Posts tagged ‘imagination’

Can You Pretend to Be My Mom?

Bella has been at her other house this week. Usually, as the older sister she runs a wild ship of complex fairy games, elaborate story-lines, and dramatic torture/escape scenarios that involve magic and romance. Xi is basically stuck to Bella’s side watching for plot twists, waiting for her cue to add her character’s bit of dialog. Echo swings around the periphery, landing a job as the cousin, the sister, the neighbor, never a leading role, which makes sense as her devotion to the game waxes and wanes. She wants in the game because that is the hot spot of energy but she also wants to swirl outwards, or incorporate an out of proportion baby doll, or jump on the couch. Often if the older girls are too absorbed, too turned inward, not noticing her awkward advances into the plot she will simply steal the most crucial piece of the drama – the scepter, the throne, the magic something or other – and run away with it, squooshing it beneath her toddler thighs and  smiling maniacally.

But when Bella is elsewhere Xi and Echo become playmates once again and for some reason they like to play the same game, all day long. I am the mother and they are my children. That is the game. Sometimes I wonder if Xi is interested in this scenario because in “real life” I am “only” her stepmother, a fact that gets blurry as our relationship is so close and we spend so much time together, but is never, ever forgotten. But that doesn’t explain Echo’s interest, it’s fun for her to imagine that I am her mother.

I shake my head in wonder every time but I never resist, why would I? The role is a piece of cake. I basically get to move around as I normally would and still give them the satisfaction of playing. No costume changes, no sitting on the floor with figurines in hand, no spotting during unsafe physical challenges, no extra attention or involvement required on my part at all.

But the game is apparently extremely satisfying to these little ones. Sometimes we are a farm family, in which I become a farm wife, and they become farm children with various chores and struggles. This version is funny because as we go about our suburban existence they must find substitutes for the rural elements. The kitchen chair becomes a cow, gak becomes milk, and the stainless steel mixing bowl becomes the pail. Other times we are poor, like Disney-style poor, and the girls imagine our clothes as rags, our smoothie as thin gruel.

The set-up is minimal but involved. Both girls decide on a name, Lily, Rose, Maria, Chelsea, Alex, and their age. Xi, with the opportunity to (finally!) be the older child ends up explaining integers to Echo and gently nudging her toward choosing an age, any age that is younger than the one she has chosen. Xi often selects sixteen as it seems teenagers are a thing of myth and magic to her, and after she has chosen I am directed to imagine her looking like the teen we saw standing outside the local high school on our way home from the river. But without the braid, and with jeans instead of running shorts.

I can almost tune-out completely because although the discussion is lengthy it basically follows the same formula every time.

Xi: Ok Coco, how ’bout you’re twelve and I am sixteen. ‘Kay? And my name is Chelsea, no Alex. No ‘how bout my name is Chelsea but you guys call me Chels for short.

Echo: Yeah! And I am a teenager.

Xi: No Echo, you are twelve. Remember? And that means you are a PRE-teen.

Echo: Yeah! And my name is Luetta. No Maria. How ’bout my name is Lily bit you guys call me Lil for short.

Sometimes I am pressed into picking my name in the game and I throw one out there that I hope they think is pretty, Petra, Cecilia, Alena, but I don’t even have to remember my selection as they only call me mom, and if I call them Xi or Echo instead of Lily or Chelsea, they just imagine instead that I said it the right way.

The way these games work at our house is the girls start everything with Pretend that… and then fill in the blank with their current motion and the game continues.

Xi: Pretend that I was going to be in the next skating competition so I had to practice a lot. And then she begins to skate around the kitchen table.

Echo: Pretend that I had a little doggie… so I was always taking care of my dog because I had a dog. And then she flops down next to Henry-dog to stroke his face or rearrange his collar.

I love this formula because if I want to leave the room or change my focus I only say Pretend that… and my movement is fully sanctioned.

Pretend that I was always having to work hard to make money for our family…. so I was always typing.

See why I love this game?

Everyone gets to do what they already were doing, or what they want to do, yet we are all happily bound together within the game. Like an amoeba. I hope they never outgrow it and I hope, as they get older and face part-time jobs, boyfriends, and lengthy lecture courses, that they will remember the practice and always be able to imagine those circumstances, as well, into their perfect personal scenario.

August 16, 2010 at 10:22 am 2 comments

would you like a pink crocodile head with that?

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This is why I love kids.

For the past two days our living room has been a tattoo parlor. When Bella and Xi were first setting up shop – creating a menu of choices- I wondered silently, hmmmmm, who are the clients going to be? But sure enough, by 9 a.m. they had their first customer:  Echo. With a rainbow blazoned across her chest, a maple tree up one calf, and a river across her palm, Echo continued to pick and choose further additions. And a couple hours later, a drop-by from our friends Romy and Salome, yielded another client. Romy graciously lifted her sweater sleeves to get two new “sleeves” of marker drawn flowers, snowflakes, and hearts. Papa came through for client number three, he picked the always popular rainbow, heart with an arrow through it, and the not always so popular among the inked crowd: pink musical note.

Kids are the very best at rising above the limitations of their situation. They dream big. Early morning in your own living room? Perfect moment to start a tattoo business!

And ooooh, the choices!

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Who wouldn’t want a grape jelly bean tattoo? Other choices included: a tree, gum, orange, pink crocodile head, ski jump, tooth, rainbow, horse, rocket, tulip, musical note, sprouting diamond, zig zag, bear head, hand, book, bubble, bindi, and more.

By late afternoon on Sunday, I had to admit, the bear head was looking like a pretty decent choice.

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But I couldn’t stop there. The girls’ cool little hands and that tickly scratchy marker felt so good. Like a strange, foreign, forearm massage. I ran out of arm room before I ran out of interest. I thanked them with a handshake for their business and they blushed.

Who am I to doubt? For kids the living room is a tattoo parlor if you want it to be. There are clients around every corner, if you’re looking for them (and aren’t picky about who they turn out to be). And bear heads really are a hot commodity in the skin decoration market, I mean they’re cute, and have a bow ties, and why not? My adult mind, doing dishes in the kitchen, just couldn’t see the vision, but I am so glad their wide open minds could.

November 9, 2009 at 5:00 am 3 comments


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