“Dinosaur! Mumma, dinosaur!”
This has become a common occurrence in my home: I round a corner and let out a roar. Bram’s eyes light up with delight as he squeals and runs in the other direction: chased by a dinosaur. Bram inevitably lets himself be caught and snuggled before he goes back off to whatever he was doing. We’ve stumbled upon a universal truth: children love dinosaurs, and as we’ve played, I’ve noticed just how pervasive and vivid his imagination is.
The whoosh of our home’s central air system has become a dragon, lurking in the vents, perhaps curled up in a warm space. His bed becomes a castle when the right blankets are put up, and with some whispered orders, we huddle underneath. Other times, he turns into a cat, crawling into my lap meowing and butting his head against my face like he’s seen our two cats do.
I think that there’s a point in childhood where you’re stuck in a bubble. Your mind has unpacked enough to comprehend what’s going on around you, but without the necessary background context or knowledge to explain just WHY everything is happening the way it is. The whoosh from the vents started when I turned on the fans in the circulator, which cooled the house down after a couple of blisteringly hot weeks. There’s something mundane and just flat-out dull about that explanation, though.
Children need stories to thrive, just as they need food and water and play to grow into sturdy and resilient older children.
In his absence of context for the mundane answers and explanations for how things are, Bram has concocted his fantastic reasons for everything. Dad becomes a dinosaur; the forest behind our house becomes a fantastical world for adventures, and blankets become castles. I can’t help think back to Bill Watterson and his fantastic comic Calvin and Hobbes as a reminder for the pure pleasure of an overclocked imagination.
In the professional world, there’s so much preoccupation with trying to avoid being childish – for mostly good reasons – but I can’t help but think that there’s something that misses out. When I go to work in a beige cube farm, I can’t help but wonder how Bram will see it: walls that tower over his head in a maze of desks and work stations: Castle walls? A maze in which monsters lurk and treasure hides?
I roar at Bram because for a brief moment; I share his world and how he sees it. Of course there are dinosaurs there, lurking just out of sight. We just need to learn how to look and see them.