I would like to introduce you to my cousin Masal (“tale” or “fairytale”), she happens to be a 4-year-old and she successfully taught me a class on “Imagination 101”. I’ll go in depth about the syllabus in a bit. As you can imagine, it’s not written on paper, ha! You will likely be accepted into the classes if you are willing to spend a minimum of 5 minutes (with lots of toilet breaks) and only voice your opinions through being the voice for one of her baby dolls. I assure you if you go back to using your own voice, that’s crossing the line in a 4-year-old’s world. And finally, everyone gets an A+.
I spent a wonderful weekend with her cute little energetic personality, and here’s what she taught me:
1. You can be any colour you choose to be.
This, I learnt during one of our drawing and colouring sessions. Masal first asked me to draw a girl, and I did. A blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl with red lips. Then, she asked me to draw two ghosts next to her, one using the blue and one using a pink crayon. I really don’t know if she is ever impressed with my drawing skills, but her face surely lights up whenever I agree to draw with her. She later drew a girl herself, with pink hair, a pink outfit, followed by a pink ghost which shaped nothing like a ghost. It shaped more like a long scarf, or a blanket, but she believed it was a ghost.
When we finished drawing, we started colouring pictures of her favourite baby doll from a booklet that she held dearly. She happily shared it with me and started painting a doll. The poor doll had a green face, nude-coloured hair, body, eyes (this is her second favourite colour after dark purple) and legs that are half purple and half blue. Her sister Misra (“verse”) and I, told Masal that the girl she painted looked like she was about to puke. I jokingly asked “did she get car sick, honey?”, she answered: “No, that’s her face, there’s nothing wrong with her”. That was the first lesson learnt. As we age, we often stick to the norms, we don’t ever paint beyond the lines, and we do what we are taught that is right. Let me tell you what that all means. We lose our imagination. I hung Masal’s drawings up on our fridge as a reminder for myself that I can choose any colour I want, and look at things sideways, twist, turn and burn them.
2. You determine your own boundaries and your own time.
My cousin is determined when she wants a playmate although most of the time she likes to play alone. During those times, if I am around (and her sister is not), I am the number-one-hot target. She finds me and does not leave me until I sit down and play for at least 5 minutes. My excuses include: “Honey, I need to take a shower”, “I need to dry my hair”, “But, I got this thing on my computer that I have to do”, “Can we do it after we eat dinner?”. Masal literally waits until I finish my shower, gets into the bathroom to show me where the drier is and puts me under internment until I sit down and play with her.
I say “Just 5 minutes”, and she agrees. Surprisingly, Masal actually has a good understanding of time (I do not know how), she will allow me to leave exactly when I complete the 5 minutes on the dot. I determine my own boundaries and she has hers. I have to make 2 dolls and a rabbit speak at a time and make sure they all get pretty good hairstyles for the doll-party and realize they have a magic rabbit who can speak human language.
3. Sometimes you let the other person win the race.
I have been suffering from a knee injury for the past six months and oh boy, I complain a lot. During the whole weekend, Masal asked me to race her at the mall, in the parking lot, the house, the hallways, everywhere. I said I wouldn’t be able to win and said no. Guess I forgot, “No” does not exist in the kids’ world. The night before I was leaving to go back home, she said she injured her leg and it hurt. It was a lie but then we sat down together and complained a lot (together).
Right before I was going to bed, she said she wanted to race me. It was fair now because her leg hurt, too. So, we raised a 30-meter distance between the living room and her room. It was much like this: I walked, and she ran screaming. I was like “Oh my, you won twice! I am old!”, she said it was okay and now, it was my time to win. So, we raced again, I walked, she ran, she finished first. Then, she told me that I won. I asked, “But, how?”, she said I did good and it was fair. After I sat down, finishing it strong with effortless two wins, she kept running and raced herself? With the air in the house perhaps? I don’t know.
God, I love this kid. Maybe, we all need a 4-year-old to tell us what to do. And just maybe, that’s how we all can find our imagination.