Sunday, November 11, 2012

It' Not A Stick

The kids and I read Not a Box and it's sequel Not a Stick about a year ago. They were both pretty good. I didn't feel compelled to run out and buy them full price, but they were good. If I saw them on the used book shelf, I'd definitely snag them.

But on with the show. I must get breakfast started and here I sit at the computer again. Believe it or not, this post is not about a book. The books definitely sparked the idea for this post when I was browsing through photos of the kids, but really this post is all about my kids. About how creative they are. About how creative kids in general can be when they are allowed to explore and play with things "inappropriately."

I know people who try to keep all toy sets together. All the time. Never shall the triceratops from the dinosaur puzzle be stuck in the ficus tree in the living room. Yes I know, he's prowling in the jungle, about to pounce on pour unsuspecting Benjamin Bunny from the wooden toy basket. But you see, that puzzle piece might get lost. And I'd just have to throw the whole thing away. Agggghhh! And pray, tell me, why are there markers and crayons stuck in the play dough. A birthday cake? I see. And play dough covering your trucks? Oh, it's a blanket. Yes that makes sense.

My kids love to mix their toys. Strewing pieces from this set and that one all over the house while participating in various expeditions, hunts, safaris, etc. And I know about those anal parents who try to just keep it all together, contained, because I am one. And I try very, very hard to hide it. Just bite my tongue, let them play, and try not to fuss too much later when I want them to just help clean it all up already.

And another pet peeve is bringing indoor toys outside. My visiting friends probably marvel at my careless manner when the kids drag polly pockets, dinosaur sets, blankets, dolls outside and I barely bat an eye, smile and say calmly, "Sure, that's fine. Just put it back when your finished with it." If only my friends could hear the stomach acids stewing around, churning, churning, churning. See the nails digging into my palms. Taste the salty tang of blood because I've bit down a smidgen too hard on my tongue.

I try so hard to just let these things go. I don't consider myself materialistic. Not in the traditional womanly sense. I don't care a heap about my clothes. I spend no more than a buck on any one piece (thrift store dollar sales.) And makeup? I recently replaced the mascara tube that I bought for my wedding day, eight years ago. And cars. Furniture. My hair. Fingernails. The last - and only time - I had a manicure was for the senior prom. A lady named Charlene with big hair gave me french tips, while her twin sister Darlene - with even bigger hair - sat popping her gum and chatting. True story.

But I digress. All that to say, I don't care about the things women are supposed to care about. But the toys. And books. I have to just keep my mouth shut. Try not to scold too severely when Tommy rips up his dinosaur pop-up book. And you know what? He's had a blast with that book. Still does, even though his brontosaurus has lost his neck, and the T-Rex is missing a leg and several teeth.

So, that brings me to the whole book tie-in. Not a Stick is about a child who is holding . . . well, a stick. But he insists it's not a stick. It's a sword. A baton. A paintbrush. You get the picture.

We were outside one day, and Pippi and Tommy had of course dragged just about every toy they own outdoors. Toys strewn from one end of the yard to another. Cleanup was gonna be fun.

Then Tommy walked up to me, held up this stick with his Luke Skywalker figure sitting astried. "It's a spaceship!" He said. He spent a good while zooming Luke around the yard. When he abandoned the stick, moved on to something else, probably peeing in the dirt, Pippi came along, picked up the stick, looked at it for awhile then ran into the house. She returned a minute later with the bag of rubber bands from the craft box.

Oh no, not more stuff, I groaned inwardly. "What are the rubber bands for?" I asked. "To make a slingshot," she answered. "So I can shoot a squirrel."

The stick had a fork at one end, really the perfect sort of stick for a slingshot. I helped her secure the bands, she filled her pocket with stones, and set off hunting those furry tailed rodents. Didn't work. She decided we need a giant rubber band, which illuminates her amazing problem solving skills. Bad mommy still hasn't remembered to go buy those giant rubber bands, but you know what? It just might work. I think a giant rubber band would actually work.

All this to say, the next time your kids are driving you crazy, dragging clothes, blankets, sticks, acorns, rocks, etc. all over the house and yard. Think of me. And bite your tongue.

Because in your child's mind, It's not a stick. It's a spaceship. It's not a puzzle piece. It's a dinosaur. It's not a box. It's a car. And those ties, drug out of your husbands closet? Well, seat belts, of course. The world becomes their play yard. Their toy box. And isn't childhood, toddlerhood, such a young age to so severely limit them.

Those puzzle pieces are only to be played with with the puzzle.

Just my humble opinion, but when we limit them so - not just in there play but also in their work (ie - That's not the way you work that problem. You do it this way.), I believe we raise adults who can not be creative. Think outside the box.

A box is a box.

A stick is a stick.

Nothing else.

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