A conversation with children at 7:00 AM. It is a chilly winter morning, and two young boys ages 8 and 5 beginning interrogating their harried mother.
Youngest: Don’t we have any dreidels?
Mother: Well, no. We don’t.
Youngest (cries as if heart is broken)
Mother: What on earth???
Youngest: I want to collect dreidels.
Oldest: So I just made up this drum set. How long did Fleetwood Mac practice before they were rock stars?
Mother: I…huh…what? Do you mean Mick Fleetwood? I don’t know, what did they say on the show?
Youngest: (still crying)
Mother: (switching attention rapidly between one child and the next) Ok, kiddo, we just don’t have dreidels. It’s not the end of the world, sweetie, really it’s not.
Oldest: Wanna hear my new song I made up? Can I take drumming lessons? How long do you need to take drumming lessons?
I have to be careful what sorts of TV shows I watch with my kids. It is not about violence, or sex, or even foul language. The above transcript comes from a morning where my boys watched a recorded episode of CBS Sunday Morning with me. This episode featured interviews with Mick Fleetwood and an older gentleman who owns the world’s largest collection of dreidels. Other episodes convinced the boys that they wanted to sculpt huge sandstone caves, create street art, start a bakery, and become comic book authors. Some days I am not up for how excited the boys are.
Mother: (just too tired to think straight) That is IT! We cannot do everything! These people, the people on these shows spend their whole lifetimes doing what they do-we CANNOT replicate what they do in the space of a morning. We are not going to pout about it either. Just, everybody CHILL OUT!
But, most days, I am able to appreciate the way a segment on a show can ignite their imaginations. And I am a little jealous. I have found them designing huge pumpkin sculptures (with trick-or-treat buckets and stuffed animals) after watching Halloween Wars. They’ve made River Monsters out of Legos and blocks and boats out of kitchen chairs. We made a turkey-shaped sugar cookie at Christmas because a contestant had on Holiday Baking Championship. Every room of the first floor was commandeered recently for a live-action game of Boom Beach that went on for two hours.
Come to think of it, it really isn’t just TV shows. Sometimes it’s video games, apps, zoos, restaurants, songs, books. Everything can become a game, or a new dream to pursue, or a book they need to write.
One of my favorite days was right after we had been to The Museum of Science and Industry. We had seen the recovered submarine U-505 there. The next day they decided to play Battleship, which seemed reasonable as we’ve had that board game forever. When I came into the playroom, they had set up a fortress wall that divided the whole room in half. Homemade boats studded the sea of carpet. They threw stuffed animals at each other to sink the other person’s makeshift navy. And once a boat was sunk (they assured me no one on board was hurt) the boats were hauled away to be “museumed”.
I miss childhood and the way you can run off with an idea as soon as it pops into your brain. I get tired of having to postpone a project for dirty dishes, e-mails to the boys’ teachers and calls to refill prescriptions. I’m tired of waiting weeks and weeks between inspiration and execution. I’m frustrated with rainy days and budgets and tax appointments and laundry, but I suppose most adults are. I try not to let my jealousy peek out too often, because I am absolutely glad that this is something the boys can have, that I can give them now. As adults, as far as I can tell from myself and most other adults I know, they’ll still get a million ideas but they will have less time to actually do anything with them.
This post, alone, has been a nebulous idea that has floated around in my brain for at least a year and a half. And I have had a stolen hour Monday and a half hour this morning to get anything that made any sense written down. And that was only available because the boys saw a YouTube clip of a Hot Wheels track in a bathtub that they wanted, on Monday night, to try for themselves.