Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Forts For All

Last night, our area was just pummeled with hail, thunderstorms and heavy winds; I drifted off in a fretful sleep and immediately started to dream about my childhood. Like my actual childhood, a lot of the dream was spent on a bike with the vague sense that my best buddy was riding along with me. We were carrying pieces of wood and laughing as we tried to peddle and hold on to long, cumbersome boards.

When I woke up this morning, I had the singular thought that forts would cure a plethora of woes associated with kids and electronics.

Most of my adult friends are involved in some sort of battle to limit screen time with kids. It's our own fault; these young ones are totally dependent on parents for housing, food, clothing and most purchased forms of entertainment. We put the cell phones, tablets, Kindles, games and computers right there in front of them and then spend the rest of the time telling them to step back from them. When did we get so wimpy?

My dream was based on many childhood activities that actually happened. I'm not sure why it was in my subconscious last night. 

At the age of ten, a good deal of my day was spent concerned about building and protecting a fort. On the edge of our neighborhood stood a wooded lot, or perhaps lots, kids don't think of survey lines or ownership - it was just a small field and some trees. Everyone called it the baseball field, which is entirely misleading because I never, ever saw anyone play ball there or even toss a baseball on the property. In the wooded portion, narrow paths were formed by the mindless pattern of bicycles with no real place to go - we just wanted to ride. Construction debris was strewn about, which makes this sound a lot less kid friendly, but actually, those misplaced pieces of wood and gutter were magic.

Armed with a hammer and nails, we'd gather up all the wood we could find and build forts in the woods. Sometimes, you could put something in them to sit on. Forts were the perfect place to fantiasize and daydream. No real sword ever looked quite as good as a really straight stick you found by yourself. The refuse of the neighborhood was the goldmine of the the creative. We'd play in our fort till dinner time and then go home for the night.

Arriving back at the baseball field the next day, we'd quickly find that some equally inspired kid had dismantled our fort and taken the material to another part of the woods and built another fort. It was like the kids worked shifts; they were leaving as we were punching in. Of course, don't even ask - it was not as cool as our fort. And so we waited for him to run home for some reason; then we'd dismantle his fort and rebuild our new and improved fort. It never felt like you were attacking another kid; you just waited him out and then it was your turn to start the process all over again.. 

In my dream, I was with a friend and I knew that we were delighted at finding pieces of wood and so we hurried to the baseball field, struggling to pedal and carry the goods, as I had done so many times before. Thunderstorms were on the horizons in my dream, and I mumbled about the storm as I pedaled. 

As we turned the corner, we saw the woods in the distance and looming over the tree tops was a huge medieval castle tower and immediately we knew that was our fort!  Don't you love how dreams don't have to make total sense, and you are accepting of whatever is happening? Somehow, our small misshapen fort had transformed itself.  I reached out and touched the stone walls and felt the chill; I tipped my head back as my eyes followed the height of the fort walls to the uppermost stone.

Yeah, baby; guess who has a real fort?

We dropped our bikes to the side of the path and ran to the door; of course, it opened for us. My childhood buddy's name was Mark, and as I walked and explored, I distinctly remember my excitement in the dream, measured by the number of times I said, "Mark, check this out!!"

Room after room of medieval furnishings lined the hall, and a winding stone staircase led upwards to the main tower. What to explore first?  I entered one of the passages hesitantly. Down a long, dark hall, I encountered a small animal-like creature and it seemed to have the outline of a dragon. I leaned forward to see its features, but it was too dark. The dragon critter lifted its foot and began to scratch at my leg...

Dang it! My dog, Coco, is at the side of my bed and wants to go outside, reality has arrived. I went from excited new fort owner to bed-headed dog walker in two seconds. 

Still, I couldn't shake the dream; so much of it was so real and familiar. 

The thought occurred to me later in the day that all over town, kids are pushing buttons or staring at screens for entertainment. They could be getting outside and building something, even if it gets torn down a hundred times, just for the fun of it and to allow their imaginations to roam a bit. It's a crime to rely on the product of someone else's imagination for entertainment. 

I'm thinking that something as simple as forts would do them a world of good. 


  1. A child's instinct to create is powerful, even with electronic device in hand. The mostly annoying cultural phenomenon that is Minecraft attests to that. Sometimes, it's just a matter of getting out of their way.

    Big picture, you're right. For most, making them turn off the TV is also crucial.

    1. I agree with the potential to create, but I'm seeing a lot of almost addictive obsession that is hindering exploration. Balance is needed, and a little down time does a world of good.

      Last year, I had a student who was described as a genius "because he could do a lot of things on a computer." Not programming or developing new ideas, mind you. Just "stuff" that would occupy his time and keep him from being underfoot, apparently.

      What he couldn't do was write, spell, be polite or interact with others.

      His computer skills are less and less impressive, in that light, to be sure. But basically, that broke my heart for him. He was missing out on so much.

  2. When my kids were young, we didn't have as much electronic stuff. I didn't allow Nintendo. It was one of the best decisions I made. When you go to sleep tonight, maybe you can return to your fort.



Thanks for your personal yada, yada, yada,
Love, Cherdo