Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Generation of No Imagination

"We must, then, kill the imagination. The ideal, of course, would be to cease
having children, but that might have some adverse effect upon long-range economic
prosperity, besides threatening certain industries with extinction - the manufacturers
of tasteless clothing, for instance, and importers of refined sugar. Since we must have
children, we should be sure to subject them to all the most efficient and humane techniques
to fit them for the world in which they will live, a world of shopping malls all the same
everywhere, packaged food all the same, paper-pushing all the same, mass entertainment
all the same, politics all the same..."
- Anthony Esolen / Ten Ways to Destory the Imagination of Your Child

When we were little, my sister and I heard that there was a secret tunnel connecting
our house to the garage. We spent hours and hours pouring over all the paperwork connected
to the property, the list of owners - scouring for details, clues that could give us an answer.
We even made phone calls to random people who just happened to share the last name of previous
owners to find out if they knew anything about the tunnel. There was one lady in our hometown
that actually remembered playing in the tunnel as a small child. We were hot on the trail.

The strange hole in the garage floor matched up perfectly with the pantry in the house.
In that pantry, the floorboards ran in two different directions. Obviously some sort of hatch
used to exist. So we began to dig - below that pantry, in the basement, in the dirt...

We found old medicine bottles (still filled with strange-smelling liquids), small animal
bones, a sense of adventure, purpose, discovery... skills of deduction, the gift of perseverance,
a spirit of boldness. We imagined. We planned. We worked towards a goal.
We were Sherlock and Watson.

Can you believe my parents let us do all of that? That they actually encouraged it?
They could have handed us cell phones and an internet connection - to lure us away
from such ADVENTURE and potential DANGER...

but instead they gave us a shovel and their blessing.

This is the stuff that the classics are made of. I LIVED Swiss Family Robinson,
Little Women, Moby Dick, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer... they were my inspiration!

I'm so thankful NOW, more than ever, that my parents let me have an adventurous and
dangerous childhood. They never stopped us from building forts in the attic of our home
or garage. They never stopped us from hanging all sorts of things (the best was the ski rope!)
from the trees in our yard to experiment and play with. They never stopped us from baking,
cooking - experimenting over and over again with different recipes to learn how to get them
just right. They never stopped us from taking in stray pets or trying to tame the local wildlife.

They never stopped us from painting, making music, dancing in the yard, ice-skating on the
garden rink (yes, my dad built us an ice rink!), or climbing the NEIGHBOR'S trees
(they did make us call and ask for permission though!).

They did however stop us from using the trampoline as a diving board into our pool.
We were beyond disappointed to have them saving our lives.

They encouraged us to stop and visit with the people on our paper route, to take time to
care for the widows we knew, to speak for ourselves in social situations. We could say whatever
we wanted to say as long as we said it with respect.

By the time I was 19 years old I had traveled to 5 different countries (Europe 3x's) ON MY OWN.
They let us have free reign on the playground of our imaginations - trusting that the formation
they had equipped us with would be enough. It always was. And more.

Television, cell phones, social media - very much secondary in the world that I grew up in.
We didn't care about "all the things" that were vying for our attention. We weren't numb
from hours of "tweeting" on Twitter (just listen to that!) or depressed after seeing what
"everyone else is doing" on Instagram. When we had new ideas, we wrote them down on PAPER
or actually picked up a phone and CALLED a friend to gush about all the details.

There was no texting. Cursive was required.
And if you wanted to have or do something - work hard, get far.


I don't know whether to be disturbed or proud that my children know how to unlock my iPhone,
open an app, and go about playing Angry Birds or watching a movie on Netflix like the good little
children of the 21st century they are. I know that times are changing, that technology is a good
thing, and that goodness, gracious the Jetsons have arrived! Almost.

But I want to give the gift of a TRULY free childhood to my children.
I'm not talking about unlimited internet privileges and a T.V. in their bedrooms.

I'm talking about the RAW stuff - the gift of touching, feeling, smelling -
the woods they explore, the garden they help plant, the animals they raise.
I want them to wonder, seek, find. I want them to understand the cycle of life - from
conception to natural death on all levels in this world. I'm talking about the "deep magic"
of Narnia kind of stuff. The lost art, privilege, of being in complete control of one's
mind, heart, soul - and using it to be REALLY human.

I don't want to be the parent that runs around "padding" their world - handing them
a game control that allows them to play sports or go to battle with fake equipment and
digital creations. I don't want to smash them into a classroom mold and expect them to conform.

"Left to themselves (children), they simply will not remain alone. They will organize.
They will establish petty kingdoms, declare decrees, seat and unseat rules, give one another
new names, invent secret codes, build hideouts, and in general practice a rough sort of justice and mercy, all to fill the blessed long days of summer."
- Anthony Esolen

I want my children to have the gift that was given to me.
It must come as it was given: CRAZY. DANGEROUS. ADVENTUROUS.
It'll be Tom Sawyer and Hucklberry Finn all over again.
I want them to FIND that tunnel.

Dream big, my little ones.
Momma is dreaming too.

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  1. Really beautiful post! You brought me back to my childhood. My parents were almost exactly like yours. I also imagined there was a tunnel in my parents closet (behind all the clothes) that led to a secret room. My initials are probably still carved on the back wall. ;-) my parents never told me to get out of there. And, like you, my sister and I also had the opportunity to travel all over Europe and Canada all by ourselves by the time we were 14 and 16. Sometimes I wonder if my parents were crazy for letting us GO at that age. ;-) So thankful! I can only hope and pray that my future children have an adventurous life! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Aww that's awesome, Gabriela! And thank you! Being "little" is so magical - your closet adventure reminds me on Narnia!!! Haha I know, right?! I often think now, "my parents were CRAZY for letting me go on all those trips at such a young age!" And then I take a deep breath and remember how AWESOME it was and how desperately I want to share that gift with my children... may need some anti-anxiety meds for that, but whatever it takes!!! I feel like parents of this generation are more uptight than ever... LONG LIVE THE IMAGINATION!!!!

  2. Brittany,

    Thank you so much for this post. My sisters and I had so many adventures when we were little (though not as adventurous as your tunnel!), and sometimes I worry about Michael and technology. This is such a wonderful reminder that I need to let him live a crazy, dangerous, adventurous life... as long as it doesn't involve a trampoline and a swimming pool ;).


    1. So welcome!!!! You should check out the book "Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child" by Anthony Esolen if you liked this!!! It'll make your head spin... in an encouraging way! Does that sound weird?! YEEEEES - let Michael free! You already seem to do a great job though :-) We've got out work cut out for us in the "adventure" department with being BOY moms!!! Lol. Lord, help us! Amen.

  3. Love this, Brittany! Such an awesome reminder that we need to foster their little imaginations! I feel like I have to fight that urge all the time as E's imagination gets in the way of me efficiently getting anything done. :) It gets easier all the time, but I can always use reminders!

    1. I struggle with trying to keep my boys CONTAINED! I tend to want to "protect" them or something... I think?! I am a professional worry wart. I think it will get easier as our kids get older too - we'll be able to TRUST them more and all :-) Thanks for reading, Kathleen!!! XO

  4. The only thing that we missed was digging a hole in the driveway to find the actual tunnel. Maybe Zay & Jubee will find it.

    1. Right?!?! I think we wanted you to jackhammer that cement patch garage the most though. Just to see what was below!!!! Oh to know!!!!!


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