Wednesday, September 12, 2007

How Parents Benefit from Pretend Play

I hate playing pretend with my daughter.

Yes, th guilt is unbearable, but so is the mind-numbing boredom that comes from trying to make a plastic seal talk to a plastic leopard for an hour. Or making up games for the My Little Ponies to play together, preferably while staying within the confines of your easy chair.

I'm much more of a talker. Occasionally, we'll play ponies and my pony will play by asking her pony what she learned at preschool. She saw through this ruse immediately.

"No!Talk about something that's not real!" She commanded.

Did I mention she's also very bossy when we play pretend?

After talking with other moms and learning that, yes, they too hate these games and avoid them at all time, I decided to give myself a break. After all, I read to her, I take her places, we watch movies together; heck, I even like playing with playdough.

So, who can blame me for avoiding this one particular mode of interacting with my child?

It turns out there is someone who blames me: Little Bit. Not a day goes by - not even an hour - that she doesn't lobby for me to play dolls, ponies, or animals with her. She can spend the whole day at a park, playing with other children, and still look at me with those big browns and say, "Will you play with me during bath time?"

'Why can't we just talk during bath,' I wondered as I pulled out the bucket of bath Barbies and miscellaneous water toys.

That's it hit me: I connect to the people I love by talking. But she connects to me and other people she loves by playing.

Playing isn't just a way for her to entertain herself and have fun. It's her way of reaching out and bonding.

I realized that if I want us to have a healthy mother/daughter relationship, with lots of great mother/daughter talks, chats and bonding, then I needed to respect her need to play with me.

So for the next hour, I happily sat and played the role of a talking baby seal, whose owner is a Barbie mermaid. And for once, I was happy to do it.

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Blogger Ed said...

Despite being what I like to think of as a devoted father, I too hate pretend time. She won't let me pretend independently. I have to do EXACTLY what she says.

Her: Pretend you say "Blah blah blah"
Me [deadpan]: Blah Blah Blah
Her: Now pretend you say ....

Eventually, I cheat and it runs more like this:

Her: Pretend you say "Blah blah blah"; then do this, this, and this; and then you say "Blah blah blah". Pretend that.
Me [comatose]: I pretend thus.

Sometimes that works; sometimes it doesn't. As with most things, however, I find that beer helps.

7:28 AM  
Blogger rbach said...

I hear you. With my kids, once I'm "in the moment," I enjoy it. It's the breaking away from whatever I'm doing to get fully involved in the game that's a little harder.

Once I'm there, though, I have fun, and I can see my son and daughter bask in the shared play time. Usually, my son picks a riff I make up while playing and repeats it endlessly for several hours. It certainly is a way to connect with them both.

11:58 PM  

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