The Pretender

When you have a Pretender in the house, you find things like this (a panda bear napping under a baby blanket) in your bathtub:

When you have a Pretender, you put a bowl of grapes down on the table for a snack, and when you return a couple of minutes later, The Pretender has them lined up on the place mat because they are in school and it’s their first day and this one is feeling sad because he wants his mommy.

When you have a Pretender, she sees shapes in the clouds like a mad hippopotomous snoozing in his bed.

When you have a Pretender, you can expect to act out the stampede scene from The Lion King no fewer than fourteen times each day. If you are so bold as to ask if you can play your part from a seated position on the couch without moving – say, an interpretive rendition – your request will be met with utter devastation from The Pretender.

When you have a Pretender, you may offer her crayons to color with but you will find she uses them as characters in a mini-drama.

When you have a Pretender, you never know what your name is. She may call you doctor, or teacher, or Mufasa (see also: Lion King) and you are, of course, expected to answer in character at all times.

When you have a Pretender, you can get her to eat anything, so long as you give it a little voice, ventriloquist-style, and make it say Please eat me! I want to be inside your tummy! The Pretender is literally incapable of resisting this trick.

When you have a Pretender, instead of hearing things like PLEASE can I stay up for five more minutes?, you instead get things like But MOMMY! My baby doll is at daycare and I am still at work and won’t be back to pick her up until 6 o’clock!

When you have a Pretender you get to experience multiple layers of reality and very often find yourself unsure how to answer questions about what is true ‘in real life’ versus ‘just pretend.’

And you learn, after a while, that if play is her work, and pretend is her preferred method of play, then you must have something quite extraordinary on your hands. So you get up off the couch and act like a stampeding wildebeast. For the fifteenth time.

Children use make-believe to conquer their fears and explore their hopes and dreams. It’s in play that they get to initiate action instead of just constantly reacting. It’s a safe haven for honest self-expression.

:: Susan Linn, author of The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World, as quoted in this USA Today article)

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