This weekend as I sat celebrating the marriage ceremony of a lovely young woman I knew best during her very young years, images of her at that time flashed across my mind. She was always a spirited, adventurous child, running fast, climbing the highest trees, swimming like a fish, enjoying a challenge.
In a toast to the young couple, her dad shared a story about Kathleen when she was five years old. One day she announced she was going outside to catch a bird. Her mom and dad looked at each other. They wondered should they tell her it would be impossible to catch a bird. They didn’t and she continued for weeks to go outside, pretending she was a cat, creeping, stalking, being silent. Her parents thought again – should they tell her she’ll never catch a bird? Again, they decided – no – she’s having fun, not getting discouraged, even if we know she’ll never catch a bird.
And then, she did. In fact, she caught several birds over the short time she was a “cat” – bringing them in to show her flabbergasted parents, cupped gently in her small hands – and then releasing them outside to fly free.
Kathleen’s dad said he was glad he didn’t tell her then that her dream to catch a bird was impossible because he has watched her grow believing things are possible, and making some seemingly impossible dreams happen.
On the trip home, I thought more of how, as parents, we might be quick to say something can’t be done, something is too complicated, something is impossible. Even as our children are playing at pretend, where anything can be what one wants it to be, we might feel compelled to insert “a dose of reality”.
“You know horses can’t talk” or “Have you ever seen a pink banana?” or “I never saw a car that looks like that.”
But for young children, this is the exact time for them to dream, to imagine how they want things to be, to be creative, playful, and industrious in their play, in their work, so they carry this spark with them always.
That’s what’s happened to Kathleen who, now as a young woman, has continued her imagination and persistence in setting goals (remember the birds?) and meeting them. As Associate Organizer of Southeast Wisconsin’s Common Ground, she is leading the initiative Milwaukee Rising – working to restore, primarily, previously vacated, abandoned foreclosed homes in a section of Milwaukee’s community. It took two years to convince five large banks to dedicate 33.8 million dollars to this campaign. The revitalization project is now on its way toward rehabilitating 100 foreclosed properties over four years.
Another bird in the hand.
So let’s enjoy the fantasies, the playfulness, the imagination, the creativity our children use to figure out their world. Let’s make sure they have the time allotted to doing this for we know that play is a child’s work. It is through imaginative play that their world is considered, formulated and grasped.
Let them fly.