I is for Imagination
Before I had kids I thought I had a pretty decent imagination. After all, I wrote stories. I’d even finished 4 novels, all of them still stuck in that infamous bottom drawer that writers have.
I managed to find ways of amusing Motormouth quite successfully when he was smaller, not that it takes much to amuse an 8-month-old – peeking round corners seemed to work pretty well. So did playing guess the animal in sign language.
Then Motormouth got to the point where he was inventing his own stories.
At first our games (yes, our games, parental involvement was, and still is, mandatory) were recreating stories he’d been read or seen on TV.
And oh, how we have to get involved. I’ve done everything from making imaginary fish biscuits to running around the local park shouting “I’m a colossal squid” in a funny voice.
Gradually things got confusing (Yes, I know. I’m easily confused.)
First of all we had to learn our new names. Depending on what we were playing, I was Dashi from Octonauts, Penny from Fireman Sam or Jessica, Lord of Air from Gormiti.
Then it got still more confusing. We didn’t just play Octonauts, or Gormiti, or even Fireman Sam.
All of a sudden, I was Dashica from Octogorm, or Jesseny from Samiti.
At least I could recognise the stories, all lovingly, and imaginatively pieced together by a small boy in charge of his world.
Then he went off piste.
We were making up stories.
I can still tell where they’re coming from, he picks up little elements from books, TV, even his journey to school. He weaves them together and comes up with the most fantastical plots. He naturally has a beginning, a middle and an end. There’s action and, I have to admit, a fair bit of bashing and more than a little arresting of the bad guys.
Then there are the props.
Boxes become forts, boats or racing cars. A soft toy football becomes his giant basher, creating quakes to knock the bad guys off their feet when he’s Nick Lord of Earth. Coathangers become hooks when he is a digger. Bits of broken toy can become pretty much anything.
It amazes me.
And then there’s his story telling.
We’re at that stage in his potty training when he wants someone with him while he does the business, partly to inspect the results of the “thousands of poos” he intends to do.
Then he starts telling me stories, animated expression and arm gestures helping the tale along. He has even been known to open with “it was a dark and stormy night…”
What does all this mean?
That I have really had to up my performance when it comes to imagination.
And it becomes more challenging (I refuse to say difficult) as he gets older.
I’ve learnt the hard way not to help the story along. He puts his hands on his hips, looks at me with his head cocked to one side and says “No, Mummy, be quiet. I’m telling the story.
Then, just when I think I’ve got a handle on it, he comes up with the questions.
And I need imagination to deal with this as well.
It’s not about making the answers up. I’m sure he would pick me up on that. At least he always has so far when I’ve got any of the details wrong.
It’s about finding new ways to describe things so he’ll understand.
Like all 4-year-olds he has a curiousity that only switches off when he’s asleep.
He also has the attention span of a crane fly on a caffeine high.
The journey to playgroup is the most challenging.
He sits in the back, commenting on every thing he sees, and between he shoots questions at me.
Just a few weeks ago we had the following…
Why did all the dinosaurs die? Was it a volcano? (No one really knows, but most people think it was an asteroid that hit the earth and threw up loads of dust that blocked out the sun).
What’s an asteroid? (Cue explanation and we get onto the Tunguska meteor strike.)
What causes holes in the road? (Discussion followed about dene holes, chalk mines, frost expansion and subsidence.)
Could you steal an elephant by hiding it under your coat? (Uh… help?)
Fortunately, the 10 minute journey ended shortly after.
He’s persistent as well. I can understand him wanting to know what every single person he sees is doing or where they are going, but why does he have this desperate need to know where they live?
And if we can visit them for tea?
I have to reword my answers on a regular basis, not just to help him understand better, but to stop me from boring myself, and him, into a stupor (something I failed to do miserably when he asked me what burglary was for the 70th time).
Hence the need for imagination.
It’s still a vital skill for parents, finding ways to keep a small child with an active mind occupied. It’s not just on car journeys, but doctor’s surgeries, supermarkets, anywhere we have to queue, anywhere that doesn’t have toys, anywhere that has toys we want to move away from… well, you know.
You’ve probably been there.
And it can be exhausting. We love our children dearly but sometimes, just sometimes, it’s nice when they’ve gone to bed and we can savour those first few minutes that are question-free.
So, I’ve decided that I’m going to make the most of Motormouth’s story-telling and sit back and ask the questions for a change. Even if the sitting is on the toilet floor.
And as for Mini?
She’s still at the peeking round corners stage.