it’s a robot like R2-D2.
Yesterday, we spent the morning running around as the Avengers fighting off sticky syrup attacks (Captain America could block the syrup with his shield).
Do you ever just look at your kids and marvel at their level of imagination? Perhaps one of the best and most selfish benefits of having children is the reminder that life can be lived in all kinds of ways. If you open yourself up to possibility, you can experience wonder beyond your wildest dreams.