Imagination ahoy, with pirates in the living room  

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Illustration: Karl Speller

“Now, as the normal school routine has returned, I doubt I will be as quick to schedule all the extra activities with as much fervour as I did, especially in the next school holidays,” writes “Mummy” columnist KATE MEIKLE. 

TWO little pirates have taken over our living room. 

Blankets, cushions, a mast with a pirate sail made out of pajama bottoms is their ship, with sleeping quarters, a kitchen and a toy computer on board as well. It’s all been carefully constructed and imagined by my three and six-year-old children and it’s pretty awesome. 

They sail the high seas one day, the next they are running a cafe and garage, anotherday they are running a zoo, with stuffed animals all around the house. The cost of entry is a gold coin that is quickly snaffled into my son’s money box.

All of their daily collaborative imaginative play has been a by-product of the school closure and is honestly the best thing to have come out of the virus crisis for our family life. 

During the height of social isolation, I observed a big change in our son and daughter. 

The complaining, the constant asking: “What are we doing today, mummy?” and the squabbling subsided, and they got on with their imaginative play. 

Slowing down, relying on each other and their imaginations for entertainment has produced amazing co-operation and adventures that I could never have given, bought or shown them. 

Goes to show the power and the beauty of the imagination for their independence – and my sanity.

Swimming classes, ballet, karate and birthday parties were suddenly replaced by long days at home. I reckon our kids got a taste of the style of parenting that we experienced growing up. 

I distinctly remember that my mum’s catch phrase response to the familiar whinge of “Mummm, I’m bored…” was: “I’m not here to entertain you, go find something to do!” 

I’ve read plenty of articles critical of the way my generation is over-scheduling and over-doing parenting. 

These articles encourage me to allow the children to be bored in order to stimulate creativity. So my mum’s “I’m not here to entertain you” phrase was not only reflective of the time but also “on point” with what the experts are recommending. 

I haven’t naturally tended towards that parenting style as I have always loved taking my kids out. I’ve scheduled at least one activity, usually more into a day since the kids were babies. 

Always being a “do-er”, I enjoy researching activities, being on the pulse as to what children’s shows are in town, which museums offer a great kids’ program. And when we moved to Canberra almost two years ago, the kids and I have been spoiled by choice offered through the national institutions, the fabulous playgrounds and play centres, and the ease of getting around to enjoy them. 

Perhaps I’ve been an “over-do-er” because the idea of having the kids at home all day filled me with dread. “Iso-life” put the brakes on everything and I didn’t feel like I was coping well at all. 

But I found that when I lovingly ignored them – I gave them the space to work things out, without relying on me to step in so quickly, the kids got on with entertaining themselves. 

The explosion of imagination helped us all deal with the stressful realities of this time. They seemed to adapt better to the uprooting of their routine and the grief of missing contact with their friends. Time passed more peacefully. 

Now, as the normal school routine has returned, I doubt I will be as quick to schedule all the extra activities with as much fervour as I did, especially in the next school holidays. Let them be bored for a bit, who knows where their imaginations will take them. 

 

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Kate Meikle
Kate Meikle is a staff reporter for "CityNews"

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