Soccer season has started for both of my girls. I love watching my sweet girls play, but my youngest, Amelie, does not match my enthusiasm for watching her 8 year old sister. During games, Amelie has a tendency to find a friend and wander a couple feet away from me where she and her buddy can make-believe in peace, without pesky grownups asking what they are doing.
Do you remember that? Do you remember playing make-believe, being completely engrossed in the situation you created, and then an adult would come over and ask, “What’re you doing?” and POP! The pretending stopped. Man. I do.
My two older sisters and I used to create elaborate stories for our Barbie dolls to play out. Stacy, Kevin, Barbie and my little Annie doll are lost in a deep cave, and Kevin just got bit by a scorpion. He’s hurt bad and he can barely walk. Oh no! Annie fell down a hole! Who can help her get out? “Girls! Come upstairs! It’s time for dinner”. No one. No one could help Annie get out of the hole because we were brought back to real life. Just kidding, Stacy saved Annie.
My point is that Mom or Dad always brought us back to reality. In my experience, my sisters’ and my imagination was limited when our parents were in listening distance. Could this be true for my kiddos as well? Other kiddos? Maybe. Maybe that’s why when I peek in while my girls are playing with their superhero dolls in their dollhouse I get big sighs and exasperated, “Mommeeeee”s. I made their imaginative world just POP, disappear.
So, who cares? I interrupt some imaginative play between my girls, what does it matter? Interruptions happen – that’s life. What I want to avoid with my girls is preventing imaginative play from happening. In an article in The Wall Street Journal, John Seely Brown is quoted saying, “Once I imagine something new, then answering how to get from here to there involves steps of creativity. So I can be creative in solving today’s problems, but if I can’t imagine something new, then I’m stuck in the current situation. . .”
Encourage imagination and you will have fresh new paths and better ways of doing things! So no, I don’t want to stifle that, but if I am constantly staring at my girls when they play, it is less likely that they will play imaginatively. Some kids need a little space to imagine, just a bit. My girls do.
I am pretty imaginative, but most times I am imaginative in the worst way. Those awful what-if situations that you think of? That’s my imagination, and that’s what I do anytime my girls are not in my arms reach. So many different kidnap scenes have flown through my brain when I can’t see my girl for one second in the grocery store. I might have screamed my daughter’s name ten times and ran around like a maniac in the grocery store before realizing that my teeny girl was hanging on the back of the basket behind 16 rolls of toilet paper. I didn’t see her, and I immediately started thinking that she was gone forever! Giving my girls space is scary, so I only give as much as I can handle. The amount of space I could handle was recently tested by my Amelie.
At my 8 year old’s recent soccer game, my Amelie and a few of her little buddies (who were also not interested in watching their sisters play soccer) ran together up and down a hill at the park, about 100 yards away. I’ve never let my girl stray so far. Four other parents were watching, and kept assuring me that the kids were fine, but the what-ifs were still filling my head. More than three times did I stand up and start to walk over to bring my girl back to my arms reach. I stopped myself each time once I could hear my girl and her little buddies laughing and making cute sound effects, acting like superheros or wrestlers. So sweet. They were in a safe spot, they were being watched by those who loved them, and they were in a world that they imagined. So, I let them thrive in their imagined world. I didn’t pop it, and it worked out. I’m aiming to let my girls thrive more often in their imagined worlds.