In these days since returning from Embercombe, technicolour images keep spinning in the space between the backs of my eyeballs and each socket. Such delicious-ness gurgling here, with such strength of remembrance, I feel, I hope, I will never will loose each firing vision.
Each adult, whether parent or member on the team at Grow the Grown Ups, I’m sure will have a bevy of glorious memories of the wondrousness of the play and connection the children shared there with each other last week. Here are a few of my favourite:
A Band of Beautiful Brothers
There’s a phrase, Boys will be boys, that gets tagged onto a lot of seemingly undesirable behaviour from boys, very usually physical aggression or their seeming shutting down from empathy and understanding. I saw it emblazoned on a toddlers t-shirt just this morning and it’s a phrase that grates beneath my skin hugely. On the one hand it dismisses their capacity to be other than just what they are deemed and too, as much as it cuts down, in part it also gives a certain permission to allow them to behave in such a way. To me it feels a way out for an adult to not facilitate any other form relating which regrettably tightens the lid on the possibilities of boyhood and their amazing potential.
Last week I was honoured to witness something wholly different. There was a group of boys ranging from around the ages of five to ten that spent the week dipping in and out of each other’s company. Mid-week on the Wednesday we had a family day, for us to come together and spend time roaming our wonderful surrounds. However, this was the day our son was immersed with this incredible bunch of boys so I spent much of my time watching him from afar. The kindness, love, kinship and acceptance I saw between them all was utterly, utterly awesome. It blew me off my feet and I couldn’t help but think of the phrase; Boys will be boys. Their connection together, it’s chemistry, was the antithesis of everything that the phrase gets lauded with and was so inspiring to watch.
A couple of the parents, my husband and self, included, commented how amazing it would be to gather regularly to enable this buoyancy (boy-ancy!), which may happen but may not. Either way, I know the seeds of what they experienced in these days are lying now within rich fertile soil. Whether they commune altogether or not again, I know they’ve had a magnificent taste of how boyhood can exist in such a beautiful capacity.
The Magic of Mud, Fairies & A Treehouse
On Thursday, between morning activity and our afternoon session, I asked our son whether he would like to do some Special Time together. Yes! He said and pointed to the woods. So with rice cakes and water in tow he and I headed towards a part of Embercombe that I don’t know so well with a plan. His plan.
To say that it was his Special Time seems slightly not true. Unbeknown to either of us as we commenced, as he lead me through the woods and took me to places there I had not yet visited; a treehouse, fairy homes, a bridge over the stream, I felt I was experiencing too my own Special Time. It was a glorious privilege to be taken on a journey with our seven year old boy, he as guide, taking moments to munch rice cakes, play hide and seek and climb through the muddy land.
Because of previous experiences with him when Special Time ends, I was mindul to let him know part way through roughly how much time we had left as well as let him know what we would be doing afterwards. He’d asked for twenty minutes and when the timer went off and I told him we needed to finish. OK, he said, waited with no pleading for me, and lead me back through to the clearing to the path up the hill, taking my hand as we walked.
Wow. Such beauty to watch unfold and my hearts beats with such pride in his growing. I thank Embercombe so deeply for this richness that it offers.
The Ring of Fire
Before attending the week, I had purchased two sneaky bags of marshmallows for the kids to toast on the last night. I was careful. I kept them hidden in the car throughout the week, knowing if either our son or daughter had found them beforehand we would face numerous requests each day for them to be munched.
My plan worked a treat. I revealed it and the purchase just before our evening’s fun in Centre Fire on the last evening; an opportunity for children and adults alike to perform impromptu pieces – maybe a joke, tinker on the piano, bang on the drums, a song…. We collected sticks and prepared the fire ready for afterwards and sat with both kids on our laps, packets of marshmallows in hand, watching the night’s showcase unfold. Neither demanded to eat them there and then.
And then, possibly my favourite part of the whole week. When we gathered an hour later around the fire outside, each child was given a stick and my son handed out to each child one at a time the marshmallows. Parents helped pop them onto the sticks and watched as the kids toasted these balls of sugar.
Now fire, sugar and a group of kids is the kind of sight that could make many parents start to wobble. In fact it could make every single kid there start to wobble. BUT, not one child had a meltdown. Instead they, all calm and taking turns, placed their sticks into the fire, pulling out gooey pinkness one by one. I was awestruck to watch and it occurred to me, as we walked to our yurt village to bed, what we and they had just created wasn’t about a chance to eat a ton of sugar. It wasn’t a scene from a frenzied birthday party in which each child takes home a party bag of overwhelmed-ness charged on sweet-things and tears.
No. This was about them, as a whole, participating. The marshmallows were secondary. Communing together this way was foremost.
I don’t think I’m alone in my worry for our children and our children’s childrens future. The world seems a both hostile and fragile place right now, in so many ways. Two nights ago I had a dream about a war and the end of the world. I had one not long ago about a nuclear bomb exploding and I could feel in the dream my feet and legs starting to melt and disappear. It has haunted me since.
Burning at the back of my retinas these wondrous vistas last week give me a new hope. All is not lost. And we will keep on, keeping on. Sowing these seeds in our children so they can know, embody and hopefully sow another way as they grow.