Shortly after the girls and I return home from school, I hear a piercing cry emanating from my 6-year old’s room. I climb the stairs to find out what’s happening.
“Who’s been in my room?!” she thunders as I enter.
“I just tidied up a little while you were at school, sweetheart,” I say apologetically.
“But you threw my pictures in the bin!” she yells, her eyes ablaze with fury.
“No, just some small scraps of paper lying on the floor,” I plead defensively.
“But those were precious to me! How COULD you?”
Here’s the thing. A torn piece of paper lying on the floor, an empty toilet roll hiding in a corner, or a crinkled piece of old gift wrap, are all rubbish to me, but to my daughter, they are precious materials to be harnessed for creative endeavours.
My family call me “TAJ” – Throw-Away-Jenny – because I have a habit of throwing away anything I find useless, even things belonging to my husband and children.
But while I believe that old Amazon boxes belong in the recycling bin outside, my daughters can’t get enough of empty boxes because they love making things out of them. And I am beginning to see their point.
For my birthday last week, my 6-year old made me just such a box, adorned with pictures, stickers, photos and messages she’d scribbled herself.
Meanwhile, her older sister gave me a bag she’d sewn herself, presented in one of the few empty boxes still lying around, and neatly wrapped in old tissue paper.
My kids love making things, and the last thing I want to do is stifle their creative urge, even if I’m not able to recognise the potential in every little scrap of paper and cloth littering our house.
Truth be told, I sometimes look at my daughters in awe, and with a twinge of jealousy, for I wish I had some of their creative ability. And perhaps I did, a long time ago, before I absorbed the mistaken belief that academic excellence matter more than creative play.
From my children, and their father whose creativity is deliciously expressed in his cooking, I am learning that knowledge isn’t enough. For as Albert Einstein famously said,
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”