Little Sunshine Childhood

Perhaps it’s the awakening of my youngest’s imagination. Perhaps it’s the precious half hour or so of being fully present with her, or both my daughters every morning. Maybe it’s because we’ve deliberately pared back from all scheduled activities, other than preschool. Maybe it’s that I have stepped back from technology and social media to spend more time in nature, or reading books and magazines. Whatever is going on, I am revelling – revelling – in my children’s childhood.

Childhood. So, so precious. It only happens once, and in a flash it is gone. And yet it’s the foundation for the rest of our life. There’s room for change, of course, but those first precious years of life are so important to who we become.

One of my high school teachers, who’s become a good friend, once said that she got through parenting by telling herself this: “They only have one childhood.”

That sentiment has been ringing in my ears lately.

they only have one childhood

So, what? Make it a good one? And what is a good one? The best it can be?

In my mind, a good childhood is not one crammed with activities and experiences, necessarily, but is a gentle glide. Maybe it’s an open paddock left to explore and ponder. Or a tree to climb. It could be a long beach, with pebbles and rocks and crevices to explore.

It’s people. Good people. Young and old. Different perspectives. Family. Friends. People who are kind. People who are fun.

It’s love. Lots and lots and lots of it.

It’s a Sunday afternoon, and my daughters and their friends explore and play. They are kicking balls. Wait – now they are running – pretending to be tigers. One is dressed in an opulent princess dress. The other has drawn stripes all over her face in highlighter. They are squealing and laughing. Negotiating. Chatting.

This is the gentle glide into the rest of life. There will be times when I get tense, and angry. My partner and I will fight. We’ll lose our patience with the kids. But it’s okay – because the bigger picture is this. This lovely little sunshine childhood.

Are you loving childhood too? What do you think makes a good childhood?

When storytelling becomes lying, or maybe doesn’t

 

image Yesterday, my five year old told me about her day at preschool.

‘We found a cat,’ she said. ‘It had a name tag on its collar, which said “Please look after this cat. Its parents have died.”‘

‘That’s sad,’ I said.

‘It’s okay, Mum. We will look after it. It’s a big white fluffy cat.’

A few days before, she told me the preschool had guinea pigs.

‘How many?’ I asked.

‘One for each child,’ she said. ‘We also have horses. One for each child. And snakes. One for each child.’

‘Can I see them?’ I asked.

‘No Mum. They are around the back. Adults aren’t allowed back there.’

The previous week, she’d told me some teenagers were getting married at her school, and all the kids were invited, and they were allowed to eat fairy floss.

‘No adults are invited though,’ she said. ‘The teenagers only like kids.’ Their parents had also died.

I listen, and play along with her stories. I am never sure where the truth begins and ends. Maybe it doesn’t end, in her mind. And that’s okay, right?

I remember my own stories at that age. Clearly. Some I remember more clearly than things that actually happened. In fact my reality and my imagination are kind of confused. Some imagined things feel like were real.

Like the donkey.

When I was about 9, my mum heard me telling someone we had buried our pet donkey in the paddock.

‘We never had a pet donkey,’ she said.

But I was sure we had. For years, I’d been telling people about my pet donkey and about where it was buried.

I was caught out a few times. Although never malicious, my storytelling was construed as lying on a couple of occasions.

One day, when I was a bit older, my aunt was driving us home, and we couldn’t cross the causeway because there was water over the bridge.

My aunt went to the house on the top of the hill and asked to use their phone to call my dad.

The house had a beautiful cottage garden. When she returned to the car, I told my aunt that one day my dad had asked the owners if he could pick a bunch of flowers for my mum, and the owners said he could.

I strongly remember my family sitting around the dining room table laughing at my ‘fib’.

I can’t remember why I told it. It wasn’t to cause harm though. I’ve never really had much reason to lie. I never did anything too naughty, and if I did, Mum and Dad were generally forgiving.

I like to think my daughter’s stories are equally as harmless.

The irony is she’s ridiculously honest about things that matter.

Like that time she threw her good canvas shoes out the car window. She immediately confessed – she could have easily got away with it, as I had no idea. But she came right out with the truth.

For now, in these innocent childhood days, I am enjoying – and in fact marvelling at the stories she tells. Some are so damn imaginative and original I can’t believe they came from her young head.

I’m not sure what the psychologists say about this stage. But what do you think? Do your kids tell stories? And when do stories become something more sinister, like lying?

Sunshine Sundays ~ Imagination

imagination

At the base of the property where I grew up was an old olive tree. Its branches reached upwards from its base, making a hollow centre. Inside the tree there was space enough for a small human. The floor of the hollow centre was covered with a thick carpet of small, hardened leaves. Light filtered in through the mesh of leaves and branches.

The tree was more than a tree. It was the home to a family of tiny bears – a mother, a father and two children – who lived in the tree trunk. A lizard marched on the branches above, and a fairy made her nest among the leaves. A miserly King lived in a cut-off boab tree not far from the olive tree, and refused to share his wealth with the family of bears.

I spent afternoons after school and weekends socialising with the bears, the fairy and the lizard. We chose not to associate with the King, who clearly did not understand the art of sharing and kindness.

My memories of this tree and its inhabitants are more vivid than most of my lived memories.

My imaginative life continued through school. Imagination found its way into stories or plays. It found an outlet in visual art at some point. Imagination was my reprieve from life. It was my entertainment. It made life more interesting. As soon as I had the chance, my mind wandered into an undiscovered world of stories, characters, images and pictures…Come to think of it, all this still applies.

