He is a chicken police officer and I am a raccoon. Same job title. We are patrolling a construction site at night. What was that strange noise from behind the cement mixer? We should investigate.
Those with less imagination would notice it is broad daylight on a sunny afternoon in our back yard
In a thirty-minute span, my son might be a cop chicken, a fire truck, and a stegosaurus.
That was just yesterday.
Jakey tells great stories. Some derive from books he has read blended with favorite kids shows. Others are wholly his own creation.
This May he told an elaborate story where he used the phrase, “It came gleaming into view.” I knew I had never said something like that to him and I liked the way it sounded. It tickled Heather and she even wrote it along the top of our dry-erase calendar. It stuck with us.
I Googled the phrase.
In 1847 the writer George Lippard published a book titled Washington and his generals. or, Legends of the revolution.
On page 489, Google found this sentence:
“At last, a sail came gleaming into view–then the hull of a man-o-war–and then, bright and beautiful upon the morning air, fluttered the glorious emblem of Hope and Promise–the Tri-colored Flag of France.”
I will assume, for the time being, my son has not read this book. Same goes for the ebook crime novel from last year describing some vehicles gleaming into view. That line also located, conveniently, via Google search.
Jakey’s tale was an original construction. That phrase is something he came up with for himself even if it is not unique across all time.
It caught my ear because it was different. The writer Anthony Doerr (All the Light We Cannot See) prides himself on putting words together in unexpected ways, sometimes even giving a reader pause. Interviewer Julie Krug said his style “includes breaking down sentences and rearranging them so they don’t ring ordinary in the reader’s ear.”
Many consider his a lyrical style. That is a great description. Like so many artists, the urge to describe his style may serve to help readers or critics, but means little to him.
In this interview, Doerr said, “I just make the thing I want to make. I love surprising language, and I like sentences that disrupt combinations of words readers are accustomed to seeing. If that’s what people call lyrical, that’s perfectly fine by me, but it doesn’t affect the way I work one way or another.”
My son creates stories that suit him. He sets a scene and fills it with drama, with action sequence after action sequence. Adventures come together the way he wants. He not only bends reality. Literally anything is possible.
Parents want a lot of different outcomes for their kids. We hope they will become certain things. But, we also try to pull back enough to allow them to grow into themselves. If my son could keep being interesting and interested in the world that would go a long way. If he also remains kind, that will cover most of the bases.
I don’t know if he will be a writer when he gets older, but his love for creation will serve him well in anything. I remind myself all the time to Yes and him when he floats ideas for new kinds of play. Each scenario just has to be awesome and engaging. It does not need filtered through my grown-up gauge of sense-making and possibility. A continual lesson for me. When I’m the raccoon cop and he’s the chicken I don’t necessarily need to mention that I might eat him before we go look into the noise behind the imaginary crane truck. I just tiptoe down the hill with him and we battle the dinosaurs trying to steal the construction equipment. Easy as that.
Seth Godin writes in this blog post about thinking along the edges.
In his book Linchpin, he said, “Artists think along the edges of the box, because that’s where things get done.” This is an update to the oft-remarked-upon outside-the-box thinker mantra. Just getting to the edges of how one usually looks at a situation is transformative. Another good goal. Regurgitation and rigidity will take someone fewer places nowadays than ever before.
Seeking novel approaches, lateral thinking, thriving during constant change…
Talk about things to want for your kid.
There is a long period of discomfort and experimentation before someone’s creative rule breaking becomes part of a lesson plan, part of the literary canon. Most of us will not reach that position. However, in the time between learning to speak in words and literary immortality is the long stretch of delighting in storytelling for its sake. There lies a lifetime of novel ideas available to us in our chosen pursuits. There lies questioning—politely or otherwise—the status quo when all it has going for it is that’s how it’s been done before.
Jakey crafts his stories and chooses interesting words. He tries out new combinations and many of them sound off to me. Off in the way I love because they make me think about what he means by his choices, what he is trying to show.
There is a world out there for our kids to create. Sad fact, there is also a part of that world set up to squash or limit their creativity. If it helps for me to serve as a raccoon police officer and fire imaginary arrows into a many-headed monster that looks to me like nothing more than the fir tree in our back yard, count me in. If I can foster creative confidence to think along the edges, I will be there, loosing my arrows at the sky.
The future belongs to those who welcome it when it comes gleaming into view.