Pretend

Today’s guest post is by Barbara in Robbinsdale.

Welcome to a place where pine cones are medicine, a stick can be a baby bottle, a lily-of-the-valley is a fairy lamp with lots of little tiny lights.

I get to see my 8-year-old neighbor Lola each week for a couple of hours. She always has an idea for what we should do, and although we’ve done a couple of artsy projects (yes, she’s made a placemat from old greeting cards), the most fun has been pretend. And the best place for pretend seems to be out of doors.

I had almost forgotten about pretend. I did plenty of it both as a child, and when my child was young in the 80s. But that was long ago, so clearly I was a bit rusty. I found it’s a bit like riding a bike – you never really forget how. One person says something like “This stone can be the fairies’ doorstep”, and suddenly you find yourself saying “I know some seashells that can be more steps – I’ll go get them!”

When one of those last snowstorms surprised us, Lola and I converted the woodpile-snowdrift into a Fairytown, where the overturned shells became stepping stones, and later (not overturned) for fairy dishes. A hollow log was a safe haven for squirrels and chipmunks and other critters. Once it got warmer, Husband helped us build a Fairy House from some scrap wood pieces and an old squirrel feeder.

Our favorite game to date has been Ambulance. Lola created a doll hospital in a pine tree’s low branches, with hammock style beds she fashioned from tablecloths. She had brought three dolls with her that day, and the wheel barrow was enlisted as The Ambulance.

With the use of both my cordless and cell phones, I was able to call Lola the Ambulance Driver and tell her what street to zip over to (streets were named by what they were near: Garden Lane, Brick Lane, Shovel Lane…). She whisked an injured baby to The Hospital, where there were five available rooms named by the type of injury they housed: Broken Left Leg, Broken Right Leg, Broken Left Arm, Broken Right Arm, and Anything Else!

There was even a waiting room for me, the anxious mother – the garden bench out front over by Brick Lane. All babies/toddlers were successfully treated and given pinecone medicines, and returned by the Ambulance to their homes.

Do you have anyone in your current life with whom you can pretend?
If not, try it here: What would be the prominent features of your imaginary town?

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64 thoughts on “Pretend”

  1. Good morning to all:

    I am off to visit with the other seedy people at the annual gathering of the Seed Saver’s Exchange. I don’t remember any good story about playing pretend, but I’m sure I did do this when I was young, when my children were young, and with my grandchildren. With a little time I am sure I could come up with something, but in hurry to go and see the other seed savers and tell tall tales about seed saving. Very nice guest blog BiR.

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    1. Jim, if you meet Tor, please say hi for us (Steve, me and Alba).
      BIR – will be fun to read today – and very lucky little Lola to have such a kind and willing neighbor to play with. thanks!

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    2. Jim, i have a seed question. We planted Yellow Indian Woman beans and thought they were bush beans. They are looking more like climbing beans and resemble our Blue Lake Pole beans. Do you know much about the Indian beans?

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      1. I don’t have any information in the books I have about Yellow Indian Woman bean, Renee. My knowledge about Indian beans is not too great. I have grown a few and some were bush beans and others were pole beans. There are some bush beans that have short runners. If you have one of these it can be grown without poles or other support, but it will take up more space with it’s runners that spread out around the plant if you don’t put up something to support it.

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  2. Nice story, Barbara. As a play therapist I get to pretend quite a lot through out the day. It’s sort of exhausting. I have a few small clients who have to reenact the same scenario each time I see them. I am often cast as a bad guy and I get shot, stabbed, handcuffed and tied up. Repeatedly. I bet you didn’t know how hard it is to kill play therapists, or that they have the power to be miraculously raised from the dead. I have numerous pretend meals prepared for me using the toy food and sand from the sand tray, food that is always delicious.and requires me to make noisy eating sounds. I also have to be the patient and get check ups and shots. Lots of shots. Your young friend is lucky to have you as a play mate. Pretending is great and an important childhood activity.

