I’m slowly realizing that not everybody remembers what it was like being a kid. This blows my mind, but I’ve started to accept it as reality.
I think that if more people actually thought back to what it was like to be a kid, things would be a little different.
And no, I’m not talking about those (usually politically-motivated) e-mails that everybody is always forwarding and/or posting on Facebook. I’m talking about actually remembering.
I remember. I certainly don’t remember everything, but I have a large enough part of the framework in my head to glue it back together. I also have a few stories.
I used to have a bunch of random GI Joe action figures when I was a kid. You know, the little plastic ones with joints that articulated in a bazillion different directions? Those.
At some point I also had a number of He-Man action figures, which were particularly cool because you could actually remove the arms and heads and swap them from action figure to action figure.
That made for all sorts of fun, especially when I realized that you could put He-Man arms on backward. You could literally have a guy that had two left arms, one going forward and one going backward.
The cool thing about GI Joe and He-Man action figures was they came with all these neato plastic guns, swords, armor, and a bunch of other random stuff. The un-cool thing about GI Joe and He-Man action figures is that all those neato plastic guns and random stuff tended to get lost.
This was apparently a common enough problem that they started to sell “weapons packs” for the GI Joe figurines several years later.
Not having weapons packs available to me, I came up with a brilliant idea one day at the grocery store. Being a miniature version of the evil genius I am now, and not having my own money to procure things, I set about my plan in the only manner available to a child under ten.
I begged, I pleaded and I persisted. It’s fortunate that boys with an age in the single digits have no concept of shame (trust me on this), because I was able to continue until my mom relented and bought me the item I was pointing to:
A box of those little sword-shaped cocktail toothpicks.
She didn’t get why; I couldn’t explain it to her. I did try, pre-tantrum. Suffice it to say that where she saw sword-shaped cocktail toothpicks, I saw a new weapons locker for my GI Joes and He-Man figurines.
You see, those little picks cost about a buck a box (or less) back then, and that one box was enough to completely re-arm every action figure I had with brightly colored plastic weapons (in both hands!), with weapons to spare.
This required a simple change of profession. Instead of being GI Joes or He-Man characters, everybody became a ninja.
Ninjas fight with swords, and that’s what they had, so that’s what they were. The characters didn’t need to spend four years in a martial arts school; they were all suddenly black belts with mad ninja skills.
I realize that this story doesn’t speak well to my childlike materialist tendencies. That’s okay, because that’s not the point.
The point is that young kids are infinitely creative. As adults, we forget this with alarming frequency.
The toy you’re about to throw away because you think it’s broken? Your kid may not even notice that it’s broken. They may not care that it’s missing the accessories. It may be their favorite toy in the box, because their creativity fills in the gaps.
I’m not saying that we encourage the kids to hoard broken stuff. I’m saying we throw the conventional definition of “broken” out the window, and come up with our own!
What if, as adults, we encouraged kids to find new uses for things on a constant basis? Not just their broken stuff, but ours?
What if we took all the board games that were missing pieces and, instead of throwing them out, made a weekend project out of creating a goofy “mash-up” board game with hilariously silly rules?
What if we let the kid help? As they got older, what if we actively encouraged them to contribute?
And, God forbid, what if that gave us back some of the creativity we’ve lost over the years?
You say they’re broken; I say they’re ninjas – and they’ll take you out with their rainbow swords if you say otherwise!