Carefree: without worries or responsibilities.
We often think of childhood days as carefree; and it is true that watching young children at play evokes a sense of their freedom from concern or constraint.
When the boy-child was younger, fantasy games formed a huge part of his everyday play. Like many children, he loved to create forts out of chairs and blankets, turn cardboard boxes into spaceships, dress up and invent imaginary friends. In his case they were imaginary older siblings, which, for a mother struggling with infertility, was pretty tough to deal with at times.
Incredibly inventive, he was constantly making things. Lego and building blocks were indispensable in building props for his, often quite complex, games. Cardboard sheets were sellotaped and stapled into cars, aeroplanes and once, a huge aircraft carrier (and I mean huge).
Items he wanted but didn’t have were improvised. As a two year old, he made a skateboard out of cardboard and spent hours “doing tricks” on it (I have video footage of this, just waiting until his first commercial skate movie comes out). At pre-school he persuaded one of the teachers to spend a session helping him build a guitar out of cardboard boxes and cylinders, and his first “iPod” was made out of stapled construction paper with a carefully hand-drawn screen.
There was no definite end to this phase, but I suspect that the beginning of the end was primary school. Whereas his Montessori preschool positively encouraged fantasy plan and creativity, his school did not. Nor did many of his new playmates seem to want to involve themselves in the elaborate dressing-up games.
Basically, he began to notice what other children said and did a lot more and he learned to care … specifically to care what other people thought of him. With that came a diminished capacity to be carefree – instead the key-word became cool.
The boy-child is now 15 and, I think, pretty comfortable in his own skin. He has at times shown tremendous courage – standing up for what he believes in and taking teasing and occasional cyber-nastiness very much in his stride. He seems to have a strong sense of who he is and is willing to go out into the world saying “this is me.”
Of course, that doesn’t stop him choosing his clothing, haircut and shoes according to the “fashion” determined by his peer group, nor rolling his eyes when I suggest something that is “just so uncool.” But in general, I think he has both the ability and the will to think for himself.
But he is no longer carefree.
I’m posting these photos of my beautiful child to remind him how awesome he is; and in the hope that he will continue to grow his sense of self and one day be happy to put the fairy wings back on, tune the cardboard guitar and take off into space with Nick, Jessica (the imaginary siblings) and – his companion in many adventures – Wham the wonder dog (who is very real, only not a real dog).
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