Creativity in Action

Sometimes I think I’m being creative, and then the kids show me true creativity…

Back in the day, when I was working 70 hours a week at crazy start-up internet companies, there were three buzz terms.  One was Web 2.0 (this completely dates me, and tell you how long ago I was working full time).  Two was making up a stupid and pointless and only remotely relevant acronym for everything (so that often conversations would sound something like ” What’s the ETA on the fix for the DLL?  Project GAP is waiting on the ELO for sync.”  And three was telling everyone to “Think outside the box” for absolutely every possible solution.  I hate that phrase, but I do always pride myself on trying to think of creative and fun and abnormal projects to keep the kids entertained.  So I think of myself as an “outside the box thinker”.  And as always, the kids keep teaching me that I can’t hold a candle to them when it comes to creative thinking.  Because my version of creative is usually merely on the unusual end of normal, while their solutions are truly original, and most definitely “outside the box.”  Sometimes quite literally.

Like the time we got a huge box delivered.  (Soap.com is a mom’s best friend – we used to have cases of diapers and wipes delivered, now we’ve graduated to toilet paper and paper towels…)  I thought it would thrill my little fireman if I turned the box into a firetruck, complete with a ladder and steering wheel.  And it did.

For a while.  Then I came back in the room a scant 10 minutes later to find this: I was annoyed.  No, that’s not it.  At the time, I was mad.  I spent almost an hour making them this cool plaything.  And as usual, they took it apart in minutes.  Why couldn’t they take care of their things?  I was never wasting time on a project like this again, if they couldn’t appreciate it.  Wearily I asked, “What happened here?”
Jacob beamed up at me.  “Mommy, it was a driving machine.  Then we decided what we really wanted was a writing machine.  So we changed it.  And now it’s the perfect writing machine!”

“That’s amazing,” I said.  “What’s a writing machine and how does it work?”

“I’ll show you!  See, we put these holes that you can put pencils and pens in, and whenever you need to write, you just come in here and you can grab one and write down whatever you are thinking about!  It helps you think of things to write too!”  (Picture that as he said this, he still pronounced “th” as “f” so it was extra cute: “fink of fings to write.”

I couldn’t decide if I should grab one of the pencils to stab myself in the eye for being such a quick to anger and thoughtless drudge, or just grab one and join in their joyful fun.  I went with the latter.  I’m trying to be better about taking pleasure and learning from their creativity, not using their example as a comparison and reason to beat myself up.  I’m still working on that…

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