Over the past year I’ve been slowly working my way through Anthony Esolen’s book, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. In a similar style to C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, he points out the current trends in child rearing and education which snuff out the imaginations of our children.
I was about twenty-six pages into the book when I came to the section, Keep Your Children Indoors as Much as Possible, where the author reminisces about growing up in a small mining town in Pennsylvania. It sounded so similar to my own childhood growing up in Whyalla, a mining town in South Australia. My dad, his brother and a few of my cousins still live there but my sisters, brother and I moved away many years ago and we all have joked at times about what a dump it was – it’s fairly isolated and it’s not a place you just pass through on the way to somewhere else.
Then I came to the next section of his book, Never Leave Children to Themselves, and I thought back to the hours and days we spent as children roaming around the outskirts of the town with no adult watching us. They knew where we were and the place is so flat that all an adult had to do was scan the horizon or look up at the ‘mount’ where we used to have our adventures to reassure themselves if necessary. Hunger would always bring us home at some point anyhow.
I’d always suspected that my time in this town had given me room to develop in ways life in a well appointed city would never have afforded me, but it took a visit back there to cement this idea. I had an opportunity recently to revisit my old playground and share some of my memories with my three youngest children. My dad has been unwell and I felt I needed to see him sooner rather than later so I made plans to drive the 1625 kilometres interstate and give my 16 year old son, Nougat, an opportunity to clock up some driving hours.
In our family my cool, calm, rational husband does the driving lessons and I don’t go anywhere with them until they’ve done at least 50 hours or preferably, when they’ve actually passed their driving test. Nougat only had 12 hours of driving experience but my husband insisted that I shared the driving with him so I wouldn’t get tired (and had a little talk to him about looking after mum & the younger kids on the trip as he gave him a few emergency tools just in case we had a breakdown). I wasn’t keen but acquiesced and was pleasantly surprised at his driving skill. So it was a little adventure for the four of us – a journey of two days to get there and an overnight stop at a caravan park on the way.