Saturday, December 9, 2006

Playing is hard work

My son is very, very serious about his playing. He always has been. Once, when I heard him "shooting" someone in the backseat of the car, I told him I didn't like it and he said, very matter of fact, "Mom. I'm just playing. That's how I learn." Okaaaayyy. I still have issues with gun play, but he doesn't do it often enough to warrant any attention. And I've learned that if I don't make an issue of it, it will peter out on its own.
He's an only child, so he doesn't have any built in playmates to figure out social situations, but we've been really lucky in that regard. He's incredibly kind and gracious in the school yard, and a terrific, imaginative playmate. I love to listen and watch when he plays with others, but my favorite thing to do is to hang around when he's on his own, playing his favorite things: trains or cars or "towns" where he plays with the trains and cars on the floor; "Max Train", where he types in his computer and makes announcements in English and "Spanish" and looks at the map and makes all the stops; or "Baja Fresh", which is similar to Max Train, without the stops, but with the addition of "receipts" - actual receipt tape that he writes on and leaves littering our basement floor. It looks like an accountant went nuts down here. He sometimes asks his Dad to play, but I'm not usually invited. That's okay, there are a lot of unspoken rules about these games, and I tend to break every one of them, and wind up feeling slightly crazy. But I love to listen in. I learn so much about my son and his world, and I'm proud of how observant and engaged he is. When he makes his "Max Train" announcements, my favorite thing is when he'll be announcing the stops in English, then interrupt himself in Spanish to make a different announcement. I've mentioned in another post his "Spanish" isn't really Spanish, but a mix of actual Spanish words with another new language - Pig Farsi, perhaps? - and it cracks me up and warms my heart to hear his chatter. His "town" play has taken a dramatic turn lately. There have been a lot of "accidents", and many police and ambulance cars have had to show up to take care of things.
The world must seem so daunting to him right now. He's gained so much independence, and is doing so well in school, and can do so many things by himself that months ago were only doable with an assist from Mom or Dad. It must seem terrifying to think that he might be responsible for himself at some point down the line. But he's preparing for it every time he plays.
He's learning so much every day. And so am I. I don't interfere too much in his make believe world, but know that it's an honor to be invited; and he's learning that when he plays, he can figure things out. He'll know when to call on us if a problem is too big to solve on his own. Car accidents and unruly rail passengers still warrant a shout out to mom or dad during play time, although he manages to contain the pretend situation with aplomb. But the little stuff he can handle - cleaning up his messes, doing his homework, personal hygiene. Lucky for us he finally learned to wipe his bottom on his own. He's very proud, and I am greatly relieved, having visions of him yelling for me from the bathroom of his dorm at college with his hands around his ankles - "Mom! POOP!" in a booming man voice.
It's hard as a parent to watch your children grow up and away, but it's a necessity.

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