Everyone has, at some point or another, played “Pretend”. Either in a tree, a parking lot, the schoolyard, or, in bed with a person after concluding it was far too late to roll out, grab your blouse, shimmy across the floor like a wounded caribou and go home to make love to your DVR instead. It happens. Let’s not dwell on my, I mean THE past.
There’s something so genuinely innocent about watching children let their imaginations run wild. It reminds us to dream outside of our circular responsibility pattern. That loop that varies but, mostly remains consistent. It’s a wake-up call to think big, live big and yes, to buy the damn Powerball ticket because 50 million is a lot of money to not win simply because you didn’t try. And, sometimes lightning does strike and when it does and it hits your tree and that tree falls into your neighbor’s car and home, you’ll be happy you have your Powerball earnings to snuggle with at night.
I watch my children create fantasy worlds that vary completely even when given the same tools. A whisk has been a wand, a telescope, the key that opened a treasure chest and the last piece of bread that my boxcar children shared in their treehouse. Sometimes, kids who aren’t hungry pretend that they are. There is something about this particular play that strikes me as so human. Hunger means we share what we have. Kids innately know this without being told.
Pretend does not always take on the face of kindness. There is angry pretend. There is fearful pretend. I hear them work out their phobias in pretend play that shapes itself as drowning, falling, being left alone, being lost, being eaten by animals and a myriad of other highly-uncomfortable-to-watch scenarios. At the end of the game, all who are dead come back to life. Death is profound and forever. They are not ready to truly pretend that.
I play pretend as well. Grown-up pretend is never as much fun. Sometimes, my husband and I pretend that we aren’t upset that someone fell asleep before the other could make it upstairs and the other pretends they aren’t upset because they can’t help falling asleep. BORING. So, we pretend that everything is OK because it mostly is. For this kind of pretend, the answers can’t be found in a whisk.
I think about how pretend can either nourish or starve authenticity. How sometimes we really are the fire breathing dragon. Sometimes, we’re the benevolent queen. Sometimes, we’re the pirate raiding the treasure chest. Sometimes, we’re the evil dictator. These pieces can all live inside of us honestly if we embrace them, and still not be the whole of who we are. Denying the existence of my dragon would only decrease my % of benevolent queen. Science.
I watch my children embrace their subconscious fears. In play, I watch them go to the places that terrify them most. I watch them return from the dark with even more light. I am reminded to try to process my fears in this same way. Say it out loud, live there for a moment and then, let it go. Return to gratitude and happiness. Live authentically.
The masks we put on must find their way back to the play room shelf.
Now, has anyone seen my wand? I need to scramble some eggs.