Did you know that a paper snowflake and a tree skirt turns you instantly into the queen of China? That all princesses and queens only call food crumpets and that tree ornaments are the perfect crumpet replacement for a tea party? How about that salad tongs are actually robot hands? That laundry baskets turn you into a turtle? Or that you can become a mermaid simply by squeezing yourself into one side of your pants?
I’m keenly aware that my kids like to play with all sorts of odds and ends, stuff them into containers and purses and mix all my neatly sorted bins into a jumbled random mess. But when I play right down with them, I see their world with new eyes. Surprisingly, it’s not nearly as chaotic as it looks. All those odds and ends have been transformed by their active imaginations into exactly anything they need them to be. Today, as I sat with the royal prairie baby on my lap, a crown on my head, surrounded by a servant girl and a body guard armed with a nerf gun undercover in a prairie dress, I realized that what I would have called a mess was actually an orderly game of imaginary play. Every “misplaced” object made perfect sense from my new humbled perspective.
I’m of the mind that children are people too. Profound, I know. But seriously, how often do we reduce them to dolls to be dressed, dogs to be trained, trophies to be showcased, or problems to be swept under the rug? If we will see them as more, as our neighbor, we will find that we are called to a much higher standard in our relationships with them. Not only are we uniquely charged with the responsibility to instruct them in the ways of God and to protect them, but they are our fellow man, whose interests we should consider more significant than our own (Phil 2). So while it’s true that I serve them with boundaries and order, it’s also important that I serve them with freedom and understanding. I’m interested in living in a Restoration Hardware catalog, they’re interested in living in a fairy tale. It’s time to die again, but kids can remind us what a joyful resurrection it is.
“And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing…” (Zech 8:5)