Don’t make that rule!

I’m terrible at names!

I can’t count!

It will all go well if I remember to do it.

If I could just _________________ then I’d be successful.

Those are all rules that we tell ourselves. There is nothing in your make-up that will keep you from remembering names, counting (in music…), or remembering to do something important. Those “if” statements make the assumption that you don’t have the ability to do what needs to be done. You don’t have the creativity or the resourcefulness to achieve what you want.

When did we stop thinking?

Why do we need to be told what and how to do everything? Yes, I understand that you don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but what if you did? Do you know they have tractors with tracks now?

Why didn’t they just start with that? Why did they change from regular wheels? Someone said, “I don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” and while he was guffawing, someone else did, and it sold! Why can’t we use all the knowledge and experience we’ve accumulated to live life differently?

I think it’s because of the “Empty Brain” assumption. Do you really have to teach your baby to play? Do you really have to assume that children have no curiosity and no desire to learn new things after they have 200 words in their vocabulary? My brother, Joe, was told by his 2nd-grade teacher that the person with the longest spelling word would get a prize. He chose: (takes a deep breath) antidisestablishmentarianism for his 2nd-grade word. Yes. So why would we assume that there’s an “age-appropriate” list of words? Age has nothing to do with curiosity.

But wait! Curiosity killed the cat! No, it didn’t. Why do curious cats have 9 lives and the rest of us only have 1? Has it occurred to anyone that cats might have 9 lives BECAUSE they’re curious? When was the last time you saw little kids in the park just playing? When was the last time you went for a walk in the woods with a little kid and they asked a million questions and stopped to watch a bug? Have you seen little kids make up games with their stuffed toys and dolls and a weird stick and a hedge apple? No? Is that because it’s not a real game unless there are uniforms, coaches, equipment, and stands for the parents? Kids can have fun without their parents’ help.

But do we, as adults, play? Only if there are uniforms and equipment and a cheering section? Imagine going for a game of golf and having to have a traveling team to accompany you on every hole. Then imagine that you have to have a specific uniform that distinguishes you from the rest of the people in your foursome. Silly, isn’t it? I realize that bowling teams are competitive, but when you go bowling, you don’t have to play with a team every time. Church League softball is organized, but do you ever play pick-up games? How about basketball? None of us more “mature” folks would be caught dead in a basketball uniform or fit into a football uniform. But we insist that our kids do. Why do adults play? Enjoyment. camaraderie, exercise. Why do kids play? They’re learning stuff!

When adults play, it is an attempt at resourcefulness and creativity. That’s why people get involved in the arts. Music is with you your whole life. Sports go away when the joints and muscles give out. Although, I’ve been seeing 100-year-old competitors in Senior races! Painting, sculpture, and pottery allow people to see in 2 and 3 dimensions. Hobby-type arts such as textiles: spinning, knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, counted cross-stitching, crewel, blackwork, sewing and quilting, costume design…the list goes on and on. Then there are the board games…all 10 million of them. But why, oh why are creativity and resourcefulness relegated to activities other than work? And then, why are creative and resourceful activities so structured for children? We dull our imaginations and then attempt to dull or irradicate imagination from the children. What madness is this?

When children are left to their own devices, they design games; they make up the rules; they determine the number of players; they choose the playing field; they choose the medium and the equipment. We used to play cops and robbers, Cowboys and Indians (and in that game, the Indians won at least 1/2 the time!), Nazis and Allies (yes, I’m that old). Side note: I grew up with Palladin and Gunsmoke, McHale’s Navy and Combat, so… We had to solve problems, get along, and use our imaginations. We did plays and recitals. We played school. We had art exhibits. Our parents’ cupboards were filled with our designs. Our parents didn’t assign us activities. We played piano because everyone in our house played. We chose band instruments because everyone in our house did. We even had a family band that played for festivals in the church.

Let Kids Play. Get out of the way! They’ll learn faster and love the experience. They won’t get into the habit of making rules for how they live their lives and limiting their accomplishments and their dreams. They do not have an empty brain even when they’re just born. Everything is noticed and captured in their little heads and by the time they’re 4 or 5, they have learned the equivalent of a Ph.D. in “kidness”. Starting school, they bring their love of learning and experiencing new things with them. Then it gets squashed. They are admonished for being daydreamers, for coloring outside the lines, for making up rules as they go. Conform, don’t think! That is the opposite of what we want them to do! Without those rules, the words, “I can’t” will not be part of their vocabulary. We need people like that.

Don’t make those rules, and don’t impose those rules on the kids!

Published by Rebecca Fegan

To be a better anything, I have to be a better person. My results come from the quality of my thinking and it is something I always work on.

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