Thursday, February 12, 2015

Creativity and The Failed Snowman

First, a note of apology: It has obviously been quite a while since I’ve posted or sent anything to you my dear reader. The prerequisites to my writing are inspiration and time. Both of these must be present or nothing happens at all. Most of you have probably heard that, with thanks to G-D, my family welcomed a new baby about 2 months ago. My son gives us much pride and pleasure however he takes a lot of time. I hope you enjoy this post.

My daughter Batya was the first to bring to my attention the article in the Wall Street Journal titled, Princess Bedrooms that Rule. She exclaimed to me one morning a few days ago, “Abba! Somebody spent $200,000 on a bedroom for a two year old! That’s crazy!”

I appreciate my daughter’s perspective on the world that she could see this without envy but with a sentiment similar to mine when I read the article, (that IS crazy!)

The newspaper was left in the bathroom and every time I passed by it I saw the picture of two little girls jumping on a very large and very pink bed with their smiling mother looking at the camera. When I read the whole article I was particularly intrigued by a statement from a father about the kind of bedroom he wanted for his daughters, he said “I just wanted to do something that would give them a sense of identity and excitement and to create a place for their imaginations.

The images and thoughts were percolating in my mind until one day while holding my son and trying to use the facilities at the same time (at around 6:00am) it occurred to me that one of two likely outcomes would result from creating such a lavish bedroom for a child. 1)That child would grow up to commit suicide or 2)The child would find and latch on to some sort of physically transcendent spirituality. The very wealthy are pretty easy to pick on and my gratitude goes out to them for this.

I mentioned this early morning insight to my wife and she naturally wanted an explanation for such dire predictions. I explained that it appears to me that people cannot sustain that level of utter physicality. This was therefore my prediction that the child growing up in this environment would eventually be so depressed by the lack of substance that she would either kill herself or commit to rising above physicality and finding those elements of life that transcend her princess themed bedroom with a castle.

I was also thinking about the statement of the gentleman who expressed concern about his daughters’ sense of identity and creativity.

He should have built them a little cabin in the woods.

In my experience, the creativity of children is stimulated by being in an environment full of opportunities but with no prescribed activities. Don’t get me wrong, playgrounds are great places to play and run around but if you really want to provide a blank slate for your child put them in an environment where they can explore their inner and outer world virtually unimpeded. Here are a few vehicles I have found that seem to promote expression of creativity particularly well: snow, sand, building blocks, water, and the wilderness (which often has all of the others).

I recently had an experience that helped solidify the aforementioned beliefs. First, a few weeks ago it snowed over the weekend in Denver and our family was in the house for most of over 24 hours. We were all getting a bit stir crazy and finally on Saturday night I realized I had to do something drastic. I told my two girls to get their snow stuff on and I threw them out of the house in to a very cold and snowy night. They were out there for over an hour trying (in vain because Denver usually has very dry snow) to make a snowman. Both girls were quite disappointed when I told them that it was time to come in. I was quite proud of them,

That is juxtaposed to the look I see on my daughters' faces after I have allowed them to watch a movie or t.v. show, even for 20 minutes. The eyes are glazed, psychomotor retardation sets in, and they are often irritable. Maybe that's just my kids though...

In sum, if you want your children to be creative then let them...but don't try to do it for them.

 Bill Watterson