The Dawn of Imagination

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”
-Albert Einstein

Imagination is an incredible thing. I’m a biologist by education, and I even focused on neuroscience as a discipline. Neurons, dendrites, glia, neurotransmitters – science has discovered so much. And yet, with all that we do know, we know so little about the human intellect and how the mind functions. Watching a child develop is an instructive reminder of that fact.

Andrew reached an incredible turning point in his development in the last week. For a long time, to me, he’s been a baby “sponge” – he needs attention and a nurturing environment, but he basically soaks up all that he sees and reacts fundamentally to the realities he encounters. Last week, we were upstairs playing – chasing up and down the hall. He knows how to run from me and that I’ll catch and tickle him, and he loves the game. After playing for a while, he got tired and I grabbed him a sippy cup with some water. He drank a few sips, and then made the most amazing gesture. He got up, went to the hallway and grabbed a big brown fluffy dog that he loves, and brought it back. Then he grabbed his cup and held it to the dog’s nose. I thought “is he giving his dog something to drink?” Sure enough, he was… and then proceeded to do the same for his favorite teddy bear! I’m not sure that everyone views this in the same light, but to me, this one step – this ability to imagine that his dog might be thirsty – really transformed Andrew in my mind. No longer is he just a baby, but he is now a participant in the world around him. He can imagine what his world might be, he can empathize with the things around him, and most importantly, he can act to change that world.

Watching him this last week, I’ve seen Andrew extend this imagination to more and more of his playtime. Earlier this week, I was mowing the lawn. Andrew has a plastic Fisher Price lawnmower and he likes to follow me around with it. The other day as I was emptying the grass bag, Andrew stopped his mowing as well. Apparently he decided that he’d run out of gas (I wasn’t aware he knew what this meant.) He looked around, and then walked over to Michelle’s watering pail for her plants. He picked it up, walked back to the lawnmower, (this is the amazing part) he popped the plastic top off of the gas inlet on his mower, and then tipped the can to fill it up!

It’s amazing to watch these little boys develop. Each day with Andrew is a new adventure, and this past week has added a new dimension to our relationship and to my view of him as a person. I can’t wait to hold his hand as he develops further, and I only hope I can help him develop as vivid an imagination as my parents imparted to me as a child.

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~ by Nathan on December 1, 2005.

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