by Sarah Scott
“Let’s play house. You’re the dad!” my daughter, Amelia, exclaimed grabbing her baby doll.
“OK. But I live in Florida.” The neighbor boy replied.
“Ok. But you have to come and visit on Christmas and Thanksgiving,” Amelia bargained.
“And he gets the kids on the weekends. If he’s home,” her girlfriend chimed in.
I sat stunned on the back porch as I listened to the children (ages 5, 7, 8 and 9) play “house” and negotiate visitation rights on the swing set in the backyard. Once settled, the girls proceeded to talk about their boyfriends. The “dads” went off to play baseball until the girls interrupted their game to tell them it was a weekend or a holiday and then handed them the baby dolls. I was shocked.
My daughter’s father and I are married. She also has a younger brother whom she tolerates, and, occasionally, likes. She never wanted to play “house” until she started playing regularly with our neighbors. I never realized how different her playing “house” would be from the game I played as a child. I shouldn’t be shocked. Like so many other families in our neighborhood, this is the reality of more than half of her friends and classmates.
My first instinct is to shelter my child. Stop the play. I don’t have a good reason other than I felt distressed as a parent. Why? Because different can sometimes be scary. As a preschooler, my daughter used to pretend to be a puppy dog, a super hero, a ballerina, a witch, a princess, a doctor, a restaurant owner, a vet. But, as a first grader, she pretends to be a divorced, dating single mother trying to raise kids on her own.
Her world of pretend has taken on new meanings, and it often puzzles and scares me. I wonder if the play is therapeutic for the kids living it. I wonder if my kids are trying to understand what their friends’ lives are like. I want to use this opportunity to teach my kids about life.
The kids played until dinner time. The neighbors went home. As our cozy family of four gathered around the table, I said grace with the kids and silently poured out my heart to God for other families. As we began to eat, Amelia giggled with glee telling her dad, “We had fun today, Daddy! We played house!”
Sarah Scott is a preacher’s wife and mother of two. She is a former MOPS coordinator and current MOPPETS worker at her husband’s church.