Thursday, August 15, 2013

Piranha keepers and other imaginings

One of the perks of caring for kids is being allowed entry into their imaginary worlds.  As they make intellectual leaps, and as parts of their brains come online, their imaginary worlds become rich, detailed and varied.  Who they are as individuals, their experiences, and their worldviews are all polished and displayed.  We get a chance to glimpse their inner landscape.

There is a time that occurs between the fifth and sixth birthdays, generally, when a child's brain is so active and so powerfully creative that it takes my breath away.  Aiden i s there right now.  This summer has been one of change for him.  His baby soft features are hardening into the angles and planes that his father and brother share.  He is formulating and testing his social theories in a truly scientific fashion, and he is sharing his ideas through play.  One day, he was an Aquarium worker who cared for piranhas. Another day,  he was a posh waiter.  He's been a mechanic, a car designer, a super hero, a spy, a knight, a medicine maker, a witch, a father, a ghost, and business man.  He's also been a python (which was hard on my shoulders when he wanted to "sleep' there), a cat, a monster with a broken leg, a piranha, a shark, tiny baby bird, a dragon, and a magical cat (not to be confused with the more mundane sort) all in one day.  With his brother's help, he's set up his room to be a design facility, spy headquarters, and a forest.  I've seen him model compassion, learn about fear, formulate his ideas about what happens when you die.  He's practiced parenting, and learned to understand capitalism through playing in his imaginary world.  In Aidenland, he tests out rules and makes a place in which he is the most important thing.  He lets me visit several times a day, when his imaginary world intersects with my activities.

I vaguely remember being this age.  It was the year Halley's comet was visible, and the one in which my brother, Keith, and I shared a bedroom.  It was safe, when the world around me wasn't and it was fair, when I could do nothing about injustices I saw.  It was there that I began to shape myself, make decisions about what was right and what as wrong.  And it was full of magic.  To be honest, I've never really given it up.  It's hidden behind my face, and it's the place in which I envision what this life could be.  I forget sometimes how important it is though, and it takes being around children to understand why it's so important to expose kids to ideas and then let them explore those on their own, without boundaries. If we learn to limit our imaginations too soon in life, we accept things as they are and never try to do anything truly different.  So, if you get a chance, spend sometime in a child's world.  It'll give you a new perspective and possibly, they'll let you take some magic home with you.

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."
                                                                                                          -George Bernard Shaw

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