Family Practice: Lucy the Nonliteral and other visionariesWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A young boy I was taking care of once came to me out of the blue and told me he had hit his head. A little nervous about not knowing the extent of his injury, I questioned the when, where and how of the incident. He began explaining in detail how he had hit it on my ceiling fan. Shocked and confused, I implored him to let me know just how he was able to do such a thing. He continued on about how he was crawling around on my ceiling when it happened, much like the time he had hit his head on my curtain rod when crawling up my wall one day. Huh?
I’m a literal thinker. What happens happens and what doesn’t doesn’t. In my little world, there is description but not embellishment. There are gray areas but not purple areas filled with cotton candy trees and unicorns. In my mind, the world is ours for discovery, interpretation and adding onto that which came before us, but not so much for just making stuff up.
That being said, I do have a great appreciation for imagination. I completely agree with Einstein’s assertion that imagination is more important than knowledge. From my experience, I can’t conceive of how one would even exist without the other. They just seem to work hand in hand.
Still, I am coming to find that imagination lives in many different forms. My youngest child, Lucy, exemplifies the most recognized childhood variety. She runs around the house with mermaids and Barbies and other characters in hand proclaiming each exciting turn their little imaginary lives take. She digs for buried treasure as “the little pirate” and repeatedly exalts the wonder of her bounty to me, “the mommy pirate.” She spends hours and hours just making things up.
Lucy is the quintessential imaginative kid, embodying what I thought imagination was supposed to be. I’m proud of the way she is able to produce scenarios seemingly out of thin air and verbalize them in a way that captivates any informal audience surrounding her. She definitely holds that little spark of light that could one day shine on stages near and far.
Still, I don’t always get her.
Not only do I tend toward a different type of imagination than Lucy fancies most, but my two older children do also. When I realized that we had a whimsical, this-box-is-a-pirate-ship thinker in the house, I was intrigued to have an imaginative child in the mix. I was used to asking one of my children a question and getting an at least semi-logical, straightforward response.
Lucy, on the other hand, will happily respond to a serious question by simply retelling the last episode of “Dora the Explorer” she watched. When it’s time to figure out a family mystery (e.g., who spilled something on the floor or why Lucy is crying and clutching her leg), one must be careful not to offer even the slightest bit of storytelling fodder. Asking Lucy if the leg issue was caused by a biting bug can easily unleash a grand narrative about a fanciful insect that swooped down out of nowhere to wreak great havoc on the appendage in question, even if the truth is that she misjudged a stair. I’ve come to find that she even utters some things for no other purpose than to practice certain facial expressions.
Lucy’s seemingly boundless imagination and dramatic interpretation fascinates me, especially since she’s the first of my children to create in such a manner. Discovering that I “finally” had an imaginative child has actually led me to a new appreciation of imagination in general, however. After considering what I assumed to be my other children’s lack of imagination, I’ve learned to see that their imagination simply shines through in other ways.
Jack, my oldest, is a problem solver. While staging a production out of a pile of stuffed animals is not his thing, constructing the best way to send a soccer ball from one end of the field to the other or offering multiple solutions to a math problem is not without mental boundary-pushing or visionary effort.
My middle child, Laney, practices her creativity in a similar manner, seeking imaginative resolutions to household issues and other quandaries. In short, not all imaginative endeavors come in the form of cotton candy trees and unicorns.
How ever our children are best able to illustrate their creative side, it is important that we are able to recognize and encourage it. The world is always moving in new directions and we need all types of vision to take it there, whether it be by making things better or making things up.
Shannon and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at email@example.com.