As a mother, I draw on my imaginative resources lying in the dark, telling stories to my little sunshine girl. She gives me a theme, like “mermaids” or “rainbows” and I weave it into something especially for her imagination. She drinks in the story, asks for another, and reluctantly drifts off to sleep, where her mind wanders into stories of its own.

Her day too is filled with imagination. Like I had as a kid, she has regular characters. The key players in her imaginative stories are Maddy, her teenage daughter and Daisy and Tuna,  her two younger children to a different father (their father died, incidentally). Maddy, Tuna, Daisy and Sunshine Girl have a life that roughly mimics our real life. They do all the things we do, could do, or can’t quite do, or possibly things I did when I was a child. Maddy recently went to Austria to visit her father, but unfortunately, he didn’t have much time to see her as he was too busy on his computer.

Imagination, like learning, knowledge, intuition, social skills and communication is one of the fundamental building blocks of life. Children naturally gravitate towards it. From about the age of three, a child wants to and is inclined to imagine whenever they have the chance.

I am giving my first ever community talk in Wollongbar this Wednesday for the Wollongbar Progress Association. In preparation, I have spent the last few weeks researching, reading and pulling together ideas about imagination and creativity in early childhood, and the more I read and write about it, the more I realise how familiar it is, and how intrinsic it is to my own life and my life with my children. I find myself getting all passionate and excited as I pull the themes together, and shape them into something I can share with the community.

If you are living near Wollongbar NSW, and happen to free this Wednesday at 10am, you are welcome to join us for morning tea and a chat. I will be sharing my passion and interest in imagination, and ideas about how to nurture and engage our children’s imagination. This free community event will be held at Wollongbar Hall on Simpson Ave. Wollongbar NSW.

Tell me about your imaginative life and how you nurture imagination in the comments below, or link up your post about imagination for Sunshine Sunday. Everyone is welcome, and posts can be old or new. You can even share an unthemed post if you would just like to join in.

Next week’s Sunshine Sunday theme is “Love” (in lieu of Valentine’s Day, naturally).

Visit me over at Facebook for more natter through the week. You can also sign up for my monthly newsletter,

Sunshine Sundays

 

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Linking with With Some Grace 

A little crab on the beach

beach

 

Yesterday, Little Heart played on the rocks with a girl she’d just met, chasing tiny crabs. They lay on the sand, on their tummies. Strangers, absorbed in the moment, watching a crab scuttle over their fingers, and into the sand. Two other children joined them, and the four of them scrambled up the rocky mound, looking for more crabs.

The other children left and we bought a fresh coconut from the coconut cart.

beach2Another little girl was playing on the sand. She and my little girl chatted. They too lay on the sand together, on their tummies, as if they had been laying side by side, chatting about girl things, for years.

My daughter isn’t always ‘brave’. It’s a thing for her. “I was brave of those dogs,” she tells me proudly, as we walk past two pooches on leads. Mostly, at the play park, she hovers at the periphery, watching. If we are there long enough, she’ll pick up her courage and take it into the centre of the action. Sometimes, she’ll make a friend. It’s heartbreaking, separating her and her new little friends after such a build-up, to take her home.

Watching her with these children she’d never met, lost in a beach experience that belonged only to that afternoon, I wondered at which point you lose the innocence to lay along side a stranger in the sun. Surely, I too once made a little friend on a sunny day at the beach.

But as I grew taller, and more aware of my world; more aware of social conventions and what other people would think of me; I began to hold the periphery tight. Although seemingly a social person, who easily makes friends, the thought of talking to somebody I didn’t know was paralysing. What if they don’t like me? What will they think of me? When all that mattered were these things…do they like me? meeting people was complex, and painful.

People talk about ‘childish innocence’, and the ability to ‘be in the moment, like a child’. There is wistfulness and longing attached to the idea of childhood. Today, sitting on the rocks, watching my daughter, I got it. Childhood is precious. Sharing an activity with another person you have never met before and will likely never meet again, whose name you don’t know, is an experience that belongs only to childhood. I miss that.

How do you go talking to strangers? What do you miss about childhood?

 

My little friend

Today we weeded the garden.

It was one in a series of stay-at-home events that happened today. Others included washing baby clothes, watching the Olympics and cleaning cobwebs from the front door.

Just the two of us: Elka, my little friend, and me.

Someone once told me that you can’t be friends with your children – parent/child is a different type of relationship. But I can’t agree. If I am not friends with Elka, then what is friendship? We love each other. She hangs out beside me constantly. She is brilliant company.  She stimulates my creativity. She talks endlessly. She entertains me…sitting in the sandpit, imagining worlds and telling little stories.

I usually avoid home days, fearful of boredom and house work. Sometimes (like today) I crave them. I am a pregnant mama in nesting mode. I desperately needed to wash and fold small baby clothes. I needed to wipe cobwebs from outside windows and doors. I needed to pull up weeds. I needed to combat several middens that had accumulated. I needed a ‘down’ day with my little girl, where staying in my dressing gown until 2pm is acceptable (although the parcel delivery man probably didn’t think so).

Being in the comfort of our home and our dressing gowns was the perfect way to spend a day with my little friend. Sometimes, it’s all I need; just the two of us, and a pile of folded baby clothes.

{Linking with With Some Grace for FYBF & the Daily Post Challenge: From Mundane to Meaningful}

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