Maybe hate is too strong a word. And playing too broad…
I have a strong dislike for pretend play.
It feels awkward and fake and I’m terrible at it. My heart just isn’t in it and I think kids can see right through my gritted teeth.
When I worked front line with kids and saw pretend play as one of their goals, I groaned. Inappropriate, out loud groan. Now that I have my own little boy whose imagination is beyond anything I’ve ever seen in a four-year old (it really is!) well, I still groan.
And the guilt. OH the guilt! When he screeches and then shouts “Mommy spider!” and points to a spot on the floor and stares at me waiting for my reaction and for me to jump in with both feet…I just can’t do it. I try. I try to play along for a minute or two and then I either cleverly sneak away and let him go off on his own to continue the story, or I’ll distract him into something else. Hey look, Kitty! Who wants a cookie?!
I try. I try to immerse myself in his make-belief world but it’s sooooo hard for me.
Then a while ago I read this post by Kirsten Howerton at Rage Against the Mini Van and it completely summed up how I feel about play. And if a psychologist can put her guilt aside then so can I. Somewhat anyway.
I think it’s because I didn’t do much imaginary playing as a kid myself, that now I find it difficult. There are tons of theories on play and types of play and how the way you played as a child has an impact on how you learn as an adult and even influences your hobbies, activities etc. I’m definitely no expert in this area but to me, this idea makes sense. Given my preference for anything other than play, and thinking back to my childhood, it’s no wonder I have to grin and bear it.
I can remember playing house and other make belief things that seem like pretend play, but when I think of how we really played out those scenarios, it wasn’t playing at all! I can clearly remember playing ‘office’ with friends, except we didn’t play office, we set up a pretend office. It was all about arranging your desk, putting your fancy pen in a special spot, where should your phone go?! But we never got to role-playing/pretend play because it was all about the set up and the logical part of play. And, as an adult I sew, garden, cook all very useful and practical skills if I do say so myself! I need logic, I need practical. It’s just the way I am.
Today the boys got Easter baskets (stick with me, I have point). Except they weren’t Easter baskets they were little rectangular baskets, one white and one turquoise, that I can use after for other things. Practical. Logical. (When is too soon to snag them back?!)
I may not be good at play, or even good at faking to like it. But I kick some serious butt at other things; I can teach ABC’s, colours, reading, counting, opposites etc. like nobody’s business (one of my favorite things about parenting is teaching). I can run around and be silly. I have crafts galore and different activities that we can do together (thank you Pinterest) till the cows come home. I can organize a family, shop and cook and sometimes bake and make sure everybody is where they are supposed to be and mostly always on time too (although I should say I don’t do this all alone…love you Gordy!) I know where the red car, flashlight, and your wallet (Gord) is without even getting up off the couch.
I may lack in play skills but I think I make up for it in other ares of my kids lives. Although I’d like to think I can do all of it all the time, I know I can’t. Nobody can, and this is one thing that I have learned to let go and give myself a break over.