Thursday, September 1, 2011

Re-learning How to Play

When I was a little girl, I was an expert at playing Pretend.  Imagination is one thing I have never lacked, and even now at almost thirty years of age (!), it runs a little wild sometimes.  The crazy things that I think of when Matt is working nights are quite embarrassing in the light of day, but alone in the dark I can convince myself that some sort of creature is in my basement and can break in and eat my dog before I'd ever know a thing.  And now I'm sure you think I'm a total kook, but suffice it to say that my daughter comes by her wild imagination quite naturally.

Since we have had so much opportunity to run around outdoors while here in Vermont, the kids have come up with a bunch of games that they like to play when we are outside.  I have already mentioned our little re-enactment of the Three Little Pigs, and now we do Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk too.  Recently, Lilah has branched out to making up her own stories, which more often than not include me in the plot line.  Let me tell you, playing Pretend isn't so easy as an adult.  You have to suspend all sense of propriety, throw inhibition to the wind, and just go with it.  This is one aspect of life that children are much better at than adults, and if you want to do it "right", just follow their lead.

Let me walk you through a typical Pretend session in our outdoor time.  We walk out to the ball field behind the house, and Lilah decides that the soccer goal is a cage for trapping animals.  She leads Grady inside, and informs me that they are unicorns who have been trapped by a nasty goblin, and I am the mommy unicorn who must set them free.  I ask her if she knows where the key is, but apparently there is no key, I must use my "snippers" to cut the net.  I set them free, and we run over by the vineyard to hide from the goblin.  We nibble some grapes from the vineyard (or pretend to), and then seek refuge beneath the crab apple tree from the pursuing goblin.  I say something to Lilah, calling her by her name, and she lets me know that her name is not Lilah, it's Sparkle, and Grady is Baby Unicorn Awanna, and I am Mommy Unicorn Ahanna.  She runs to the play tower/sandbox and says it's time for the Fairy Festival.  Apparently we are all fairies now and I must sew her a sparkly blue dress, and a shiny purple one for myself before the "games begin".  Grady will be a prince and wear a "handsome shirt with a silver crown", and we have to get our faces painted like animals. 

The face-painting area is beneath the maple tree, which is where we get sidetracked for a mini-science lesson about slugs and worms, both of which gross me out, and both of which are crawling on the wet ground beneath the tree.  Grady, of course, proceeds to try to alternately squish them and pick them up, while Lilah is more fond of poking at them with her fairy wand (a small branch).  She tells me that slugs are really "cheeky snails with no shells" (thank you, Peppa Pig, for giving my child an English accent).  I tell her that worms have five hearts.  They do, right?  I think that's what I remember from biology class.  Anyway, I rescue the slug one last time from Grady's stomping sandal, and it's back to the sandbox to play Bakery.  Lilah is still a fairy, and she needs to order a wedding cake for the party.  It must be strawberry flavored with white frosting and purple flowers.  And it costs fourteen dollars. 

Soon we are riding on the rides at the fairy festival, which include a carousel of unicorns, a log ride, and the Humbug Adventure (courtesy of Santa's Village).  Just as I'm about to take my turn on the log ride, though, we hear Reed on the monitor waking up from his nap, so it's time to go inside.  Surprisingly, both kids cooperate really well and race me to the back door with promises of juice and a banana at the "snack bar". 

How crazy is it that for an entire hour the only thing that was required to entertain them was for me to open up my own imagination and truly play Pretend?  Sure, we used a soccer goal as a trap and a pail and shovel to make our wedding cake, but if we hadn't had even those things, it wouldn't have mattered one bit to the kids.  They love their toys, to be sure, but it's nice to know they don't need them in order to have a good time.  I am more than happy to participate in these games of Pretend with them, for I know that the years of childhood play are fleeting, and I won't ever have a chance to do it over again.  Let me tell you, though, at the end of the day, this momma is sure ready for quiet time after the kids go to bed!

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