Princess Fiona's shoes
Letting rules slide a little feeds a child’s imagination, says Cath Jenkin.
"I'm Princess Fiona", she said.

"I have three babies, and I told Donkey to go change their nappies but he's not listening!"

There's so much imagination living in this little body, entrusted to my care. So many dreams and larger than life stories.

Where did this imagination come from? I'm no perfect parent. I will confess - I'm not reading my child educational, inspiring books every night when I put her to bed in her environmentally-friendly, ironed with creases pyjamas.

No, not us. Most nights, it's a tumble between emails, getting some semblance of dinner done, a ringing telephone and a mind-numbingly high pile of laundry. In fact, most nights it's the same stories, over and over again - Edward Monkton's "The Pig of Happiness" and Edward Lear's "The Owl and the Pussycat". There's not much variety when firm favourites are found.

But, it's there. An imagination that will not be stunted. It will not give up, and it will not be boundaried.

The constant play of life that exists in our world of imaginary friends and fairies under the rug, is what our life together runs on.

I'd like to say it's her private school education. It's not. It's an amazing school, a true home away from home. But it's no private, stiff upper lip institution that commands how children should only speak when spoken to.

I'd like to say it's our flourishing bank account and constant exposure to new experiences bought from the local funfair. It's not. It's all about the time we spend at home, creating our own life story, and living out our dreams in our little rented flat.

I'd like to say it's the constant attention I pay to her. It's not. Six out of seven nights, I'll be sitting here typing on this keyboard whilst she plays, and Barney sings that godawful song for the fifteenth time today, whilst espousing some critical life lesson on washing your hands six times left and right.

What is it then? What is it that nurtures this storybook mind and lets her imagination seep into everything she does?

I  think it's about the way we do things. Cameron and I hate boundaries. We loathe the word NO. Every day, we ignore the convention. Pudding before dinner? Of course!
Shall we wear princess dresses to sleep in? Of course!

It's not that I'm easy. It's not that I don't discipline my child. She's learnt to say please and thank you at the right times, and she berates me for snatching something away from her.

I'm just not willing to let convention lie in the way of real life. Real life isn't about whether or not you've got regulation flat shoes, geared with innersoles for ergonomic pleasure on. Real life is about walking in the shoes you put on this morning. And hey, if they happen to be pink, sparkly and just whisper the words "Princess Fiona" to you, then why not be that princess?

And if living life, unafraid of the rules that don't matter, means that my daughter learns, thinks and dreams to her heart's content, then I know I've done something right in this parental dance of life.

Do too many rules stifle imagination?

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