Let’s Pretend My Brain Isn’t Tapioca Pudding

It starts so simply with four little words that conjure up big images of idealized family life like in a Rockwell painting or an ad for Lipitor.

“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
cousin….

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

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About Mitchell Brown

I am a stay at home dad with my two daughters who are a lot stronger than they look. When I'm not cooking, cleaning, dancing, reading, teaching, playing or protecting my eyes and groin, I am writing about this whole experience in all of its ridiculousness.
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10 Responses to Let’s Pretend My Brain Isn’t Tapioca Pudding

  1. J i m says:

    HAHA! These are some epic scenarios! I want to get in on these. The pretend scenarios at my house almost always involve karate-master ninjas, light saber swinging jedi, angry killer robots and/or superheroes who shoot lasers from their hands. Needless to say, my attempts to cuddle during pretend are answered with swift and violent strikes from a sword/saber/laser hands.

    Thanks for the reminder to enjoy it all.

    Also, in pretend, can the Generals win one?

    • Ahh, the VAST differences in little girls and little boys. I was trying to explain what a ninja was to the girls the other day (when their mom snagged a mosquito in mid-flight with one hand) and they couldn’t have been less interested, except for the fact that their mom is one. Sometimes I think I would welcome a head strike during pretend, but it still is all pretty great, no?

      And no, the Generals don’t get to win. It would through off the subtle equilibrium of the universe.

  2. David says:

    I honestly must say I don’t know what to do with this one. I do love to play “let’s pretend” though. Maybe it is on a different level. Hmmmm…..

  3. Maggie Batt says:

    ah yes, the archetypes….wait until they want to be villains. With the good, there must be evil. Our Logan frequently gets tied up by his sisters. The other day Logan tried to chainsaw my arm off. He says, “This is going to hurt you, and this is going to hurt me.” So adorably wrong!

  4. Kevin says:

    Yes, this is a daily scenario around here as well. My son has gotten into comic books and super heroes. So, I always end up as Dr. Doom or Venom. While running to the next room I have to change characters and become King Daddy riding Duke, my Unicorn Pegasus to my daughter’s room, uh, I mean, kingdom.

    • Man, I guess I am pretty lucky that I get to stay in genre, if not character, throughout. You have got your pretend work cut out for you. And Duke is a sweet name for a unicorn. Every mythical creature/character over here always ends in an “-alia” it seems.

  5. Carol Brown says:

    Hey, I call people, including you, sweetie and I’m not 70 (quite yet). Let’s pretend you don’t stereotype old people! This was great fun to read, with that one exception.

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