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    1. I’m so sorry about the handcuffs and the shots, Renee. It’s not nearly as much fun to play pretend when you don’t get to be the decider at least half of the time! I remember a bossy older friend…

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  3. BiR
    great post. thanks for helping to remember the days of pretend. when i was a kid used to find time to pretend everyday. i would listen to music and bounce on the old couch downstairs and my mind would sail off to a million miles away. i would get on my bike and head off to the farmers fields or the river bottoms and the imagined worlds of jungles through the corn stalks and life on the missippi when floating a bobber on the banks of the minnesota river near my house. in first grade i was constantly getting reprimanded for doing my math geography and science too quickly because the teacher in an effort to keep the 1st graders occupied if there was spare time after an assignment was done had suggested we could write stores to fill the time. i found i was hurrying through the regular assignments to get to the writing of stories.
    50 years later my daughter the 7th grader has finally figured out how to deal with her need to live in a parallel pretend world. she writes stories. when she was little she would do play acting without any prompting as a matter of fact it was without thinking. she would pick up a pair of mittens from the back seat while she was strapped into her car seat and begin a hand puppet punch and judy sort of act while we drove along. at my house the bathtub is the lace of meditation and she would have barbie in about 6 different hairstyles with a ken or two to put on act 1 act 2 and act 3,. we would be doing something and i would look around and notce she was missing and her mother would point to the other room and say ” shes having her pretend time” it was so special and then as she became a young lady and the homework ,piano and oboe lessons basketball and baseball started competing for the hours of the day.. this past year her teacher had his mother come in to help with the school writing in his classroom,she had been a high school writing teacher . she couldn’t get over my daughters writing. i had given her a phone that had a keyboard on it and she began typing up stories on it. it turned into an obsession where she would type on the way to school and piano and everywhere we went. the stories she would read back were like hearing boks on tape by some author i had not heard of , certainly not my 11 year old. this summer she is taking classes at the loft and is happy as a clam with the writing challenges and encouragement she is experiencing. . pretend is a great place to be and to encourage. your little friend is lucky to have you and your husband to help her discover the wonders. not everyone gets it. glad you do.

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    1. ……the lace of meditation…….
      tim, you were perhaps the last person on the blog I might have suspected of appreciating the meditative qualities to be found in crafting a piece of lace. you’ve given me an idea for a project…. (ideas for projects are my personal fantasy world-sometimes, they get out into the real world).

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  4. How great that she can take a writing class, tim! Do you remember her teacher’s name by chance?

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  5. The 4 year old son of one of my co-workers neatly demonstrated the fine line between pretend and reality for the very young. He is quite bright and started reading just before he turned 4. This winter he was taken to a high school production of Beauty and the Beast, and had been told about the story and how the play wasn’t real,etc. During the village scene where the villagers are gathering to go capture the Beast, he stood up in his chair and shouted “Don’t kill the Beast!” He then spied a young woman in the cast of villagers who occasionally looked after him in the evenings and he shouted, “I have to warn my babysitter that they’re going to kill the beast!” He was so disappointed at the end of the show when he couldn’t see the beast and didn’t think the fact that the Beast had been turned into a prince was a reasonable explanation for the Beast’s disappearance.

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    1. I took my son to the high school musicals starting when he was in pre-school but held off on the more serious shows until he started school.
      The first one we went to was the Story of Helen Keller.
      After the show we as usual met the cast in the cafeteria. My son was delighted to see the star and exclaimed, “Mom, I’m so happy Helen can see and hear now.”

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  6. I am in the cat-bird seat right now for “pretend” – I am fortunate to have an imaginative 7-year-old daughter in the house. I learned early on when she started bending reality, to follow her lead and not make suggestions. She would do fine on her own, my job was to be encouraging. A muddy pit in the front yard became an entire fairy village made from sticks and leaves. Cardboard boxes became a pirate ship just the right size for a kid (with a large paper sail), smaller boxes became an airplane for her Groovy Girls dolls. Scraps of of felt have become pictures, games, clothing…Anything found on a walk outside is potentially a piece of art, or parts for something. Stories come out of her brain and wind up on paper or sometimes in puppet shows and plays. This is the kid, after all, how asked one morning while I was making breakfast, “Can I sit here and catch rainbows with my eyes? I need them to see invisible things.”

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      1. Gotta say it gave me pause to think about what “invisible” was…and to my mind, anyway it’s not overlooking the stuff that other people miss because they’re too busy looking for other things (or they’re just too busy not looking). It’s paying attention to what is around you. This is how Daughter is able to find treasures to bring home and turn into art – and how she and I saw a heron (maybe some flavor of crested night heron) by Minnehaha Creek not 20 feet away from the road on the walk home from school. Not truly invisible, just overlooked. But totally love that she takes the time to “see the invisible.”

