“Noah! Where are you?,” I called out scanning the yard for his little sandy brown head bouncing around. Finally, I spotted his tan legs sticking out from under a pine tree near the driveway. He was hiding from me. I smiled and walked toward him. He looked down at his feet as I approached and I noticed he was wearing only one shoe.
“Hey buddy, you need to have shoes on both feet so you don’t hurt yourself or step on something,” I said.
“I know, Mom, but I am pretending that I only have one foot.” I frowned for a second but then it all made sense. He was trying to be like Hiccup, the main character from “How to Train Your Dragon,” who loses his foot in a battle at the end of the first movie. I had just taken Noah and Luke to go see the sequel earlier that day. I should have known. Watching Noah’s face mesmerized by the characters flying on the backs of dragons on the big screen was pure happiness. He asked me the whole way home about getting a dragon for his next birthday and when I told him dragons are pretend, he insisted that we just need to go to Berk to find one. He even brought me a globe when we got home and asked me to find Berk so that he would know how far away it was and how much gas we would need for our airplane. My heart melted.
“Ok, honey. Go ahead and play.” I kissed his forehead.
A little later on I was flooded with memories of when my mom read me the Velveteen Rabbit for the first time as a kid. I was completely convinced that toys came to life when I wasn’t looking. For months after, I left out bowls of water and snacks for my toys at night time in case they got hungry while I was sleeping. I still have irrational anxiety when toys are not put away properly on shelves when I leave a room.
So when does it stop? When do we no longer believe in the magic of the stories we read or see? To this day, when I read a great story, I go through a sort of withdrawal when the book is over and I have to say good-bye to my friends brought to life in the pages. I feel displaced and then I realize I still need to feed and bathe my children. CPS might come knocking on my door if I ever start reading another series like the Hunger Games. The way I get so attached to characters in a book was what made me want to be a writer as a kid. I hope Noah, Luke and Grace will find the same sort of inspiration through reading. Really all it is, is a healthy imagination.
A well-used imagination is such an underrated attribute to have as an adult. It seems like people start growing up long before they need to these days. Someone once told me to never lose the ability to think like a child. She said it would be the thing to help me be a better person no matter how old I was. I still get wrapped up in the pressures of being an adult more often than I care to admit, but I do believe that when I am able to really lose myself “playing pretend” with my kids, I have found a tiny slice of heaven right here on earth. Whether it’s taking them to see an awesome movie, reading books with goofy voices and terrible accents, or making up stories for them in their playhouse in the back yard, I couldn’t be happier than I am in those moments. I hope those are the memories that they will call to mind when they think of their childhood with me. Because those times are the best representation of myself that I can think of. I feel content and calm. I’m not yelling. I’m not disciplining and I don’t need to because that’s when we are connecting. We are understanding each other. I am speaking their language. Kids don’t speak in terms of logic or rationale. They speak with feelings and innocence. Everything they say is from the heart.
We may all be better off if we could stop being so “grown up” all the time and just remember what it feels like to be a kid. Thank you to my sweet boy Noah for reminding me of all of this. If anyone knows where I can find him a dragon, please let me know.