This morning, as I prepare certain make-aheadables for a bountiful Thanksgiving table, I am given, out my kitchen window, a view of yet another thing for which to be thankful: my two sons, ages 8 (almost 9) and 7, at play. What? Boys at play? Pretty usual stuff, yes. But on this bright, crisp morning, my elder son is donning a Burger King crown, and it makes me pause in thanksgiving. For that one small, cheap cardboard item atop his head displays a world of innocent childhood, and that, preserved.
I say 'innocence preserved' because I can think of several almost-9 year old boys with whom I'm acquainted who would no more put a Burger King crown on their heads than they would admit to still liking Thomas the Tank Engine now and then. Yesterday when I was convalescing from a minor medical procedure, Dad brought home BK for dinner, and with the burgers, a surprise for the boys--the crowns. This is not everyday for our kids. When we do go to McD's, they will ask for a Happy Meal (only Grandma gets them these, but they still ask!), and our answer is always the same: you should be happy you're getting a meal! But I digress; both boys were thrilled with the crowns, and have worn them off and on since, sometimes brandishing a sword as well, surely conquering enemies untold.
I love to watch them at play. Away from the madding din of videos and computer games, I can see their imaginations taking them to the same places my brothers and I played as kids. But I think this scene is not as common now as it was among 7 and 8 year olds of 35-40 years ago. There is so much thrown at the innocent minds of our kids today to strip them of their most precious childhood years. It is a matter of constant vigilance on my part as a parent to do what I can to preserve these playful years, not so that they go into adolescence and adulthood immaturely, indeed not, but such that innocence is not lost prematurely.
Just as the days of diapers and rocking my babies to sleep passed all to quickly, so too shall these days of little boys ruling a kingdom with a cardboard crown. And so I will cherish them today as I did those baby-days, believing well that their healthy imaginations will soon enough give way to the requisite joys and sufferings of real life as we adults know it. And I am confident that my boy-conquerors of today will be prepared well for the realities of tomorrow, in part through an innocent childhood, played to its fullest.
So much for which to be thankful.