On Sunday afternoons, the weekend is wearing on everyone. Especially a rainy weekend. We’ve been inside, we’ve already watched enough TV, we’ve read a lot of books (the same ones, over and again) and we’re all kind of counting down the hours until it’s time to go back to school. So an invitation to play a new game whose rules I am not responsible for is an intriguing proposition.
Ros (age 3): “Let’s play family!”
Me: “Okay! How do we play family?”
Ros: “You be the baby and I’ll be the mommy!”
Me: sweet, this means I get to lie down…
Ros: “Now, it’s time to go to sleep! I’ll get your lovey.”
I spent the next 45 minutes sprawled out on our oversized bean bag by the fire, alternately “sleeping” (heavenly) and making demands of my “mommy,” then watching her do her best to meet them. At one point I asked myself whether I was maybe deriving a little too much pleasure from parroting my favorite Ros-isms. “I want it NOW!” and “no, YOU do it!” and the classic “no I want BIG MILK!” The more I shouted, the more pleasure she seemed to derive from the whole game. Every time I managed an especially accurate imitation of her signature lines, a huge grin would spread across her face, and she would respond with barely-contained giggles, “don’t forget to ask nicely!” and “take a deep breath, baby!” She never lost her good nature, no matter how hard I pushed, which is to say the least a very generous rendition of my parenting. She was good-natured, kind and indulgent, but she didn’t relent to my demands for MORE ICE CREAM (“you get a little bit and then that’s it!”) and MORE LENTIL SOUP (“I can only give you a little bit more and then it’s all gone!”)
It started out as a game, with maybe a little taste-of-her-own medicine thrown in there (NO! I don’t WANNA and such like). But then it became this scenario where anything was possible, including a version of reality where the “baby” chooses to be her best self and decides to work with Mommy instead of against her. When I gave up the noisy resistance (as much as it delighted Ros) and said “Thank you, I love you, Mommy,” she responded with hugs and kisses and “I love you” back.
Sometimes, pretend care feels just as good as care itself, especially when the pretending involves lying supine and accepting fake bites of lentil soup (note to readers: Bert on Sesame Street likes lentil soup).