It has been a challenging journey raising children in a mostly tech-free environment, especially when every kid from 2nd grade onward seems to have an iPhone, tablet or iPhone watch.
While our parents worried about television, today’s smart phones and video games make television and movies look as wholesome as a farm fresh salad.
I think a great deal about the laws of unintended consequences, especially as it relates to kids and technology. Tech, software, smartphones all promise to make life easier, faster and more convenient but the price we pay as adults pales next to the price our kids will pay down the road.
I want my kids to experience life in real-time, so they learn early to be present, in the moment, and not in a constant state of distraction from their smartphones. I want them to build meaningful relationships and find confidence and resolve within themselves without validation from social media – so I made a choice to weather the storm of tech-free kids. Now that they are 6 and 9 years old, I am beginning to reap some rewards and here is one that took my breath away …
My son Taj submitted a story called, The Imagination Tree, for a 3rd grade creative writing assignment. The story is about a little boy who loves video games but discovers the joy of imagination through a most unexpected teacher. His essay so wonderfully demonstrates his own internal struggle with technology as well as the undeniable magic that children are capable of when left to their own internal devices as opposed to the endless array of tech and smartphone devices. Hope you enjoy!
Once upon a time – there was a little boy and his name was Maddox. He was a lonely little boy and also he was obsessed with video games but loved to play them outside.
One day Maddox was outside playing Minecraft in the park near a small tree but then he heard leaves rustling next to him, about four feet away. He looked up and saw a little tree and thought, “I don’t think that tree was there before”. But then he remembered
that trees could not walk and said to himself, “oh, that tree must have been there before because trees cannot walk”. Maddox went back to playing Minecraft sitting outside in the grass while the other kids ran around playing freeze tag.
The next day when school was out, Maddox saw that same small tree again and again wherever he went and he thought, “I don’t know how but that tree must be following me?! “I am going to keep an eye on that tree”, he said. When Maddox got home he immediately wrote down what the tree looked like and here’s just what Maddox wrote: “ Strange tree seems to be following me: short, almost as tall as me, with green leaves and brown bark with two of the branches look like arms and when the wind blows the tree makes a noise like a running stream.
That night, Maddox had a vivid and amazing dream of a tree in Africa who longed to have friends and be free to travel and see the world, but the tree did not believe that it could ever happen. But one night, Modjadji, the rain queen of Africa, came and brought a great storm to the plains and it seemed like the trees and animals of Africa
danced with joy except the one small tree. The lonely little trees branches were saggy, its leaves were gray and its bark was dull and peeling.
Modjodji noticed the sad little tree and came down from the clouds and said, “Little tree what’s the matter? I’ve brought the gift of rain but you still look sad and droopy”. The small tree replied, “Thank you for the rain but what troubles me is that I want to see the world and make friends everywhere but I am stuck here on the plains and
I cannot travel the world and see new things because my roots are stuck deep in the ground and I cannot move. Modjoji looked at the little tree with a loving smile and said, “Little tree, tonight I give you two gifts: The gift of rain and the gift of imagination”.
Modjoji said, “From this day forward, you are now The Imagination Tree, so anything you can imagine can become true”.
Maddox woke up from his dream to the sound of rain falling softly from the sky. Maddox got out of bed and walked to his window to see if the strange tree was still there and sure enough there it was as if it were waiting for him there. The tree seemed to be glowing like fireflies in the night and in that instant, Maddox knew it was the Imagination Tree. With great excitement Maddox knew he should go outside and introduce himself to the Imagination Tree so he got dressed and went outside. The air was dewy and cool as Maddox slowly tiptoed across his backyard towards the Imagination Tree. The
Imagination tree’s leaves started to quiver with excitement and glow brighter. Maddox approached the tree and put his hand out to shake the trees branch. The glowing tree bent its branch towards Maddox and they had their first handshake as brand new friends.
From that day on Maddox and the Imagination tree were best friends forever and whenever Maddox needed some extra imagination he would sit under his favorite tree and think and wonder and imagine. Maddox learned that there is no greater gift than the gift of imagination.
The End, or maybe just the beginning …
The Imagination Tree – written by: Taj Lyndon Clarence