“Play with us, daddy.”
I have burned through many a sentence fragment whining about pondering all of the challenges that come with being a stay at home parent. This often thankless job saddles you like a Peruvian pack mule with responsibilities that you feel you may never crawl out from under. But it isn’t all butt wiping and suds busting on the home front – there are times when staying home with the kids means your job is to play.
How friggin’ great is that?
The thing is (there’s always a thing) while Legos, Lincoln Logs and dominoes are themselves strong arguments for having children, those are not always what you get to play with. And never do you get to choose the game.
Lately, my girls’ game of choice is playing ‘pretend’. As you may imagine, this is an unstructured, open ended game that assuredly will never (and I mean NEVER) look the same twice. Generally, it goes something like this:
Let’s pretend that I’m a baby and Lemon is my mommy and you are the daddy.
And…..scene. Simple enough, right? From here the initiator (in this case, Bug) will pipe off a quick “waa!” in her best baby to alert the rest of us that we are now, in fact, pretending. Taking her cue, Lemon will go into mommy mode, which consists of a lot of nurturing, hugging and calling everyone “sweetie”, all of which, I think, reflects well on the real mommy around here (though, she doesn’t call anyone “sweetie” as she isn’t 70 years old yet). I am a natural in my role and immediately begin muttering to myself while not showering.
Like I said, though, you never know what direction Pretend is going to take. And rarely do I get off so easy as to be the daddy.
Let’s pretend that I am 11 and you are my little brother and daddy is the dog.
Not such a stretch and with only minor role readjustments. But you can’t get comfortable – Pretend moves pretty fast around our house.
Let’s pretend that I’m 9 and you are my daughter and I am the back-up small
forward for the 1983 Washington Generals.
Another thing about Pretend is that you might not be included in every performance. Also, there might be some glaringly unrealistic details. I mean, seriously….9 years old AND on the traveling squad with the Generals already? Please. You’re not getting on the floor with the ‘Trotters until you are at least 12. Everyone knows that. I was glad not to be included in that one – it just seemed silly.
That’s a lot of the fun of Pretend, though. They can be anything they want to be and create an entire world out of thin air. And then another one eight seconds later. Watching my daughters’ minds invent is truly one of the greatest joys of being a father.
Let’s pretend that I’m Santa Claus and you are my mommy and I am daddy’s
grandma and he is a buffalo’s pancreas.
As they grow, they are just sponges for new information and Pretend can be a great tool for learning. Folk lore, genealogy, biology – it is an incredibly dynamic classroom. The lessons and the subject matter are truly limitless.
Let’s pretend that I am your baby and we live on a farm and Jasmine (our dog)
is a cow and you are the Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce testifying before
a Ways and Means subcommittee on burrito subsidies and daddy is the queen.
After being an intricate part of Pretend for a while now I have learned invaluable lessons about how children’s minds work and how they interact with and interpret the world around them. This life as a parent is so full of lessons that if I slow down even for a second then I risk missing an opportunity to understand my daughters just a little bit better, to get to know who they are just a little bit more. These moments make me feel so close to both them and to a world where burrito subsidies are real. It’s win-win.
Let’s pretend that I am the mommy and this pile of dog shit is the daddy and
you are a pigeon and daddy is a rickshaw driver and I am a piano tie and daddy
is Delaware and you are 8 years old and Jasmine is a head cheese sandwich on
toast and you are my daughter and the couch is Mitt Romney’s speech writer’s
With priceless experiences such as these it is a complete mystery how I ever struggle to understand what is going on in their heads.
photo credit: wix.com