I love to listen to my son play by himself. I was an only child so I can relate to much of the world he lives in (however, my son has a sister three years older than him). His imagination is phenomenal. He will take our living room rug and turn it into the race track at Talladega. Or take a blanket and turn it into a cape. When he is in his world I love to stay with an ear shot of him so I too can enjoy what he is conjuring up that day.
He is six, and like many six year old boys, it is all about dirt and diggers and collisions and adventure. We live in a new development and the past couple of weeks I have taken him to the construction area and let him go wild in the dirt piles. It is a world of endless amazement for him. I remember at his age playing with my ERTL trucks and John Deere tractors – I get what is going on in his mind. He will be talking to himself, yet out loud – with zero concern for embarrassment or other people’s opinions. What freedom!
I hear parents often say they wish their kids wouldn’t grow up, that they could keep them at a specific age. That isn’t the case with me. I am anxious to see what God has in store for both of them. What I am sentimental about most is this wonderful world of endless creativity and imagination. A world where you can create anything because “realism” hasn’t crept into your psyche yet.
I think this is why the book Where the Wild Things Are is such a classic. Even today kids (and adults) love thumbing through this timeless story of a boy and his freedom. He creates a world that allows him to be king and not be brow-beaten by adults (put yourself in the shoes of a small child someday – not an easy role)
I want my son to grow up, but his heart to stay full of wonder. The truth is, that won’t happen. At some point the carpet will no longer be Talladega – it will simply be a carpet. And capes, light sabers and super hero outfits will be for “little kids”. We call this “growing up”
Peter, Paul and Mary sang of this transition of a young boy in their #1 hit song from 1963 “Puff the Magic Dragon” (video listed below). The story is about a boy named Jackie Paper, and his imaginary dragon-friend Puff. Jackie and Puff lived in a land called Honali. And “Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff.” Honali was made up of strings, sealing wax and other fancy stuff. Jackie would sit upon Puff’s tail and they patrolled the seas. Royalty would bow in the presence of Jackie and Puff. Pirate ships would lower their flags when Puff roared out Jackie’s name! Imagine the endless hours of adventure and joy. No one yelling at you, no one is impatient, no one is too busy, no one rushing you along because they had to be somewhere. I think we all had a Honali of some kind
But at the 1:58 point in the song, Eden is invaded. “One gray night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more. And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.” One day in the early 80s I no longer created a world with my trucks and tractors. They were replaced with other toys and fantasies. The song continues “Without his lifelong friend, Puff could not be brave. So Puff, that mighty dragon, sadly slipped into his cave.”
A few weeks ago I took my son to see the new Pixar movie Inside Out. It focuses on the 4 emotions inside a young girls mind (joy, sadness, disgust and anger). Early in the movie, the girl now a teenager moves from Minnesota to San Francisco. This shock in her life sends her emotions haywire. Without giving the movie away, Sadness and Joy end up in the young girls long term memory – the place where memories are stored (but pretty much forgotten). There is only one step beyond long term and that is completely forgotten. In long term they run across Bing Bong: half elephant, half cotton candy, half clown….Bing Bong was the girl’s imaginary friend as a young child. Joy remembers all the joy the girl experienced whenever she was with Bing Bong. Anyway he helps Sadness and Joy get to where they need to go, but not before sacrificing his own life and ending up in the area of forgotten memories. Joy turns around to see him slowly disappearing forever.
There was stunned silence in the audience. I might as well admit it – I teared up. I wonder how many great events/things I had cast into the area of my mine never to be recalled.
Think of the Toy Story movies and why they are so captivating to adults. Because there is the joy of recalling our innocent youth, and yet some sadness to how those toys and memories are long long gone. And lets be honest, we all kinda wished our toys were alive didn’t we?
There will come an afternoon when my son will clean up his hot wheels and never crash them at Talladega again. There will come a day when girls and sports will be far more interesting than Spider Man and bed time stories. There will come a day when he will forget these days (or at least most of them). They will be relegated to wherever Bing Bong went. However, I will not. That rug bought from Lowes will always be a NASCAR track, cardboard tubes will be swords, and Ironman will only be one change of clothes away