Let me introduce you to Rebecca's new bonnet, which she made herself:
"What, a handkerchief?" you say. What may seem to you and me a plain handkerchief on my daughter's head is actually part of an elaborate plan, executed with love and care.
For the last several months, Rebecca has been immersed in The Little House on the Prairie. We've read and re-read Laura Ingalls Wilder's books, and we've watched and re-watched episodes from the TV series on YouTube (I write "we" because, in truth, I'm also hooked!). As a consequence of this Little House immersion, she often talks in a slightly archaic and formal way, and her pretend play is all about pioneer family life in the Laura Ingalls Wilder mode. Pretend play for which she needed a bonnet, clearly.
I promised that I would sew one for her, but I never quite got around to doing it, so she made one herself in several simple steps: 1) wash and wring out a handkerchief, 2) iron it flat, 3) make a pony tail, 4) secure two corners of the handkerchief under the elastic, and lastly, 5) pull the two opposite corners over the head. Now you have a prairie bonnet, Rebecca style (if not Laura Ingalls Wilder's).
Watching her do this has taught me several important lessons about play and creativity.
LESSON 1: Playing with no toys is the best game, and toys that kids create out of nothing with the help of their own imagination are the best toys.
She's been methodically going through her bonnet pattern steps each day, and while doing it, she discovered the joy of ironing (Step 2). Oh, what fun ironing is! "Can I do some ironing?", she asks joyously all the time. I'm a little bewildered, because a love of ironing is very new to my family, but I oblige, and - by golly - my six-year-old can go through our ironing pile!
LESSON 2: Any task or chore done with joy and a smile becomes instantly more attractive. (I'll think about this lesson when I next have to iron a pile of Tom's dress shirts, I promise.)
So, now we have a girl in a handmade bonnet who loves to iron. The bonnet is an essential accessory, even (or especially, depending on your point of view) when we go out, to the dismay of the prairie girl's brothers. "She wants to wear a hankie on her head even to the tennis club, tell her not to!" they plead. The tennis club, as you all know from reading these pages, is the center of the universe, or at least it is for my teen boys, and having a sister going around with a hankie on her head apparently isn't very cool. This was a very good opportunity to discuss again how important it is not conform to peer pressure when it comes to personal taste.
LESSON 3: Be aware of people's and peer's opinions and judgment, but not ruled by them (like, a little girl's unique, clean, neatly-ironed hankie-on-the-head style is to be valued more than the pervasive pants-down-and-underwear-showing style all teen boys sport - but I didn't say this).