I’ll be busy in the kitchen
. Distracted. Only half-hear a question from one of my children. After stirring, wiping, preparing, serving, I’ll notice that there’s an eerie silence. After the silent-kids-stomach-lurch-fright has passed, the view across the lounge will strike me: Something has changed.
Where there used to be a couch and a desk and some coffee tables, there’s a network of cushion and blanket tunnels, and one of the blankets is moving slightly.
“Hannah?” I’ll call.
“I can’t hear you dad. And you can’t come in”.
A furious twitching of cushions shows that there’s a turf war going on.
After a few minutes of “that’s my cushion/no it’s mine!” they seem to settle down into their three habitats. I’m a little too tall to get in, but they want their privacy, anyway.
That’s how kids are supposed to be. A sand bank can become a mountain, and a river is meant to be dammed. A tree can be climbed and conquered just by using the branches, or it can become a castle using one or two planks.
They set up their own rules of access and ownership, and have elaborate stories to accompany the constructions. All of this is a vital part of their childhood
I remember being a kid and sleeping in my cousin’s wendy house in the garden. Other times, I’d set up a tent ion the lawn, and take a midnight snack, torch and a book or two. Alone with my thoughts, I’d dream dreams of owning a house one day, and of being a famous archaeologist.
Then, when the snacks were finished, or it started to rain, or the wind and streetlamps conspired to create ghostly creatures, I’d abandon my independence and head back inside to my parents and a cup of comforting hot chocolate.
I’d never ridicule my kids for having wild imaginations
, or for setting their own rules (in this context!). This is how I want them to be: Taking their environments and building on them- making a place for themselves in the world. And I’ll always be there to hand them that mug of hot chocolate when the going gets tough, or they need a break from being responsible.
There are days, of course, when I wish I could retreat to a hidden treehouse of my own...
I’d tell you the password, but then it wouldn’t be a secret, right?
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