Playing For "Real"
July 22, 2004
For those parents out there with only boys, you may not be able to relate to the following story, and for those people out there with no kids, well, you might as well stop reading, leave your home, and go spend some of that disposable income you have pouring out of your pockets. Use it up now before it takes hold of you and forces you to buy diapers, clothes, toys, food, and tuition.
For the rest of us, as POGs (Parents Of Girls), it is our duty to make sure that our girls live a completely sheltered life, free from the temptations of society, until they reach the age of 18. Of course, in doing so, we are forced to interact with our girls in ways to which we can’t relate.
As a FOG (Father Of Girls, the second-class citizen of POGs), I am often dumbfounded by the things my girls find entertaining. A MOG (you get the picture) can at least relate to the degree that she was that age once, but a FOG has no chance. I throw a ball to my 4 year old daughter and she hugs it. I throw it to my 2 year old and she politely hands it back to me as if to say, “I’m sorry father, but this spheroid has somehow landed inexplicably in my possession. I trust that you will know what to do with it. Perhaps the dog would like it.”
Instead, my girls are most excited with playing “house.” Whether it’s acting like a cook, waitress, or a mommy, they tend to want to act out the situations they most despise in “real life.” It’s easier to get Robin Williams to sit still for a photo op than to get my oldest daughter to sit for an entire meal, but if she is PRETENDING to be eating, drinking, pouring tea, coffee, or other assorted beverages, she can sit there ALL DAY LONG, serving up imaginary dishes as if she was bred to live her life as a short order cook.
I don’t get it. Let’s play a game that involves thinking. Let’s play something that requires learning a skill or coordination (besides dancing). Let’s ride a bike and enjoy it for its basic childish joy and not pretend that you are a mommy going to the store. Let’s run. Let’s throw. Let’s catch. No, no, no. No, no, and certainly no.
Never satisfied with my suggestions, my girls insist on basically pretending to live a normal life, even though their lives are already quite normal. Boys pretend to be cowboys, astronauts, pro athletes, and other figures beyond the realm of normalcy. Girls want to be mommy. I have no idea how to “play” that other than to go on drinking my coffee and reading my paper, but somehow that isn’t right! Always at a loss, I try to change the game, but it invariably leads to the most hypocritical game of all: putting things to bed.
Listen to my daughters complain about bedtime one evening and you would think my wife and I force them to sleep on a bed of nails with wool blankets in a steam room. Many days, we don’t rock them to sleep; they kick and scream themselves to sleep. Their single most favorite activity during the day however? Taking turns PUTTING EACH OTHER TO BED! One is the mommy and the other is the baby, and it drives me crazy.
It doesn’t end there. My girls can put anything to bed. My oldest daughter used to put her dolls and stuffed animals to sleep, but my youngest daughter has taken it to a whole new level. She will put our dog (“take a nap!”), a flashlight (“no more talking!”), and yes, even her cookie (“go to sleep!”) to bed. If it’s within arm's reach, she will put a blanket, towel, or napkin on it and whisper it to sleep.
What’s a FOG to do when he sees his daughter about to eat her Chips Ahoy, but think better of it and tuck it in?? I can’t, and won’t, relate to that. Our third child is due soon, and if it’s a boy, I will teach him to throw until he needs Tommy John surgery at age 5. He will be named Baron von Manlyman and will eat his cookies with authority, taking them down one by one (“no sleep for you!”). If it’s a girl? I’ll slip back into FOG mode and her three “mommies” and I will make quite sure she is well rested.