To Invent is to Imagine

These are constructive times. My 5 year old son says 10 times a day, “Let’s make our own…worlds of fun, dessert, soap, Powerade, medicine, engine, flying airplane, rocket, parachute and much more…” He currently has an insatiable hunger for invention, science, process, and to tangibly work on recreating what he sees in the world around him, or something brand new. There is no limit to his imagination. I am amazed and in awe of how consistent this desire to create comes through everyday.

I wrote in our Christmas card that he likes to “create something out of nothing”. Components of “nothing” include:

-water bottles (Dasani, Deja Blue) he finds while crawling underneath bleachers or church pews- we can only hope people were done with these and they the owners of the bottles have no communicable disease.

-stringy things: bungee cords, string, yarn, floss, cords pulled out of hoodies, shoelaces

-boxes- shoe boxes, tea  boxes, plastic toy totes

-ingredients for greatness- food coloring, lemon juice, soy sauce, ice cubes, scissors for cutting up vegetables or other food items if creating=cooking

-from the outdoor category: sticks, sticks, sticks, dirt, mud, grass, rocks, trees

-constantly re-purposed actual items: Tinker Toys, Trio Blocks, cars, old pieces of car track, hangers, carabiners, Nerf guns, drumsticks, Kleenxes

Here are a couple recent inventions:


my invention

A creation from January 2012

the track

This is a track from way back- probably 2010

I wish I could say I’m a mom who has fully embraced all of this creative energy but the reality is, at times, I’m too pragmatic, I’ll worry about the mess, I’ll have nothing to say to encourage the idea because I know it actually isn’t possible.

Herein lies the problem- what do I do to balance my realism with his imagination? With my responsibility to do my work for work or around the house, and be his mom and keep him safe, while still allowing him to dream and create?  How do I uphold what I want to encourage and nurture and celebrate- the imagination of a child– and still air my struggles of not knowing how to embrace or enter into all of the inventions. I am so practical. He is so persistent. He has a drive and a limitless energy to MAKE and BUILD and I have a limited adult imagination and a control problem.

When I sat down with Eli’s “my invention” the other day to work on the engine, to tie knots he needed, and to witness a few launches, I was interested. I was proud of him. I was impressed with the intricacies of the bungee cord tie downs and the  floss weave (too small to see in the picture). I stifled most of my desires to ask what things were and whether or not it was working and to just watch him work and be there if needed me.

I still don’t know what to say when he says, “Let’s make our own amusement park” out of the dirt in the backyard. Luckily yesterday a neighbor girl showed up to enter in so I didn’t even have to say, “It’s not really possible” or “No you can’t turn on the hose”.

I preach imagination as necessary for our spiritual lives and relationship with an unfathomable God. I affirm child-like wonder and dreaming as an asset for adults in their vocations. And yet, when it’s happening in my home, I don’t know how to handle it, affirm it, or sometimes even, to not be annoyed by it.

I hope Eli can forgive me for the times I have shot down his ideas, for the ways I have limited his creative process on a Tuesday afternoon. I hope he remembers the times we did all cheer for the way a drumstick flew across the living room or a bouncy ball ricocheted off the opposite wall. I also hope he will never, ever lose the drive he has to imagine and persistently pursue what he might make if he works with what’s right in front of him.





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