As a parent I find my children fascinating—most parents do. But for me, it’s a little different in that I’ve found children fascinating my entire life. I’ve been told I have an old soul, and would buy into that given that I always felt older somehow than my peers.
Now, I find children fascinating in so many ways, but in particular when they are playing. I like nothing more than to sit in a room separate from the kids and just listen to what they say and do. It provides an insight into how their minds work that is at times humorous, and at other times disturbing. Mostly, it is just enlightening.
Take for example, years ago, my sister and niece. They were about 5 at the time. They were playing with their dolls in the next room and something tragic was happening to the dolls. My sister suddenly yelled, “Save yourselves! And take the sandwiches!!” I laughed hysterically. Take the sandwiches? Really? In hindsight, I recall that my sister—who is mine in spirit if not biology—had at the time been living between two homes and did not always have three square meals a day. It made perfect sense that food would be a concern of hers in a crisis.
Then there are my boys. A while back they became obsessed with babies. I thought nothing about it at the time, but many of their games involved a baby. Nothing bad was happening to the baby, there was just always one around. Then I found out that their father and his girlfriend had just had a baby (and no, he hadn’t bothered to mention that fact during the 9 months the bun was baking, but what can you say?). Suddenly, the boys’ baby-talk made a lot of sense.
My point is that when children play by themselves—no adults in the room—they tend to play whatever is going on in their lives. As parents or caregivers, we can learn a lot about our kids just by listening when they don’t know we can hear. I’ve had friends who found out (sadly) that something bad had happened by doing this. I’ve also had myself the experience of finding out something great that happened. Is it an invasion of their privacy? Not at this age in my opinion. Plus there’s always my Dad’s philosophy of you get a right to privacy when you pay the bills! But more importantly, just listening can teach you a lot about your kids, and so far mine always laugh when I come in and ask them about their play.
Of course, then there are the times that there isn’t a reason—or at least I hope there isn’t—other than kids being kids. My boys were playing last week and there was a very serious war being fought. They were both on the same team battling some gruesome foe who was getting ready to destroy them. The conversation went like this:
A: We need reinforcements!
M: Fall back! Pull out!
A: Let’s go! We’ve got to get out on the battlefield!
M: I can’t…I’m just a girl.
A: Nobody wants to hear that! Let’s go girls!
If anyone can tell me what that exchange means, please let me know. I’m still laughing, but also wondering about my sexist, adorable, gender-bending boys. *Sigh*…the joys of parenthood. At least they have a lot to tell their therapist later!