Hal wanted to play in the backyard at his Denver grandma’s house recently. The problem is, he’s not allowed back there without someone watching him. I stepped up to the task and joined him outside. I was relieved that he wanted to do something besides either play a game on his Nintendo DS or stare in awe as his brother played Minecraft.
We were soon engaged in some very… imaginative… play.
He handed me a small tree branch with many, many thin limbs and announced that it was my sword. He pointed to the largest one (still smaller in diameter than the average pencil) and said, “If this one breaks off, you have plenty of others to use instead.” He brushed his hand across the other “blades”. I swished it back and forth, which he appreciated. I declared it a tickle sword and tickled his belly with it. He shrieked and ran away.
He soon approached me with his laser death ray. As he pointed it at me, I desperately swished my tickle sword in the air between us. He declared me dead. I objected, saying that my tickle sword had disrupted the air between us and his death ray had not made it to me. He grudgingly admitted that I was indeed not dead.
We then went through several rounds of “Pretend that…” That’s the game where only one person (the youngest) is permitted to use his or her imagination. He’s the stage director, the script writer, the producer, and the main actor. He helpfully supplies my lines each step of the way: “Pretend that you didn’t see me and you heard a sound. And then say ‘Oh, no! What is that sound?!'”
My husband joined us at some point. He and I sat on the porch swing while Hal ran around and acted out his imagination. At one point, he told us to close our eyes and pretend that he had been “over here sleeping” and we had failed to notice that he had sneaked out. When Daddy didn’t close his eyes, Hal amended the instructions to just pretend we hadn’t seen him. He then acted out a fantastical and dangerous scenario with dragons and then pretended to wake up and tell us that he had had this terrible dream!
To his delight, I hammed it up and joined in enthusiastically. My husband glanced at me periodically with raised eyebrows. I laughed even harder.
Eventually, Hal tired of being the sleeping boy and decided he was a “Zombie Pigman”. He walked around the deck with outstretched arms and stiff legs, snorting loudly through his nose. He approached me and attacked before I could fully raise my tickle sword in defense. I tried in vain to fend him off but in the end, lost first my sword and then the battle. The Zombie Pigman strutted triumphantly away.
He headed to the sleeping area of the little boy next. “Aha!” he announced. “I am going to steal this little boy while he sleeps!”
I leaped from the swing. “Oh no you don’t!” I announced. “You leave my little boy alone!”
I rushed toward him and he snatched the imaginary boy and took off. I grabbed at him and he quickly pantomimed eating his victim. I pulled away and declared triumph, cradling my precious cargo to my chest as I returned to the swing. He claimed it was too late, he had already eaten my son. I pretended to rock my child and explained that he had managed to eat only the right pinky finger before I had pulled him to safety.
The Zombie Pigman lunged toward the swing and reached for the child. I pulled back. He claimed he got it. I disagreed. “But I’m stronger than you!” he explained.
I laughed. “Stronger than a fierce momma protecting her dear baby?! I don’t think so!”
“Fine.” he said, walking away. “I’ll just go find a baby that no one cares about.”