parenting

A Great Drive Home

This flying reptile lived throughout the cretaceous and Jurassic periods. Its wings could span up to 40 feet in length. The wings themselves were made of a leathery material that spread over their arms. This winged lizard had 4 fingers; 3 of these fingers ended about ½ way up their wing, and it was off of the 4th finger that the wing was attached. This long neck, long jaw, short tailed flying reptile is called a pterodactyl. Accordingly, the name pterodactyl means, “winged-finger.” Pterodactyls belong to the pterosaurs family, and went extinct approximately 65 million years ago, or so I thought…

The children’s school is about 10 minutes down the highway. This drive home proved to be wonderfully creative.

It began in the school parking lot with an invasion. To be clear, it was while I was trying to fasten the seatbelt on the car seat around a squirmy 2 year old that my 5 year old plastered his face against the opposite window and bellowed pterodactyls! The sudden outbreak startled me so badly that I narrowly avoided slipping off the truck runner I was perched on, certain to fall prey to the imagined prehistoric flying reptile. Needless-to-say, the 2 year old had gone still, only his head and eyes moved as he cast them around in an effort to see these winged terrors.

As instructed, I leaned further into the vehicle to avoid being seen by the pterodactyl. Seatbelts fastened, the 5 year old instructed me to be quick getting into the driver’s seat. So, I leapt from the back of the vehicle and dove into the driver’s seat slamming the door dramatically. I leaned back in my seat in exaggerated relief (somewhat thankful that my role hadn’t involved climbing from the backseat to the front from inside the vehicle).

From the backseat came the frantic instructions that I needed to drive before we were seen. As the car began to roll forward I was spurred on to a chorus of “faster mom, driver faster,” and “hurry before they catch us!” A quick glance in the review mirror showed 2 boys caught in the grips of creation and adventure.

For the next 10 minutes I received updates on the location of these prehistoric creatures as we ploughed through electric fences, invisible domes, and safety zones. Much to the boys mounting horror the pterodactyls proved to be relentless in their pursuit as they broke through barrier after barrier. My role during all this was to ensure the boys that we were going as fast as we safely could (the speed limit of course).

The safety dome around our neighbourhood was no match for these pterodactyls either, and the chase continued. With our life hanging in the balance I hit the garage door opener, and to a chorus of screams and cries I began to back in. I’ve never had so much fun backing into the garage before!

As the garage door slammed closed everyone in the vehicle sat quietly. “Shh,” instructed my 5 year old as he cupped a hand around his ear straining to listen. “They’re trying to find us. We have to be really quiet until we get into the house.” Wordlessly, for the first time ever, we made our way out of the truck and tip-toed through the garage. We piled tight by the door while I unlocked it, and we herded in. My 2 year old made a fast be-line for the windows in the dining room, scanning the skies. I’m honestly not sure what happened after that because the 2 of them ran for the safety of their bedroom.

Now, I should note here that we had a family trip to the local Dinosaur museum a few weeks ago, and as a result we watched all the Jurassic Park movies. Since then dinosaurs have been a hot topic, particularly the pterodactyl, t-rex, and velociraptor. I guess it’s a good thing the velociraptor wasn’t chasing us today.

Anyway, a few hours later the boys went outside to dig for dinosaur bones. You can imagine, of course, that they found some. However, let me tell you briefly what that looked like.

The door flew open and 2 voices raced to tell me that they had found a dinosaur bone under the deck. They had not just found it, but they’d found it in real life! They went on to describe what was starting to sound like the bones of a small rodent. A shudder of disgust went through me when I realised that they were now racing away, and back toward what I thought was a decaying mouse. In a scurry, I headed under the deck after them, accidentally taking up my abandon role in the dinosaur fiasco.

“Look mom, it’s a piece of the meteorite.” Bracing myself, I moved forward. Relief flooded through me, the horrifying description of a bone was in fact created from the depth of imagination! What they had unearthed was a piece of concrete that had rocks dried into it. For the sake of the game, it was now a piece of the meteorite with dinosaur bones fossilized into it.

“Keep digging boys,” I said as I clambered out from under the deck. I returned to the house amused by the events of the late afternoon. I was suddenly reminded of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a movie that I would say illustrates the power of a child’s imagination because it is that power that allows old Chitty to accomplish some great feats.

For any of you who aren’t familiar with this 1968 comedy/musical, it involves a hard-luck inventor who fixes up a car for his children. Said car, also known as Chitty, transports them on a magical adventure to save their grandfather. This adventure begins with a story that Caractacus (Dick Van Dyke) tells to his children, and girlfriend Truly while they are visiting the beach. Chitty draws some unwanted attention that further adds to their adventure.

That same idea of story and transformation was alive in my children’s eyes today as they told their pterodactyl story, and played out their roles believing every moment of it!

Personally, I can remember a jeep in a sand pile at the back of my Grandmother’s property. As children, we would spend hours climbing in and out of this junker jeep in that same kind of active story play. A wonderful innocents wrapped into that belief that we were truly traveling to places on great adventures in that old hunk of junk!

The power of imagination is wonderful.

By Shari Marshall – 2016

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