Amy transcribed a conversation with Miles earlier today:

I asked M to go wash his hands. After 5 minutes, I hear the water still running in the bathroom. When I get in there, find that he’s carefully shredded nearly an entire bar of soap by digging into it with his little fingernails. There’s a mound of shredded soap in the sink and no water is going down the drain.

Me: Miles, where do you get all these ideas?

M: From Nothingland

Me: Where’s Nothiingland?

M: It’s just 2 blocks from Legoland.

Me: Do you have to go there to get these ideas?

M: Yes, I go on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

Me: Do you go there in reality, or in your imagination?

M: I go there in my imagination. Nothingland is where there is nothing, but if you use your imagination, you will figure out that there really is something there. There’s no one there except for me. If you go to Nothingland, you can get a cake or a coin. If you go to Nothingland, you can go on a Easter egg hunt, and if you use a different imagination, you can get a shower bath. At Nothingland, I can go to Nothingland with our pets Plato and Louise. They don’t get lost in Nothingland, because wherever they go, I go. At Nothingland, Louise and Plato like to get coins and cakes. If you go to Nothingland, you can get a new puzzle, but the new puzzle is only for playing with at Nothingland. If you go to Nothingland, you can get a new cat to go to Nothingland with you, and at Nothingland, it’s okay if somebody else goes to Nothingland with me.

Music: Half man half biscuit :: Four skinny indie kids

6 Replies to “Nothingland”

  1. Just amazing.

    So what’s the secret to cultivating this kid’s imagination? Not to take any credit away from Mr. M himself. But can you see any pattern or method to his growth in this area, doesn’t it seem pretty remarkable? I don’t think most kids come close to M?

    I wonder if you can attribute any behaviors you or Amy has done to encourage this somehow? Seems like a tricky thing to *try* to do, must come out naturally, but we’re all influenced somewhat by our environment so there’s more to it than just M.

    I hate to break into such rational discussion on such a dreamy, innocent and perfect illustration, but I’m an adult, been meaning to ask this question forever. Especially since I have kids and wonder if M just really has a gift or can I do something to spark those paths in the neocortex or wherever they live.

  2. Milan:

    I think imagination is an active force. It will develop if left alone. Not beating it out of kids (literally or figuratively) would be a good start.

    That said, I also think that we (adults) learn from children’s imagination, not the other way around. So rather than using our intellect to figure out ways of encouraging it, it seems to me we should (corny as it may sound) simply clear our minds, open our hearts, listen carefully and marvel at the wellspring of human creativity working its magic right before our eyes. This will suggest to us how best to support such qualities throughout our kids’ lives.

    Just my 2c.

  3. Man, how to approach this? Several things. First of all, remember that I only post the magic moments. Most parents don’t make this kind of thing public, or write them down, so can’t remember all the details of the magic realism that is part of every child’s mental life. What you don’t see here are the long difficult days where nothing goes right, the whining, the contrariness, the standard 4-year-old stuff. Don’t get the impression that it’s like a giant cushy surrealistic pillow at our house.

    A lot of the stuff he comes up with is woven from the bits and pieces of his young media diet – TV shows, etc. In December, we listened to MP3s of a 1940s radio show called Cinnamon Bear, which took place in Maybeland. And we had already read Alice in Wonderland. And we talked about similarities between the two stories. He had already heard about Disneyland and Legoland. So this idea of multiple wonderful lands “out there” was planted, and churning in his imagination. Like any kid, he’s using language to try to make sense of it all, put it together into something cohesive. Remember that kids don’t thoroughly distinguish between fantasy and reality until age 6. We do all we can to keep the magic going – we have no more interest in debunking the idea that Maybeland is real / not real than the idea of Santa Claus.

    And I think he has a strong strand of randomness in him (gee, I wonder where he got that?) “Porridge is another word for God” may sound amazing, surreal, profound, but really comes out more like random riffing on words he happens to know, or is trying to figure out. Just riffing, beautiful riffing.

    Is he gifted? We don’t know the answer to that. Probably won’t know for a few more years. He does amaze us constantly, but almost everyone can say that about their kids. We do give him a lot of inputs. Lots of music, lots of stories, lots and lots of artistic involvement. We treat everything like it’s real, no matter what fictional realm it comes from. Try to keep a balance of physical, mental, emotional, and creative inputs.

    Amy (herself an artist) plays with him constantly — much, much credit there. She’s got a marvelous way of engaging him like a small child and as an adult at the same time. I don’t get to spend as much time with him as she does, but he and I do have a fantastic relationship that’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

    Ultimately though, he is emerging as an independent and whole person, aside from our inputs.

  4. Well then I take it back, Miles is only occasionally seemingly awesome. :-) I’m going back to Doggieland and have a conversation with my bubs about what life was like in Wild Doggie Woods before Daddy came along to scoop them up and take them home.

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