Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best: Toddler Life: Loathing Imaginary Play

Friday, 5 January 2018

Toddler Life: Loathing Imaginary Play


Now, you may think me disloyal but I really struggle with spending a day solo parenting in the house. Not to put it too bluntly, I get a little bored. Mind achingly, soul crushingly bored. Obviously I adore my children, I cannot imagine my life without them, the time I spend with them is so precious and they continue to amaze me every day etc. but most of their games seem to revolve around role play and if there is one thing I loathe in life it is role play.

Living the Dream
I detest taking on the persona of Maleficent, Scar, Gaston, The Wicked Stepmother or Ursula and my hatred is not solely limited to Disney villains. I also despise playing the pet, the pet owner, the big sister, the shop customer or the tea party attendant. It’s just not my bag. My husband, on the other hand, will immerse himself in it; happily getting down on all fours, adopting silly voices and inhabiting the character he has been given for not an inconsiderable length of time. He has clearly missed his calling; Royal Shakespeare Company eat your heart out.
Husband: Always game for a spot of role play (not like that)
I should also point out that I am immensely proud of my children’s ability to flex their imaginations and play make –believe, it eases my concerns that the digital babysitter features too much in their day to day lives and their brains are therefore fighting the transition to mush. I delight in my daughter’s long lasting friendship with her imaginary friend “Beega” (although that Beega needs a good dose of the naughty step with the way she constantly tries to lead my cherubic child astray) but I just don’t want to participate in it. Can I not just be a spectator? Is an audience not essential to any budding thespian?  

Daughter (left) with the lesser spotted Beega (right)

That is not to say that I hate being with my offspring, not at all, I just hate playing with my offspring. I enjoy many other aspects of spending time with them including (but not limited to) arts & crafts, outdoor pursuits, reading (with heartfelt voices), ball games, jigsaws, anything involving bubbles and building. But with my abhorrence of all things play-acting weighing heavily on my mind, I routinely seek out organised activities to fill our time, thus avoiding any lull which may require me to pretend, put on a voice or manipulate my body into the form of another creature. I remember in Nick Hornby’s About a Boy the protagonist, being happily unemployed, divides the day stretching out in front of him into manageable blocks. Whilst I found it entirely depressing in my ignorant liberated youth, since entering the world of toddler parenting it is a strategy to which I can entirely relate. An hour of dance class here, a trip to Book Bug at the library there, even a trip to the supermarket can be thrown in for good measure and once you factor in half an hour there and back, I can easily while away the day enjoyably. I should also point out that chatting with my four year old whilst we journey (the near two year old is no raconteur) is one of my all-time favourite past times and I consider her to be some of the finest company I have all week.
The Toddler conversation varies from the sublime to the ridiculous
However, should I wake in the morning with a day free of scheduling or pre-planned activities stretching out in front of me, like a pirates gang plank sure to plunge me into certain misery, I feel a cold sweat coming on. What if they want to pretend?

Utter dread
I know if I put my mind to it, I could easily feel guilty about this admission but truth be told I don’t remember ever enjoying make believe even as a child and I am almost certain that my imagination has always been somewhat encumbered by a depressingly realistic outlook. So I think I shall console myself with the fact that I put my heart and soul into narrating their numerous stories voices and all, and I must acknowledge the fact that parenting is not always the most enjoyable of jobs (see scooping excrement out the bath, night feeds, pelvic floor weakness and the mum/dad bod, plus the salary is downright deplorable). There will be times when I shall just have to steel myself, wave my limbs about like a demented fish, flick my hair back, issue a guttural laugh and decree my children to be “poor unfortunate souls!”.  

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