I look over to see three-year-old Brennan walking away clutching a handful of “beans.”
“What do you mean?” I ask Micah, curious about how Brennan might be wasting the pea-pod look-alikes that are hanging by the hundreds from the tree under which Micah is playing.
“I need those beans for my bean-berry salad and Brennan is using them for hamburgers,” he explains, clearly perturbed…both at Brennan for wasting the beans and that Mom can’t figure this logic out on her own.
“Oh,” I respond. The situation is now crystal clear to me.
“Brennan’s not wasting the ‘beans,'” I continue, “He’s using his imagination, just like you. I think that’s pretty neat that you’re using them to make a salad and that Brennan is using them to make hamburgers. What he’s doing with them is no different that what you’re doing. You just both see them as different things. I love it that you both are using your imaginations.”
Realizing that my “lecture” on imagination wasn’t really what Micah was looking for, I decide to offer some more practical help.
“Here Buddy,” I say to Micah, as I pull down an out-of-reach branch, “I’ll help you pick some more. There’s plenty.”
Micah quickly jumps up and begins picking, seemingly satisfied.
I love these moments. These moments of my children playing and using their imaginations. So many times it’s easy for me to distract them and keep them from doing what comes so naturally to them ~ imaginative play. In fear of them “getting underfoot,” I sometimes turn on the television. They are happy and entertained (for the time being) while I peacefully continue on with whatever I deem important. Other times I try hard to create something that might be a learning experience or is more what I want than what they want. Even if they are good things ~ playing a game, coloring pictures, or taking a walk together ~ I don’t want those activities to stifle their imaginations. I want to make sure I carve time for them to just play and be, with no adult guiding and directing what comes next.
And I love it when I get a chance to watch and observe their play. Again, too many times I send them on their way to play while I get my “important things” done. Shoo them out the door on a nice day, while I stay inside. Send them out from underfoot with the command to “go play.” Moms are busy you know.
Today, for a change, I took the time to enjoy. I sat in a chair in the backyard, without a book or magazine in hand. I sat there and intentionally took in what I saw. Engaging only when called upon (such as the “bean-wasting” discussion). I watched as Micah intently gathered “beans” and added them to his bucket. Squatting, standing on a chair, mixing and stirring. He was engrossed. Watch out Emeril! Brennan, mimicking both big brother (bean gathering) and Daddy (grilling), yet using his own imagination to create a unique twist on reality: grilling the beans as hamburgers on the lower shelf of the charcoal grill. He was carrying on his own conversation throughout. I was occasionally pulled in as the customer:
“Here’s a hamburger for you, Mommy. Is it yummy?”
“Mmm…it’s delicious,” I respond.
Delicious indeed. Two little boys. A hot summer day. A moment in time.
Bean-berry salad and hamburgers. Who could ask for a better meal on a hot summer day?