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  7. Fabulous BiR… thanks for kicking off our Saturday.

    I pretended quite a bit as a kid, but my own child was never much of a pretender. She never got going w/ Barbie dolls (or any kind of doll for that matter – stuffed animals are her gig) and all the dress-up clothes that I scored from a friend went un-played with. She loves arts & crafts – we did lots and lots of this when she was younger. And she’s always loved animals and museums (like her mother) – Art Institute, Como Zoo, New Zoo, Science Museum, Children’s Museum, Bakken… these kept us going for years!

    My own imaginary town would have a big pool w/ waterslide, two or three good theatres, a second-run movie theatre (like the Riverview), big parks with lots of nooks for sitting and enjoying the flowers. Small city hall, no jail (no crime in my town) and lots of small mom & pop shops… you know hardware, bakery, vet, drugstore, etc. No big box shops and no mall. Bicycle lanes and wide sidewalks for kids on skateboards and rollerblades.

    Oh, and no temperature above 88 degrees. Ever.

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  8. I do not have anyone in my current live with whom I can pretend, but maybe I will in a few short years. She is only 7 weeks old right now but her mother and her aunties (my daughters) did a lot of pretending when they were young, so maybe it’s in my genes. Actually, I was not much good at pretend play when I was a kid – I did a lot of tree climbing, softball playing, some sneaking around in the woods, and reading but never could stand dolls, or playing dress-up and such things. Imagine my surprise when my three daughters would spend hours with dolls making up names and families and elaborate stories plus some of them loved playing dress-up. I never did any pretend play with them – just let them get on with it.

    If I had a pretend town, it would be on the shore of a large lake or ocean. It would be a small town with easy access to places in the woods or on the shore to take long walks. It would be great for bike riding. There would be very few cars. You would be able to see the stars at night and it would be very quiet (at least compared to my current neighborhood). Almost everyone would grow gardens, both flowers and vegetables, and there would be empty lots or nearby meadows where people could play spontaneous games such as softball or soccer. There would be a huge library where you could spend hours reading on a rainy or snowy day, and bookstores where you could find obscure, delightful books for a cheap price. You could walk to the nearby will berry patches and pick wild berries. The people there would be kind and quirky and interesting and creative, but not especially beautiful so people who were not blessed with physical beauty would feel okay living there. The houses would be of varying sizes, colors, and shapes -no developments where all the houses look the same. You could find beauty and peace there and have a lot of fun, too.

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    1. Why do I always see mistakes AFTER I post? That first paragraph should read, “in HER genes” not “in my genes.

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      1. Could be in your genes, too. Recessive genes are only expressed when paired with another recessive gene.

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    2. Edith, I know so many women who didn’t do dolls at all as children, whose own daughters totally got into it, and Lola’s mom is one of them…

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  9. Completely OT, but “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” today was beyond hysterical. Laughed til I cried a couple of times. If you get a chance, take a listen!

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  10. My town would be on an island. As in Edith’s town, cars would be rare, since they would be a lot of trouble to ferry over. There would be a waterfall with a ledge and if you went on the ledge behind the falling water, no one could find you. Also there would be a little restaurant in a big treehouse where you could order egg salad sandwiches. At the bank you could open a savings account with M&M’s and your deposits would earn M&M interest compounded daily.

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      1. Well, they would be plain. But if you wanted to diversify into peanut, there would be a mutual fund you could get into.

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  11. I think Lola should think about becoming health care commissioner when she grows up. She may have worked out some as-yet-undiscovered efficiencies that would reduce costs if applied on a larger scale. Those hammock beds – I bet they would be lots cheaper than traditional hospital beds, and they would improve the patients’ sense of well-being, especially if patients were served juice in cocktail glasses with little umbrellas.

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  12. Greetings! I’m not much for pretending. Despite being in a large family, as a child I played by myself a lot and acted out all the parts. My sisters would spy on me and think me totally weird because I would jump around, talk and gesture — and then jump across from myself and be the other person talking and gesturing as well. I would act out all the 4 or 5 characters in my little play. And for you psychiatrist types, no they weren’t invisible friends!

