If you have or have ever had children, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s Christmas morning, your little ones are up and ripping into their presents. They’re happy as clams with your well-thought-out purchases. But then it happens. Their attention wanes … and then re-focuses – but not on the toys. It’s the boxes, the boxes the toys came in.
“I’m a failure! I can’t even buy a Christmas present my kid cares more about more than a stupid box. I should just turn in my parenting card right now. It’s only going to get worse.”
We’ve all been through it. What is it about boxes? If it’s not your kids then it’s the cat.
They are a never-ending sources of intrigue and glee. They hold a world of possibilities where the only barriers are the imagination. They can be colored or drawn on. Boxes can be cut up to be smaller, or combined with other boxes to be larger. Boxes can be anything.
They don’t have boundaries until we teach them boundaries. Everything is “game.” They haven’t limited their lives by putting them in boxes. But rather they use those boxes (literally) to create a world limited only by their imagination
Kids haven’t been anesthetized by all the years of “this is what you’re suppose to do and this is how you’re suppose to do it.”
They’re not restricted by rows in a spreadsheet or by myopic expectations of family and friends.
Don’t you wish you could go back to that time … the time when it was just you, your imagination and whatever inanimate object was at your disposal (and maybe the cat, if you could catch him). Restrictions were few. I remember playing in the backyard. A patch of dirt could be turned into a gold mine, a tropical island – or a with the help of few sticks, even a futuristic skyscraper.
We don’t do that now. We have to be adults. And being an adult seems to include checking your imagination at the door. And we wonder why life becomes, well … lifeless. Worse yet, what example are we setting for our children. What are we teaching them. “When you get my age, all that curiosity and naive optimism you have now – will just fade away. But that’s all right because you’ll slave for years and years in school to become a doctor or a lawyer only to become a slave all over again to your ‘keeping up with Jones’ lifestyle you feel you have to have.”
Back in my headhunting days, I once sent a box of crayons to 150 of my best candidates. The assignment was to color their “Perfect World.” The response was positive. Most loved it and some even included their families in the exercise. A couple of people didn’t quite get the point though. “How can I expect you to handle my career if you won’t take any more seriously than a box a crayons!” Obviously their imagination had long ago left the dock.
My go-to Christmas present over the years has been Zolos. Zolos are toy construction sets where you can make bizarre creatures. There’s no instructions, just odd different pieces. No Zolo will turn out the same. For better or worse, I don’t think my ship of “adolescent imagination” has sailed yet … and hopefully won’t anytime soon. And I’m going to do my damnedest to keep my friends’ ships mored as well.
Your children look to you for guidance. And that guidance isn’t limited to just what you necessarily want them to learn. They may listen to what you say … but what they really absorb is what you do.
What are you showing them their life will be like? Are you putting out their flame of curiosity without even knowing it.
Show them you can never be too old to … (fill in the blank)!
You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg