Although Halloween has come and gone, my three year-old darling continues to wear her queen gown around the house, to the grocery store, and questioning me why not into the tub. The fascinating thing is that this is not unique behavior, not something especially reserved for Halloween, but matter-of-factly an everyday occurrence. If you reside with a toddler then you know that things are rarely as they seem. For instance, I have two REAL human children, but at any given moment, I may have to tend to another three “visitors” as described in detail by my little one. At any time I may be part of a conversation in which I may not even know who I am or what is expected of me, but rest assured, my daughter is quick to let me know: I thought you were Marv mommy. I say, Oh I am? Ok!…and immediately fall into character. But then she responds with disdain, You’re not sounding like Marv! Right, I say as I try to channel my inner small British boy voice??!! (More on Marv in a minute)
Lately, “pretending” seems to happen more often than not. At times it becomes a tool to achieve a task, a way to approach topics or directions in a way that she simply can’t resist, so captivated by our story-line. Other times it’s just to humor my darling and watch her delight in her own whimsical puppeteering of our world. I am quite lucky to play a spectrum of personalities in our back and forth banter. One of my personal favorites is “fairygodmother” (said as one word in a mafia-esc kinda way). In this role I am all-powerful and able to grant all and solve all! And yet again, I am reminded of my little darlings’ world…how rich and vivid and exciting it is. How fantastic stories emerge from the seemingly mundane and ordinary. Sadly, I am also reminded that the quickest way to squash these magical sparks is our hurried, structured, product-based reality, which often causes our worlds to collide. I barely have time to brush one child’s teeth nevermind make time to wait for “Morten” to come brush his teeth since “he has just decided he is joining us on our trip to school!”
Around our house, the usual suspects are characters from one of our favorite shows (I loved it before her and bought the whole collection long before she ever watched tv ) Lauren Child’s adorable British characters known as Charlie and Lola. Marv and Morten are brothers with unique personalities my daughter adores! She has even adapted another character named Lotta, into baby Lotta as often assigned to her baby sister. They are the cast who make frequent appearances, often standing beside me without me knowing, in the car with us, and there for good moral lessons and up-roarious laughs. It’s amazing to witness the world through her eyes, how free the imagination, uncensored and uninhibited. With every word in every story she weaves and shares her developing thought-process into intricate scenarios using these friendly characters. I can almost see her channeling me (her inner mommy is quite strong) as she lets them know what they “need to do”.
Let them play. Take the time and every opportunity to play with them. Don’t rush the stories, don’t brush them aside. These are probably the few times in life that as parents we will not only allow, but encourage and nurture their delight in pretending, in being someone else and not being reality-based. There will be enough time for those kinds of boundaries and the world’s expectations of how things should be, people telling them who they are and how to behave, people telling them what they can and can’t do. And while as parents it’s partly our job to do a share of that, this is a rare opportunity to compensate, to let them have their childhood. Get down on the floor, give them those extra few moments even when you’re in a rush. The dishes will wait and so will the laundry. Every request that you play a role is a precious invitation to embrace and engage. It wasn’t just Alice who had a rabbit hole, or the closet into Narnia. I bet if you listen closely and be still long enough to allow it, you too will find the secret magic in your home. Just follow your little ones’ sparkle and who knows, you may just reunite with your own little story-telling self.