“Mommy, will you play with me?” Is the question I hear most. It’s a question that comes when I’m reading, or checking facebook, or trying to remember and write down that great idea I had on the elliptical, or making dinner. Steeped in my own thoughts, the question breaks through, and I feel several answers vying for reply.
“Not right now” is a classic reply. We all have things to do, I can’t always drop that stuff and play. Lots of times I don’t want to play. What is play, anyway, what does a grown up do when she plays? It’s not drive hot wheels cars along a raceway patterned carpet, that’s for sure. When I say it, “not right now,” I feel guilty somehow, like I’m negligent. I remind myself that I’m not responsible for my child’s entertainment. For his growth, behaviour, nutrition, cleanliness, and lots of other things that I can’t even think of while commuting this morning, I am responsible, but not to entertain him. When I was a kid I was perpetually asking the grown ups in my life to play with me. That’s what happens when you’re the only kid. I was often told to go play outside, which I reluctantly did. Usually I would grab a book and my bike and go find some shady place to read. That’s a great option, but not for a five year old in Brooklyn.
Sometimes I surprise myself and say “sure, what should we play?” This leads to Legos, hot wheels, magnatile space stations. But of late, it’s lead to games. Actual real games. While Dave takes these play opportunities to teach chess, or do these crazy 3-D maze games on his iPad, I’ve taken the Milton Bradley approach. We play Monopoly Jr., Connect 4, some puzzle board game about Richard Scarry’s Busy Town. The surprising part is that we actually have a great time. When I can banish the productivity part of my brain and exist within the moment of play, I find myself enjoying how C learns the progress of the game, his competitive spirit, his patience and willingness to learn.
As I write about games I remember a dream I once had. It was maybe 8 or so years ago that I had this dream. The room was dark, in that way that a day lit room descends slowly into shadow as the sun fades. The game was illuminated by the thin light of one lamp shining on the playing surface. I was playing with a little kid, and I couldn’t see his face. While the dream me was familiar with the game and knew how to play, the dreamer me didn’t recognize the game. It was a card game, with picture cards, and it wasn’t very complicated. By the end of the dream something terrible had happened, although I didn’t know what it was. The dream me knew that this was her last peaceful moment. I haven’t remembered that dream in a long while, although at the time I couldn’t get it out of my head.
We signed up for the summer reading project at our local Brooklyn Public Library. I may have gushed already on this blog about K, our children’s librarian and my old friend. Having your friend be the children’s librarian really reduces the intimidation factor of the library. (Yes, I said intimidation factor of the library. There’s lots of other parents there, who I find intimidating, and middle school children, who lets face it, can be intimidating to a mom with a little kid, or to anyone who had a yuck time in middle school.) The summer reading challenge came with this sheet we were supposed to draw on and turn in and get a sticker or something, but we turned it into a game. Moms, dads, gramses and grampses, all of you who love the kid who is in your care, PLAY THIS GAME. Hope I’m not infringing on any copyrights, all the credit goes to BPL.
Here’s how it works: ask the first question, then everyone goes around and answers it. Then move on to the second. By the end your have your very own team of super heroes, had a great time imagining for everyone involved, and have new points of reference between you and your kid. For us, the superheroes we’ve created have become story telling elements, fodder for songs, and talking about them, what they’re doing, their adventures, their secret bases, has become a language we can use to talk about everything from the gravitational pull of the moon on oceans to what kind of house would be the best to live in.
Okay the game, extrapolated from the BPL sheet, scanned below.
What are your super powers, where did they come from, and what’s your super hero name?
What is your superhero gear and costume?
What is your super hero catch phrase?
What is a device that protects you or helps you stop evil doers?
Who is the villain in your super hero story?
What and where is your super hero base?
Bonus: what is your super hero pet and what powers do they have?
We sometimes play before bed and then team up to make up a bedtime story about our super heroes. C makes up the same super hero every time, his own version of The Flash, but every time we go through it, he deepens the character. These are the super heroes we came up with, and by we I mean all the people we got to play it with us so far:
The Flash- super running speed
Sleeptasma- can sleep anywhere, and will fall asleep at once
Smelly Man- smelling powers and the power of noxious smells
Detective D- mystery solver
Haiku2- word power
Snack Master- always well provisioned
ElliptiGirl- can harness the power of the elliptical
Invisible Chick- invisibility power
Storm Man- power over the weather
Sunny Jones- Storm Man’s nemesis
Porcupitious- a villain with the power of porcupines
If you play the game, and feel like sharing, tell me what your super heroes are and we’ll have a whole freakin fleet!
These are our other favorites: