We have an ordinary creek near our home. It is not very big. It is not very special, except for one thing–dragons. Yup that’s right. Dragons live there. There are all sorts of them there. Big ones, little ones, some that live in the trees, some that live in the water. And if you are not careful you might be chased by the ones who live in the swamps. Most people around our town probably don’t even know it has a name. (It does.) But, we never call it by the name our town gave it. We call it by its real name. We call it Dragon Creek.
Dragon Creek is a place of excitement for my family and friends. It is a place of wonder. It is a place my kids get excited about. It is a place where my brother tracks wildlife. It is a place where we exercise, walk, talk, and get outside. It is a place of life and movement. But to be honest, it’s not even that great of a creek. It was once part of the old water treatment plant in our town and most of it runs through a grown-over landfill.
What makes Dragon Creek a place of profound mystery and excitement is the fact that we stop and make it a big deal. We make memories there. We make up stories there. We share picnics and walks there. We explore the creek, the fields, and the cliffs (hillsides actually but cliffs sounds way more adventurous and dangerous). In this place where ordinary and extraordinary intersect, we all get to have fun. We all get to be kids.
Sometimes as an adult, I forget to play. I forget to have fun. It’s almost as if the world has convinced us that we are supposed to be super serious and work-focused. But, the way I foster imagination in my kids’ lives is to foster it in my own. By the world’s measure, I should have given up stories and playtime years ago. But, I can’t. I can’t stop seeing creatures in the woods. I can’t stop looking for signs of dragons. I can’t stop traversing areas filled with goblins. I can’t stop making it back to our home where the queen resides (my wife of course). I can’t stop bringing her our treasures. As long as my kids tag along with me, I won’t stop. And, even when they do stop, hopefully there will be grandkids who need to learn the ways of the dragon hunt.
So, find a place. Any place will do. It can be field, a barn, or a backyard. It can be something you drive past every day without paying it any thought. Next time, take your kids with you. Make the ordinary thing something extraordinary by taking time to be together there. Give it a story, a history. Throw in a few goblin fights or dragon hunts and it is guaranteed it will be a place that becomes magical. I don’t think at any point will you have to teach your children how to play or imagine. They already know that. They might even teach you a thing or two. But, I think as parents we are all responsible for teaching our children that it is okay to keep playing and to keep imagining even when we grow up.