Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A City Of Tents

When I was around seven or eight years old, and we were living in Yarmouth, NS, we had a wonderful summer of creating and building and exploring. We didn't have the huge playgrounds in our back yard like some parents construct today. No, we had  a two seater metal swing set, an old wooden cupboard and a back yard to play in. Sometimes we would swing on the swing set trying to touch the clouds with our toes, with each pump of our legs seeming to go higher and higher. At other times we'd make mud cakes and pies with the discarded cookie sheets, cake pans and mixing bowls our mother gave us to use. We'd get a good batch of mud made and press it into the cake pans and carefully turn them out onto the wooden cupboard to dry in the sun. 

Sometimes, if the day was especially hot, we'd go into the field by our house and lay down in the tall colombine flowers. If you laid very still no one even knew you were there. It was a peaceful place to lay on your back and watch the pictures in the clouds. 

When we grew tired or bored of one activity there was soon another to take its place. We had wonderful imaginations. Our mother rarely played outdoors with us, she was too busy with a toddler and housework to entertain us. Instead she did the best thing she could for us: she gave us a few props and told us to 'go play'. One day she came out the screen door with her clothes pins, some rope and a stack of blankets. She told us to build a tent and then she left us to do it.

 Oh what fun we had! We tied the rope to the existing clothes line and to the fence and back to the railing on the steps and anywhere else we could find to tie it. Then we began pinning the blankets on the lines. Soon we ran out of blankets and went back to ask for more. Mom was pleased we were playing and getting along good so she didn't mind that we raided our bedrooms for more blankets. Soon we had a virtual tent 'city' in our back yard. It had rooms and it was wonderful. We were pretty proud of our accomplishment and Mom was too when she came to see what we had done. We played hide and go seek in our city and all the neighbourhood kids came to play. I can still remember the smell of the sweet grass on the blankets that covered me that night. 

 No one could believe that our mother had given us blankets from the house to play with out doors. But she did. They all said that their mothers wouldn't have allowed them to do something like that. Mom never stifled our imaginations, she encouraged us to use them. She'd give us a few ideas and then leave us to discover what we could do. I have known many mothers over the years who have felt they had to entertain their children and that's a shame for both the mother and the child. I once visited a mother who didn't sit with the adults and have an adult conversation because her child didn't know how to play on their own, so the mother sat on the floor building towers out of blocks so the child could knock them down. That child never knew the joy of creating something themselves or using their imagination. 

With all of the technology we have exposed our children to in these days, its hard to have a child who can entertain themselves when they suddenly become 'unplugged' during a power outage. They don't know what to do because they've never 'played'. Oh sure, they know how to reach level 75 on the electronic game they like to play but they don't create. They've never had to. It's a sad fact but our children need to learn how to play. Not an organized game like hockey or some other sport but have the ability to make up games themselves and use their imaginations and create. 

How many parents panic when a long car trip is suggested? Eight or ten hours in the car with three kids? Are you crazy? But we did it all the time when we were kids. We lived 7 hrs away from our grandmother so long trips were a frequent thing for us. We didn't have DVD players or electronic games to keep us quiet, no, instead we sang songs and made up games. We counted all the red cars and then the 'punch-a-bugs' and then the road signs. We played I spy and went back to singing again. We knew how to occupy ourselves because we had never had an adult entertain us. We were kids and we knew how to play. 

Like most generations before us, we all want to give our children better than what we had growing up, but I think instead of focusing on all the new gadgets we can get for them, we should instead, focus on giving them what we had. We had imaginations! We had tent cities! 

*note this not the tent city we built but a picture I found to show you what you can do with blankets!

1 comment

  1. " Awesome !! Thanks for the Memories...I did these things in the car with My Kids as well. My Mama taught Us 6 children also to use my imagination."