Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kids at Play

D1 has hit the stage where children seek to Establish Gender Identity--or, in other words, they latch on to the most absurd gender stereotypes and enforce them rigorously. Thus, D1 insists that "girls love pink," no matter how many times I assert that I am a girl and I hate pink.

But D2 remains in the more innocent stage before, and thus is quite happy to pretend to be a girl when the story demands it. When we first started reading Little House in the Big Woods, D1 would naturally be Mary and he would be Laura. D3 was Carrie, and D4 played "our good bulldog, Jack." (I hope it doesn't traumatize him when he learns that he always gets cast as the dog. There is something very puppy-like in his expressions.)

After a while, though, they began to switch, with D2 playing Mary. We finally asked them why that was. Apparently they had heard from somewhere that in future books Mary got sick and turned blind. This prospect frightened D1, so she no longer wanted to pretend to be Mary. DOB asked D2 if he wasn't worried about becoming blind. "No," D2 said, "I made another one where she doesn't get blind, so it's OK." No wonder he has trouble in real life when he can't rewrite the story and make it come out better.

But if D2 himself gets to pick the story to play, it's more likely to be St. George and the Dragon. D1 is then Una, the brave damsel who goes in search of a knight to slay the dragon and save her country, and the rest of us get cast as horses, servants, etc. Yesterday D2 took up his sword and shield and arranged two rolling clothing racks to serve as the dragon. After a couple of battles he came to me and said, "I cut the dragon apart!" Sure enough, the racks were pulled apart.

"Is the dragon dead?" I asked.

"No," he said, "I have to fight it one more time." (Because in the book, St. George severs the dragon's tail on the second day, but doesn't finally defeat the dragon until the third day of fighting.) Curiously, I'm still waiting for the reputedly inevitable gunplay to arrive, but apparently he has no stories for guns yet, so he is content with swords.

It is amusing the way different children play. D1 and D2 are role-playing nearly every waking moment. (And probably most of their sleeping ones as well.) This has been true since they were barely old enough to talk and assert that they were each other. The great advantage of predominantly fantasy play is that it poses little danger to the house, at least as long as no one decides that water is needed for the game. D2's young friend astonished his mother by dismantling the baby's crib during naptime--I can't imagine D2 doing this. He might stare at the crib and *think* about dismantling it, and even wave some toy tools in its general direction, but he would never bother to actually undertake the task. (This is why tales of magic are so appealing to people with a particular mental orientation. If only we really could do all these things just by thinking very hard about them, and not subject ourselves to the inevitable frustration of using our hands!)

Will the twins follow in their older siblings' footsteps? Or will they be more experimentally-oriented in their play? Right now they are mostly interested in grabbing as much as possible and biting it, so it's hard to say.


Devona said...

those two books are at the top of our imaginary repertoire in this house, too. Although we are moving on to more house-play since the new baby is coming and Elise is the baby, Olivia is the mother and I am the Father. If Rob is home, I get to be the neighbor. We skipped any mimicking play when Olivia was in her 18 mo to 2 yr stage, so we're making up for it now.

I was just going to post when Olivia showed up with a red tutu around her neck growling at me. She is a lion. I thought it was worth mentioning that this happens around here all the time, too.

Steve said...

I've heard stories about families that are severely anti-violence, to the point of discouraging all play fighting and disallowing all weapons.

The kids ended up chewing their sandwiches into the shape of a gun and playing with those.

Anonymous said...