Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Family roles

Both of our kids have suddenly acquired the kind of imagination it takes to roleplay, and they love to act out versions of stories they see on TV or read in books. Sometimes the playlet is elaborate -- sometimes simple.

On the simple side, Cady Gray decided some weeks ago that she would get "stuck" occasionally and require the ministrations of "Super Archer" or "Super Daddy" to rescue her. More frequently in the past few days, she's been urging me to admire her beautiful "jools" (antecedent to their theft by some mysterious character, probably from Little Einsteins). She asks me if I'm wearing my "jools," and then addresses me as "Lady Mommy."

Better that than "Servant Mommy," the title given to me by Archer as we got ready to go on our walk this evening. Then he asked me what a servant was. I said it was someone who helped another person and did whatever that person said -- fed them, helped them get dressed, ran their errands. The shoe does fit, I confess, but I'll wear it only by choice and not by fiat.

More poignant is Cady Gray's recent concern for my welfare. Little girls, I'm told, go through this stage when they mother their parents, and she's in it. On walks she asks to hold my hand "so you'll not be scared." The only clue I have as to why I might be scared comes from a few vague references to "the birds will be too loud, and the birds will be quiet."

Ever since we got Archer a 20 Questions game around Father's Day (it was the gift he picked out for Noel, but he immediately appropriated it), he's been pretending to be the computer inside that surprisingly knowledgeable ball. Yesterday he wanted me to think of something; I picked celery, which we'd just been talking about -- the Wonder Pets have convinced both children that it's delicious (and they say television isn't a positive influence on kids).

His questions remained mostly on point, and of course directly quoted from the 20Q ball ("Is it a vegetable? Do you hold it when you use it? Does it have leaves?"). But then came the oddly apropos quotation, delivered in his trademark deliberate drawl: "Is it comforting?"

Thank goodness for the models of conversation provided by the electronic media. Without the hosts, reporters, and inteviewees on television, we'd have much less back-and-forth with Archer. Today at lunch, he observed suddenly, and with touching curiosity: "Dad, you and Mom are not drinking your soda. Why?"

I always knew that at some point their questions would get harder to answer. If you feel like answering some hard questions of your own, play the 20Q A.I. online -- it's fun to try the newer variations on the classic game like Harry Potter 20Q, Old Testament 20Q (it guessed "Delilah" in 17 questions) and 20Q Movies (Sunset Boulevard took it the full 20 questions, largely due to a previous player who had classified it as an actor rather than a movie, leading to questions like "Do you wear glasses?").

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