This is a piece I stumbled upon while procrastinating yesterday. It was something I wrote on her first day back to school after winter break:

Today my 4-year-old melted down the stairs of her bus sullenly. Mondays are hard that way, and she’d been surprised by a substitute bus driver. Surprises don’t go over well in her world.

“Let’s play outside,” I suggested. “Just a little while.”

That did the trick.

“I’m king of the castle!” she declared and she scurried up the rock formation on the side of our property.  King isn’t attached to gender in her mind. King is attached to power. She wants to be the boss. (And hey, she is right. Anyone who thinks a girl can’t be King has obviously never read the Xanth series).

She ran up and down the rocks frantically, muttering to herself too quietly for me to make out the words. And then she picked up a branch, awestruck. As if what she was holding was the Holy Grail. She tore all the little twigs off the side until it was a misshapen ‘y’, stripped of all the pine needles.

“This is my hammer!” she said triumphantly. And then, “I have a lot of really hard work to do!”

It really was genius. I have no idea how her little mind looked at that branch and saw the potential for the hammer. Even more impressive, she saw the potential and then *made* it what she needed to be.

She climbed back on the rocks and began hitting them with the stick. Then she hit a tree beside the rocks. Then before I knew it we had been out there almost an hour and I really needed to get dinner started. I told her it was time to go in but she wouldn’t budge.

“I still have lots of hard work to do.”

I reasoned, I begged, I bribed. Finally, I convinced her that she needed to bring her hammer inside to “work” on her rock collection. She ran off to watch T.V. and I helped her sister with homework.

As we were sitting down for dinner I passed the branch again and laughed, thinking timageo myself “All the toys you own and you play with a stick.”

I’m not the first parent to think this. Anyone who has ever hosted a first (or second or third) birthday or Christmas has watched their little ones open presents just to have their attention consumed by the box, wrapping paper, or bubble wrap. “I don’t know why we even bother buying them anything when a box would do,” is a phrase I’ve heard more times than I can count.

And then my perspective changed. How amazing was her imagination, to create this? How lucky were we to live in an area where outside play is not only possible but so desirable that she brings the outside world into our home? Even with all the things she has to entertain her, she focuses intently on rocks, sticks, and bugs. She wants the world, and I want to nurture that in her.

The world is your toy, my love.
Go play.