One of the greatest parts of my life now, is that I don’t have to rush out of bed in the morning. In fact, I love sleeping in, partly because that’s my preferred way to live (stay up late, sleep in), and partly because I still seem to need a lot of sleep in this healing process. But when I don’t have to jump out of bed, I have time to think, process, plan, and generally, can allow my creative process to unfold. I think many people in the world don’t give themselves time to do this in any part of the day
When I had my first daughter, she was not one to want to do extra things outside the house. She did not want to go to classes anywhere, did not want to join Brownies, did not want to do sleepovers. She went to school, and her school was a lovely Berkeley school that allowed her to have an hour for lunch where she and her friends played and made up all kinds of scenarios because they had time to do so. And then she came home. She did not have summer camp or have to be anywhere during weekends or vacations except home. I was lucky in that I could accommodate her, as we had the same vacations. Even when she was a preschooler we had a babysitter come in, and she only had 3 mornings a week at a coop preschool, which she didn’t really enjoy that much. Although I worried at times, that she needed more socialization, and was missing out on the opportunities that abound in the Bay Area for young children, I usually did not force her. (My one attempt to do that was to convince her to go to Brownies, which she stoically did not like and still reminds me of that.) I sometimes compared her (in my mind) to her best friend, who always had something going on the side, partly because her mother and father worked full time and had to have a place for her to go. My daughter was just not interested in being like everyone else she knew. And I learned to respect that finally, because I remembered all the time I had as a child to play, be creative, do what I wanted to do. And how important that was to me and to who I am now.
I was lucky when I was a child. I played constantly with my sister, and we played constantly in the neighborhood. We played in the vacant lot down the street, we sat at the picnic table and made up a zillion board games, we roller skated and biked and played SPUD and hung out in each other’s yards, and we made schools and restaurants and wagon trains in the basement. My partner also remembers a similar childhood, with a mom who was constantly telling her to get out of the house, so she was outside figuring out her own activities, or she was inside sitting at the table drawing by herself. She is one of the most creative people I know, both in her thoughts and her actions, and credits her mother for allowing her to develop her artistic abilities. I think we were both extremely lucky to be raised in the days when parents and other adults weren’t constantly around us, entertaining us, interacting with us, but instead allowed us to be by ourselves or with our peers.
I can happily say that my daughter has grown up to be an observant, thoughtful, and extremely creative artist, getting her degree in studio arts, and constantly having projects — gardening, cooking, clothing and fashion, video, and now child rearing. I see evidence of all her interests as a child in her interests as a young adult, because she had the time to develop those interests. I really believe that she had plenty of space for her creative thoughts and interests, for playing, experimenting, observing the world around her, and that because of that, she is still a person who is resourceful, creative and interested in the world. I think it is difficult for many children who don’t have that to grow up and all of the sudden be able to think outside the box.
My partner tells me of a middle school teacher who is shocked to see that many of the students do not seem to be able to access their imaginations. My first response was that technology is interfering, and perhaps that is a component to this issue. But really, I believe it is that children do not have time and space to think, to be bored, to create their own pastimes, to become resourceful about entertaining themselves, to pursue passions at a pace that suits them. They are rushed here and there, have phones and televisions and computers in their ears and eyes all the time, and the only time that’s left where there aren’t constant demands is sleeping time. All the thoughts and ideas that might have been part of their days, have to become part of their nights, along with whatever else dreaming is used for. Wow, that’s a lot to cram in during those few hours at night when a child sleeps. And worries about everything that’s going to be happening the next day, week, or whatever, become part of those dreams as well.
I think that adults have many of the same issues. We jump out of bed in the morning, rush off to work, cram in errands and doctor appointments, take care of our families, watch TV, or get on Facebook, and get a few hours of sleep. Night time and dream time have to make up for all of the lost thinking, observing, processing, and planning time that could have taken up many hours of awake time, which we don’t have anymore. I find that physical work can provide a good time to mull over things, walks or exercise (if I’m not listening to music, books on tape, or watching TV), and my favorite time goes back to the top of the blog, hanging out in bed with myself in the morning. Before I get up I think of the activities of my day, I finally figure out the colors of the sheets I want to crochet into a rug for my sister (even though I’d already had them picked out, those particular colors weren’t calling me to come and work on them), I realize that the line I need for my song should be x instead of y that I wrote yesterday, and it occurs to me that I know exactly how I want to express this urge to paint. I have time to think about the relationships I want to pursue, and the ones where I need to make a change. I can feel whatever it is that I feel, realize why that is, and how I need to respond to it. I can just let my mind wander into the next creative place it wants to go. It is really my favorite time of day, and truthfully, the transition to getting up is sometimes difficult, except that I’m ready to act on whatever it is that I’ve come up with.
I watch the creativity of my grandson, as he plays at getting stuck in the dog door and needing help to get out, or serving his mom her imaginary soup from the play kitchen, or building a “man” out of his boots and hat, and then knocking them over (I’m not sure what that represents, but he sure enjoys it). He gets to join his mom in her gardening, and cook tortillas with his grandma, and go to the zoo with his other grandma. Sometimes I’ve started to pressure my daughter to get him in preschool, but then I think about how lucky he is to have this time to figure out how and what he wants to play, to accompany his mom, grandmas, and friends in their activities, and to have plenty of time to express himself, and I tell myself to back off. He will enter the rushed world we live in soon enough, and will have more technology than I’ve ever dreamed of I’m sure to take up his energy. He is lucky to hang with his mom and his dad, yet not to be constantly entertained by them, like so many parents feel they should do. Now he just needs the old fashioned neighborhood gang to play with. I look forward to seeing what he does as he grows up, and hope he continues to have the opportunity to think, process, and play without the constant time crunches, adult direction, and mind numbing technological devices that I think can interfere with creative thought today.