What do you do when it’s oppressively hot outside* and there’s no watering hole (as in a place to swim for the kids and a place for Mom to drink her migraine-y mood away after having three kids stuck in Sardinesville all week) and your preschooler has that antsy look of boredom on her face and your toddler is on a quest to injure herself (again) by scaling a (another) piece of furniture?
You hand them an old cardboard box and some permanent markers and tell them to use their imaginations.
And what’s really surprising is that that’s just what they do.
Your older child asks, “How do you spell ‘danger’ and ‘keep out’?” You tell her, and she scrawls it next to a scary picture of a monster she’s drawn. (Actually, her monster isn’t all that scary and looks an awful lot like Elmo.) Then she tells you this is her warehouse. Okay. That works for me. So long as you’re happy.
Later the warehouse transforms into a seafaring ship and when you hand her an empty paper towel roll to use as a telescope, she looks at you like you just told her she could eat ice cream for dinner for the rest of their life.
“Thank you! This is perfect!” she exclaims, as she climbs into her boat with her little sister.
Before long they’re sailing off to a faraway land.
And you know you should be taking advantage of their playtime and make yourself useful cooking dinner in the kitchen, but you can’t stop taking photos of your peanut pirates or savoring the joy one simple cardboard box has given your kids. If the box were any bigger, in fact, you think you just might be crawling in with them and letting your own imagination run wild.
So you decide to capitalize on the moment. To just enjoy your kids. Making dinner, you remind yourself, can wait. But getting down on your hands and knees to be silly with your kids and being fully present in moments like this can’t and shouldn’t.
*I actually wrote this post last week when it was much hotter around here. We’ve fortunately had several cooler days and have ventured outside more, although the “warehouse” continues to be a big hit.