Never Leave Children to Themselves*

“We talk a great deal about independence, but we loathe it as much as we loathe the blessed freedom of nothing to do. Children no longer play because we have taken from them the opportunity and, I’ll insist, even the capacity to play. And this, if we want to kill the imagination, is an altogether healthy thing.”

The above quote as well as the title of this post come from a book by Anthony Esolen:

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child

I have been reading this book for the last three months, not because it is an exceptionally long book or because I am an exceptionally slow reader, but because I generally have four to five books going at once. And this is the kind of book that is so full of wisdom you don’t want to miss a thing.

Mr. Esolen writes in a satirical style (as you can gather from the title) using literature, history, personal anecdotes and more to show us how the imaginations of our children are being destroyed by things like: political correctness, a lack of outdoor play, the over-organizing of their lives, etc.

In the chapter Never Leave Children to Themselves, he writes about how children use their imaginations, when they are not over-supervised, to create games and art and even their own culture.

I have seen this in my own children during the time we have been on the road. It’s so easy to get ourselves and our children involved in a hundred different activities. Anything from sports, to drama, to church, and this leaves very little time for them to lose themselves in their own play and creations.

In the time that we have been here in Cloudcroft my three little ones (as we still call them although the eldest of the little ones is 11) have found at least ten ways to use a pinecone. They have built fairy houses and started their own form of commerce using shiny rocks, pine cones and flowers for trade. They have learned what makes good tinder and have diligently gathered it in the hope that they will get to play in the camp fire.

Since leaving behind the television, activities schedules, and fenced grassless yards their imaginations have truly blossomed. And we have, and will, all benefit from it.

The children decorated pine cones with flowers, shells and the mint leaves they found.

The children decorated pine cones with flowers, shells and the mint leaves they found.

Each child made their own bows and arrows.

Each child made their own bows and arrows.

A fairy house the children worked on together.

A fairy house the children worked on together.

 

The Final Yard Sale

Aside

stuffyardsale

 

Nine days left before we move into our home on wheels and we are still trying to rid ourselves of unneeded items. If you knew how many yard sales and trips to GoodWill I ‘ve made over the last four years you would wonder that I could possibly have anything left. I wonder that myself. But there it was: crock pots, lawn chairs, clothes, tools, furniture, books, and more all stacked on tables, stuffed in boxes, and hanging from the garage door. Two days of yard sales and we still gave the majority of it away.

When I think of the money that has been lost in the almost unconscious buying of things I have to say my conscience is pricked. But few things makes me feel quite so foolish as the Wii.

Two years ago at Christmas Jim (my husband) and I bought our children a Wii. Now, there’s nothing wrong with buying things for your children, unless what you’re buying goes against your conscience and you’re just buying it because it’s Christmas and you feel like you have to get them something big.  And that is exactly what we did.

We have always steered our children away from video games and too much electronic stimulation. We didn’t even have a television for several years while our two eldest children were young. But as anyone with more than two  children can tell you, you start to slack off a bit with the third and fourth and so on. You might think that I am making an awfully big deal out of a Wii, but it’s not just that particular gift. We’ve bought our children so many things that they didn’t need and sometimes didn’t even want all because we felt the pressure to provide a fun Christmas or birthday.

I wonder, would they have enjoyed those times of celebration more had we instead spent that time playing games or doing some project together? I think so.

I’m not so stoic as to say there should be no gift-giving ever, but I want to be wiser in making those choices and not allow outside influences to guilt me into spending money on my children instead of spending time with my children.

And when I sold the Wii today I only made a measly $25. Is that ironic or what?