By: Meena Banasiak, Vice President of Quality and Corporate Social Responsibility at PHOENIX
It was a catastrophe in the making.
The shiny red Mylar balloon, wily creature that it was, had meandered its way once again to an inaccessible point on the ceiling. There it rested, smugly taunting its would-be captors, as its too-short string dangled just out of their reach.
Kid 1 and Kid 3 conceded that this was a battle to be waged at another time, with the soon-to-arrive school bus and their mother (me) spurring them to don their coats and shoes. But Kid 2 was ripe for action as he observed the situation. What he saw was a Problem. And Mom always says that Problems require Solutions. And because he hears his mother’s frequent admonitions (particularly when he doesn’t appear to be listening to them), he was determined to be Solution-Minded.
Such were the circumstances that led Kid 2 to place a wobbly wooden stool directly under the fugitive balloon, climb onto it while clutching a homemade grabbing tool (think: arcade-style claw), and hyperextend himself in an effort to snag his prey. He certainly might have succeeded had I not disrupted the endeavor: “WHAT are you doing!? PLEASE get down!” And here once again, Kid 2’s creativity, independence, and determination were stifled by my harried plea for propriety.
What’s a parent to do!? What we interpret as impulsive is actually curiosity and inquisitiveness at work. What we regard as reckless is actually a fearless pursuit of answers. “But I just wanted to…” is the regular appeal with which our children refute the charges brought against them for their latest grievous act of discovery.
What happens when you pull up the sink stopper while the water is running? (It overflows.) When do you get to the end of a measuring tape? (When you’ve pulled it completely out of the reel.) Why did this long bar break off the wall? (Because it’s meant to hang towels, not to support chin-ups.) How can I build a treehouse in the family room? (*Please* don’t stack the chairs and table on the couch!)
What I’ve started to realize is that my children often seem to be the most focused and tenacious at learning when their imagination undertakes a self-assigned mission. When the environment we provide to them allows this intrinsic motivation to flourish, the results are spectacular: nothing is impossible, everything is exciting, anything can happen, and something will be accomplished.
While my household (and my nerves) may not always foster this type of environment, the many different spaces and structures at the DuPage Children’s Museum absolutely do. At DCM, the kids shift fully into explorer mode with all senses on high alert as they engage with the rooms, features, and activities designed for their own experimentation.
This is joyfully true of the DCM’s latest exhibit, The Questioneers: Read. Question. Think. PLAY!, where they can fearlessly fling pieces of fabric at Rosie’s helicopter blades (instead of my ceiling fan) and write their why’s and what’s on Ada’s Great Thinking Wall (rather than my living room wall). The entire exhibit celebrates the adventures of those storybook second-graders who demonstrate the very same thirst for answers and self-expression that I see in my own children.
As parents, we ought to remind ourselves that fort-building, slingshot-testing, appliance-dismantling, candy-negotiating, and Sharpie-tattooing are among the many ways our kids are channeling their inner Iggy, Rosie, Ada, Sofia, and Aaron. With that lens in place (and after a few more visits to DCM), we’ll be better equipped to recognize the ingenuity and imagination they employ in pursuit of the next shiny balloon that floats their way.
Meena Banasiak is the Vice President of Quality and Corporate Social Responsibility at PHOENIX, a manufacturer of injection-molded packaging. She is a NAM STEP Ahead honoree, NACC Four Under Forty award winner, and the recipient of innumerable grins and grievances from her three elementary-aged children. She and her husband and kids reside in Naperville where she serves as a Board Member for Loaves and Fishes Community Services and as Chairperson of the NACC Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. In her spare time, Meena enjoys reading, being a musician, and thinking about what she might do if she had more spare time.