I’ll go ahead and admit it. A few of my son’s books have genuinely made me sad when reading them (don’t tell anyone.) One has made me outright bawl. I won’t tell you which one that was, we are not going to talk about it again. I have since added another book to my repertoire of books that make my heart somewhat heavy.
But this one has a happy ending, unlike the other book which shall not be named.
Rob, Jerry and I were reading “Puff the Magic Dragon” by Peter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton. I had never heard or read the actual story of Puff, I only remembered hearing the song when growing up. And I never expected it to be a somewhat sad, but at the same time so very encouraging.
In the beginning of the story, Puff ( who is clearly the very magic dragon) and his friend, Jackie Paper, scurry around with one another day in and day out. Cavorting with pirates and royalty and playing with various toys and knick knacks, they are the very best of friends and immensely enjoy their endless days together. By mid way through the story (which is less than 2 minutes, actually. Children’s books don’t take very long to read) Jackie Paper had forgotten about his friend Puff and “grew up.” Puff grew sad and lonely and lost some of his (erm) dragon-ness. Puff retreated to his cave, sure that he would never blow out his amazing puffs of smoke again.
Don’t despair because just in time for Puff to loose hope a new companion, a young girl, comes along and befriends him. Rob and I have deduced that this young lady is actually ***spoiler*** Jackie Paper’s daughter, and he watches Puff and his daughter make nice with other and become the best of friends. Everything has come full circle as Jackie looks on happily as his daughter and Puff play together.
It got me to thinking…do you remember the age when you “suddenly” grew up? When you suddenly decided that your old toys were for babies? Maybe you got rid of them or stuffed them under your bed. Do you remember a time when you put away the games born from your own imagination and settled for video games or television cartoons? Do you remember when it became much more appealing to sleep in, lay around and stay inside on the couch on a Saturday? When the beautiful day around you outside just wasn’t as exciting and you would much rather be watching Nickeloden or (I’m showing my age here) playing your Sega and eating junk food?
I remember. I remember becoming self conscious and self involved on an entirely new and different level. My parents never allowed me to be out and out lazy, no. But they never said “stop what you’re doing and go outside and enjoy the day. You’ll thank me in 15 years.” As long as we were content, they were content. Nothing is wrong with that. But upon watching my children play, especially my son, I see how much his imagination has taken hold. He has begun to make up games with his toys. He gives them names and a purpose or mission. Putting on costumes interests him now (he likes cowboys) and he loves drawing and coloring. And he will never tire of reading new stories or picking out new books at the library. He is on the cusp of becoming a full-on little boy (as opposed to the baby that I keep telling myself he partially is.) He is finally doing it, folks. He is growing up on me.
I write this because I, too, am like Jackie Paper. I remember putting away the things of old and “growing up.” Becoming a “big girl.” I do believe that in some ways those actions signal the beginning stages of becoming mature, responsible and in some (very small, yet) ways independent. It absolutely has it’s place. But look around you. Our children are growing up in a world where progress is churning out faster than ever. Time races forward at a much more rapid pace than it ever did nearly 30 years (gasp!) ago when I was growing up. Even the 15 or so years ago as opposed to now is vastly different. Time marches on, and our little ones will want to race with it. Children are growing up so much faster than ever. In all of the wrong ways.
Do I want my children to grow up? Of course. I want them to grow up and live long happy, purposeful and prosperous lives. But do I want them to or will i let them before their time? No.
I will try to preserve their innocence for as long as possible. Everything will vie for their attention, and if we let them our children will give in to it. The vastness that I could explore with this subject will be for another time and another post. But for now, I want to leave you with two encouraging thoughts.
One is this. Children are our renewable energy for the future. Forget solar, wind and hydro power, people. Children are the way. And we must respectfully acknowledge the responsibility that we have over them. They need love, discipline, encouragement and instruction. Part of this comes from allowing them to be children. Not babying them, but not letting the sway of our society cause them to grow up before it is there time. Guard your children, they are so very precious. And they are only this age long.
The second is this. As a parent, my eyes are reopened nearly everyday to the beauty and wonder with which a child sees their world. And it causes me to remember that there was a time when I, too, saw the world in such a way. That is why this post is called second chances. You can have the same memories and moments all over again, but now you’re sharing them with your children. So stop what you’re doing. Get down on the floor and play with your children. Go outside and sit in the sandbox and get your pants full of sand. Start a pillow fight. Be like Jackie Paper when he tagged along with his daughter to “see” Puff again, as he watched with contentment. Realize that as responsibility has it’s place, youthfulness should be celebrated (and practiced, too)
I saw the best card I think I might have ever seen sitting on my brother in law’s kitchen counter this weekend.
“It takes a lot of years to become this young.”
(something to that affect.)
Let that be true for you.