CREATIVITY - IT'S CHILD'S PLAY

One of the greatest refrains as a parent must be:

"Tidy your room!"

With two boys  - one of them a Lego fanatic  - I have said this more than most, along with, "I'm not clearing up after you for the rest of your life!".

My eldest son, who is dyslexic, has a particular talent for mess. For him, playing  has always involved tipping everything out on the floor and then sifting through it to get to what he wants.

The photo above is his room on a typical day.

I can almost hear the shrieks of horror from those tidy-moms out there, who insist that everything has a place and all toys must be put away after they have been played with.

Well, I was once like you but all it brought me was a headache and tears of frustration as I would scoop up piles and piles of Lego while he would start tidying and then become distracted by a particular bit he had been looking for all along and go off piste from our "tidy up time", to play with it.

One day, he turned to me and said: "Mum, where you see mess, I see creativity. That heap over there is all the stuff I'm going to use to build the castle. The other bits on that side of the room are for the village and this pile is the soldiers."

To my untrained eye, it just looked like a whole load of Lego strewn all over the carpet, but what he said stopped me in my tracks.

He needed to make this mess to be able to play in the way he wanted.

Who was I to stop him? If I made him put it away, I would ruin his work in progress.

I thought about the state of my desk when I'm writing  - piles of paper with ideas scribbled everywhere, printed notes for research, reference books, tea cups, notebooks... you get the picture. To a casual observer, it looks like a state of chaos but to me, it is perfectly logical and ordered. This is just how I work  - in a fairly messy way.

Some writers might like a neat desk with everything in order. I tend to just get stuck in and throw things on the floor when I'm done.

Only when I have completed the manuscript do I clear everything up, dust it down, chuck out what is not needed and file things away.

Trying to impose order on my son's creativity was a big mistake and one it took me a while to get to grips with.

We have now reached a happy medium. I allow him to keep his room a complete tip usually for around a week to ten days, while he works on whatever he wants. Then, with his agreement, he has to clear it up (of course, I help) and I can then get in with the hoover before he starts all over again.

The only problem is if I forget and go in there with bare feet. The agony of stepping on Lego bricks is one of the more painful parts of the journey of parenthood. I still bear the scars from that.

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