Ok, I admit I’m including this article by my friend Dan Kulp at least half because the video he used made me laugh. A lot.
But I also sincerely appreciate Dan’s thoughts. The first time I read this essay, it sparked a good conversation about the importance of empathy in our child raising, and I hope it does the same for you.
At times I like to hand kids an imagination football and see how far they run with it. I hand the tape measure to my 3 y/o and watch her go. The 6 and 7 y/o like to see if the world measures up. With no surprise, it generally doesn’t. They learned that lesson faster than me.
Most of us growing up had the game where the ground is “lava” and you move around the room on furniture and pillows. Using sticks as swords and guns is fairly common play. Pine cones make great hand grenades; and a paper towel roll is good for days of adventure. It is like the Swiss army knife of imagination world.
Imaginary play with things can provide great enjoyment.
Then there are the times where your imagination plays with you.
I can distinctly recall being 5-6ish and we had a friend’s mannequin in our dining room for a few months. Didn’t everybody? Our only bathroom was upstairs with the bedrooms. At night I had to sprint by this item of terror for any bathroom visit and the eventual bedtime. Looking back, it was as normal as can be for a mannequin in a dining room. At 5, it scared me. It also scared me on many levels. As terrifying as the figure was that could spring to life at any moment; there was also the fear riding the back of built up anticipation. Looming fear. I knew that cold, hideous beast was there, and it wanted to eat me.
I’m sure my parents may have thought my sprints were just child energy getting burned off, or another round of imaginary games. For me it was a battle of life and death. My spindly legs had to carry me; quick as lightning past this demon. It had them fooled by not moving, but I knew it was just waiting to get me.
By our rules Caleb, now 6, has the overhead light on for a few minutes and then is reduced to the light on the nightstand; it is still plenty strong to read by. For a few months from his room we heard various quickened footsteps, leaps and mad scrambles. Then one day he explained that after the big light is out he has 8 seconds to be off of his bed to get more books or get that last drink of water. If he’s more than 8 seconds, then “things” will get him.
I know what he’s going through and I laugh. Not at him or childish games; I know the severity of this battle. I laugh at the common thread that binds us, that thought amuses me.
For now, he will run fast and sleep hard. He has another battle tomorrow.
He occasionally blogs at jamesdwitmer.com or @jamesdwitmer, spends his free time digging in the garden with his wife, and is pleasantly surprised to find that loving his family makes meaningful change in the world.