Sunday, October 20, 2013
An Old Play Story
One fine day about eight years ago, I started my oldest two children on algebra. While they worked, I played toys with my youngest. It was two different faces of school, in a way.
In the process of introducing them to the concepts of “order of operations” and “balance of equations” and the like, I swiftly determined that what we really need for this was a good easel-style dry-erase board. We've been needing one for a while, always putting off the purchase for financial reasons, and, well . . .
Trying to explain algebra to two kids using a single text book as a visual aid leaves a great deal to be desired. Still, they were getting it.
There are skills to thought, and to different types of thought. One step at a time, they were learning those skills. And yes, sometimes after class their heads would tend to hurt. It's like building a muscle, kids. What can you do. They were starting to truly appreciate just how vital reading comprehension can be, since we were using reading skills to learn mathematics.
I was then and I continue to be now of the opinion that if you can read, and understand what you read, you can learn anything that has been written.
But while the Lioness and Laughing Mouse were hard at work, I played with the Wolf Cub - who was quite a bit younger then than she is today. Aside from being its own reward, this also gave me an idea of my children's anticipated behavior, “physics”, fantasies, hang-ups, and the like. Not a perfect view, mind you, but a small-if-distorted-by-circumstances-of-play glimpse.
So, the Wolf Cub and I played toys. She led the plot, and I followed.
On this day, the game was about a herd of horses and their friend / protector, The Basilisk (we had the toy from the Harry Potter playset). There were also various dinosaurs, “evil poachers” who kept trying to hunt the horses. We spent a reasonable amount of time developing the different characters, and having a few comedic turns here and there while the foals made fools of the dinosaur-poachers in a Looney-Tunes kind of way. Notice that it was the foals, not the stallions and mares, who were the heroes of the piece.
Eventually, I asked that we wrap the game soon. Much as I wanted to keep playing, I had other things I needed to do to that day.
At that point, we reached the real conflict in the story. The dinosaur-poachers killed the lead stallion, “took off his blood”, ate half the meat and sold the other half to an armored dinosaur and a black panther for a fortune in American Cherries (“Two hundred and forty one: that’s a fortune in cherries, Coyote”).
The game ultimately ended with the dinosaur-poachers being hunted down by the lead stallion’s children and slaughtered. The ending scene was the entire herd, with the Basilisk, dancing in celebration upon a vast mound of burning skulls-- all that remained of their foes.
(At first, she decided that the lead stallion came back to life because it was Easter... but she changed her mind and said that that toy was now a different horse instead.)
And so, having killed all their enemies and secured their revenge, the horses lived happily ever after.
It's easy sometimes to forget that children often feel just as fiercely protective of their parents as their folks do towards them. And it was certainly good to see that she wasn't afraid of her own power. But I recall wishing she would pay a little more attention in real life when we tried to caution her about things. I never blamed her for wanting more power and freedom in her life. She was five at the time and thus got to exercise precious little of either-- certainly far less than she can today. However, unlike the foals in our game, she was not indestructible. It is that illusion of indestructibility that forms the jagged line in the sand between childhood fantasy and adult freedom. And when she was ready, they were for her and her alone to face.
(Dinosaur pic courtesy of sodahead.com; celebrating horses courtesy of thewildhorsespirit.com. All rights reserved by thse who rightfully reserve them.)