Pretend you can't pretend. What would that be like?
Today, we met plenty of everyday Spectrum challenges as we engaged in all sorts of attempts to prevent them. I took the children to see the house we are in the process of buying and we drove through the city that will become their new home town. Going to the house is another story altogether of problems with expectations, predictions and transitions. What I'm mulling over most tonight though was not how C.S. ran away and hid right as we introduced him to the homeowner, or how he flapped through the formal rooms obviously excited, or how he stomped his feet and wailed in the basement crying to go to his real home obviously confused and disappointed ... what stood out sharpest today was the ride back home as I listened to my children "pretending" in the back seat of the car.
We had stopped for an early dinner a bit of a break before the hour drive back to my father's house where we've been staying. My step mother drove, my father sat in the passenger seat and I was in the back with the children. We ate at Cracker Barrel. While there DeDe spent some birthday money to purchase a Webkinz and Nana got a smaller one for C.S. so he wouldn't be disappointed.
These two Webkinz kept them thankfully engaged and distracted the whole way home. They named and assigned genders to their toys. They imagined social situations for them. And then, both my children, instead of developing voices for these characters or simply engaging with one another, they instead told, they commanded each other what to pretend. It went something like this:
DeDe: Pretend Nala just got a huge trophy and is really excited.
C.S.: And pretend Leo got one too and it's gold.
DeDe: Pretend they are on a platform and they are showing it to a big crowd. And pretend yours gives the trophy to Nala.
C.S. Pretend they're going to race again in a big finale. And pretend Leo wins!
Etc., etc, etc. The command "Pretend..." preceded every sentence for half an hour!
Then I suggested they try a new way to pretend — that instead of commanding each other what to imagine, that they take this scenario and simply say what they think their Webkinz would say and how they would say it.
For example, Nala could say: "Look at this trophy! It's huge! I've never gotten one so big and beautiful. I'm so excited about today's win."
And Leo could respond by saying, "And I got one too for my race. I think this could be real gold. Do you think your's is gold too?"
They tried it out. I kept having to remind them not to say "pretend..." but to just start speaking in character. It took a bit, but they were getting the hang of it. For another 15-20 minutes they played under my direction of less direction. It was an extremely interesting lesson for all of us. Obviously these are challenges BOTH of them, and I, are facing.
Silver Lining: Pretending to pretend is not as easy as one might think. But with extended family there to take the helm, Mom can take the back seat and we can learn how to pretend. Almost anything can be taught, really.