Remember the childhood memories like getting mail that was actually addressed to you? Licking the beaters from baking? Reading for hours, without having to account for your time? I do. My FAVOURITE bits of being a kid. A time, in retrospect, where you are not really responsible for anything except your own hygiene and a few chores. No real jobs. No real pressing issues.
Well, I have four tiny humans who I am trying to ensure grow up with some ‘cool’ kid memories and an imagination. Easier said than done with the addition of touch just about anything screens. Non-digital (do we call them analogue?!) books competing with electronic touch screen e-readers that have colour, fancy pictures and well; they don’t make your hand go numb while contorting yourself to read and stay awake and not upset the dog, who is fast encroaching on your space. Sometimes it is a no-brainer, the e-version is heaps cheaper, and you get it instantly. But something still is so incredibly satisfying about holding a book. The weight. The page turning.
I have not yet let the kids get many e-books. Sure they have some that are educational and sing-a-long type ones, and let’s face it, Hairy McClary is very cool when you can record the voices and sounds, and is hands down better than me holding the book and reading in terms of entertainment value. It is kinda sad though, as books sit in our bookcase, unloved at times, and gathering dust. Reading is magical, and is a big component of how we imagine and create ‘things’ in our minds. The far away lands, the hero’s, the fables, the happily ever after’s. That is what reading is all about.
And that is what being a kid is all about. Dress ups, princesses and princes, knights and dragons, cops and robbers, all the fun games. They need fuel to work – and a great fuel is reading.
Underlying all of this would be the back to basics notion running through my head – getting the kids away from the distractions of modern day childhood, all the interruptions and invasiveness of society, and just life in the 2010’s, and just letting them make and find their own fun for a change. School holidays are a perfect opportunity to let them do this. It is also the perfect opportunity for temporary insanity on my behalf. It is only 9am and already I have refereed at least 6 arguments. There has been two lego injuries (one serious as I stepped on lego with NO shoes, and no, not duplo) and an incident regarding cheating in racing cars. Just a normal day. Mind you, the looser application of routine in school holidays gives them a dose of a little more feral and a touch of spunk.
In saying all of this, I don’t want to live in a society without technology – I use it daily and the benefits and outcomes potentially outweigh any other view – but I just want the kids to be ‘kids’.
They can’t run out the front and play, nor can they go down to the park by themselves. A sad state of social affairs where you can’t trust anyone really unless you know them and have verified they are in fact humans and not some slimy reptilian type who see children as prey. So that rules out letting the kid’s free range about the neighbourhood. Which means bringing the childhood to our house. We have a cubby house, which is loved, but often reported as ‘boring’. We have books, blankets and lego to build forts. We have a kid’s kitchen where amazing delicacies are prepared. And most importantly, four minds, looking for adventure and mayhem. Now, let there be no tomfoolery or trickery, my kids are mischievous. Playing forts or cubbies can quite easily end in tears. Mostly because I find the stash of food they have rather intently stolen, and have taken it back.
What I am really trying to do; is feed their imagination. Feed their make believe stories, let them create their own world where fairies, dragons, elves and robots are their friends and have some secret language with. Take it all back to basics. To have fun, you don’t need anything – you just need to have an active mind. Four kids on a rainy day – like today – and the places we have been is amazing. We had lunch with some trolls who we thought were bad guys, but after investigation by the kids, turns out they were just trolls, and because they look a bit mean (they had brown hair and brown eyes and crinkles on their face and forehead and they were really really really tall and smelt a bit bad like bums) people were scardy of them. This made my heart sing. This crazy little story concocted by four kids, together, with bits and pieces from each of them (although the bum smell would have been all of them) is just a childhood memory. Something I hope that one-day they remember at some random moment in their adult life, and think about how much fun it was to be a kid.
Might sound like I am trying to orchestrate something here for them. A false childhood even. But that is not the intent. I am trying to let them be kids, and enjoy as much magic and mystery as they can before they learn just what is real and what is not. That invisible line that all kids cross from being believers in everything to being aware of the ‘real’ world.
There is no guidebook on this parenting thing. There is no real guidebook on this society thing anymore either for that matter. As we rapidly become a society where staring at a screen is considered acceptable – even normal, it is difficult to imagine sometimes what everyone did on trains! We are a society that now accepts that screen time is often interaction enough, and I sure don’t want my kids to think this is the only way to communicate or participate actively in society.
So my quest is to try and keep it simple. Basic. Let them find fun in some things, and provide them a chance to give their imagination a run. Let them explore boldly where no Hayden, Brendan, Emma or Caitlyn have gone before – together, individually, and all in the name of fun. Let them read the book, before watching the movie. Living dangerously through the pages of Harry Potter, The Famous Five, Huckleberry Finn, The Wishing Tree and of course, Disney. To infinity and beyond!