One of the more interesting aspects of my childrens relationship with each other is how each of them approaches pretending. They both play and they both pretend but in different ways. Jay has no interest in making up fight scenes between Bumblebee and a Deceptocon (Transformers characters) like Ace does but his imagination takes him to places that Ace just cannot understand.
In Ace’s mind, things have their purpose and that’s it. Erasers are for erasing and birthday party hats are for wearing on your birthday – Not for the 3 months following it. He can pretend to have fights with his action figures because that’s what action figures are for. He however, gets bent out of shape when Jay takes a walkie-talkie and pretends to use it like a yo-yo. Because it’s NOT a yo-yo, it’s a walkie-talkie. Ace loves to tell me when things are impossible. And if something is impossible, there is no acting like it’s not. He knows that cartoons are “fiction” so he can watch them through that lens but he cannot wrap his head around Jay seeing weeds outside and pretending that they are carrots in a vegetable garden. Learning to suspend his disbelief is definitely something that we’ve been working on. I want him to be able to let go of some of his rigid thinking and be free-er. I often tell him that it’s OK to pretend no matter how silly it is or how far your imagination takes you and he has to allow Jay to pretend in whatever way he wants. He can’t always yell at him and stop him from using a piece of chalk as a guitar.
While Ace can and does use sheets to make a tent on his bed, and he can and does use pillows to build a bridge from the couch to the coffee table I think that’s because he was taught those things or he saw someone else do it first and it looked like fun. I don’t think he would have come up with those ideas on his own. I don’t mean that as a criticism. It’s just the way his brain works right now. I do think there is room for him to broaden his thinking and I think he’s open to it.
I will be the first to say that he may have gotten some of that from me. Genetically speaking. I know I don’t have the best imagination. As a kid I played – sure. We had pretend Olympics where we would race each other on roller skates and we played cops and robbers where a plum tree was the jail. But I pretty much played with things in the way they were designed to be played with. I was never crafty – Still am not. I follow recipes and am horrible at substitutions should I be missing an ingredient.
It’s a little ironic that it’s my autistic son that seems to have the best imagination in our household. I’m glad for that and I’m glad he’s there to help all of us to become a little less rigid in how things are supposed to go and what purpose each thing is supposed to have.
Just the other day Ace fell off the couch. Jay immediately shouted, “Oh no! Ace is dead.”
Then he jumped on him and proceeded to give him mouth to mouth.
Ace was laughing so hard it made me laugh too. When Ace “came back to life” thanks to Jay using a dry erase marker as a life saving device of some sort, he insisted that Jay die next. That game went on for about ½ an hour.
Since then they have played similar games on and off. I love seeing them play together and I love that they are playing imagination games inspired by Jay and quickly picked up by Ace.
*Quick side story*
In the car on the way to school Ace and I were talking about how everyone is good at some things but finds other things difficult. We came up with all kinds of examples of things that each of us are good at where the other one needs more help with it. I think it’s a good lesson to learn.
As we were pulling up to his school I told him that I loved him and wished him a good day and reminded him to listen to his teacher. Then I added, “… and be nice to everyone.” He hugged me and said “I’m always nice to everyone. That’s something I’m good at.”
And you know what? He’s right. Wild imagination or not, he’s such a sweet kid.