    Jim and I might be crashing the BBC tomorrow, if that’s OK, Jacque. Haven’t read the book, but we’ll be in Burnsville for a family gathering, we so figured we would dash over to your digs and meet up with other baboons. I think I’ll bring deviled eggs.

    Jacque – one question, though (not to be intrusive or anything) — but do you have functioning central air conditioning in your house? Where we’re going does not, and I will need something to revive me!

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    1. Love it that you acted out all the parts Joanne! I could do two parts, since my sister was 4 years younger, and often too young …

      Will be good to see you – I’m betting she has A/C, actually counting on it…

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  13. Joanne, i think your creativity as a child was great.Even imaginary friends are fine, as far as this psychologist is concerned. Since I was an only child I used to play board games with myself as both opponents. I think that is pretty sad, but when you are the only one around, you do what you have to to stay amused. Sometimes other people just get in the way.

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    1. As a kid, Husband got really good at catch by bouncing a ball against the back steps of his house… spent a lot of time by himself even though he had 7 sibs.

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    2. My only child played board games with the stuffed animals (all of whom have rich and meaningful lives, careers, family relationships and alliances). Since there are just the two of us, we sometimes still enlist their participation in games like Risk and Monopoly.

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  14. Evening gang. Oh, guess it’s early morning–

    Yes, I did lots of pretending… fantasies / pretending; same difference right??
    I’ve mentioned before playing dolls with my daughter. We do that most weekends; the best part is when I can make her laugh but I make myself laugh too. Yes, we’re just goofy…

    Night night.

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    1. Ben, among my favorite thing to read on here is about your daughter,but especially about you playing dolls with her.I was watching a delightful giggly teen girl at Culvers yesterday who made me think of your daughter.

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      1. Play almost ground to a halt today because lately our doll playing has turned into her arranging more ‘dates’ between dolls. And me, as the Dad doll, breaks them up. It’s all been fun and games and we laugh, but now they’ve started kissing too and today for the first time she said something about them having sex. Whoa, Whoa, Whoa! OK, then… suddenly we’re going off in a new direction here!
        So this is a good learning opportunity, right? A chance for me to teach about relationships and how intimacy fits into those relationships?
        Tune in tomorrow when the birds and bees visit the doll house.

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      2. I, too, am tickled by my minds-eye vision of you playing with your daughter. Can totally see, though, how the current turn of events might bring that to a screeching halt. Keep us posted on how that works out.

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      3. ben i remember taking my 24 year old to a timberwlves game at the target center when phe was about 10. we were sitting in the lounge an hour before the game and he brought sex up in the conversation. it was something simple like do you have to be married and in love to have sex and make babies.. cmon dad. tell me. well there was a woman at the next table who turned and said. don’t blow it dad. you don’t get to choose when it comes you only get to choose how you respond. i’ll bet you handle it perfectly but it did make me smile to read about your moment of discomfort and the realization that you get to deal with the questions as they come up. one of dads great opportunities to bond in a memorable way. i know your circumstances and situation is special but in reality they all are. smile.

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  15. Had to play a bit of pretend as a child because I was so isolated; first time I talked to a child my age was the first day of first grade. But I had miles and miles of woods in which to pretend. To this day, my imaginary place would be isolated in the woods, not a city.
    But I have a theory with some proof that children in large families are more likely to play pretend. I did not really play pretend very much, if I remember right, despite my solitary early childhood.
    I have a second theory that pretend play with an adult is a very good think for a child to do.So I love the stories here on this blog about adults playing with kids. Love it.
    I think someone could do an interesting study of my children and grand children’s imaginary friends–who they were, how they related to them, etc.–and their subsequent personalities. My grandson plays pretend games of superheroes. So I just finished for him a Mario Brothers clock. Turned out well. So now I have to to a clock for miss pink and purple Lily.
    That eight-year-old grand daughter said yesterday, and this did fit in the conversation, that “pink snow would just be awkward.” I am so glad I have one grandchild who thinks visually ans in colors.
    Off to Gilfillan Farms for a tribute to my daughter, but not in an AC place. We will be puddles by noon.

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    1. Pink snow *would* be awkward – smart kid. (Daughter had an imaginary friend, “Invisible Max” – so named to differentiate him from her best friend Max, who lived down the street. “Invisible Max” was there whenever real Max couldn’t be – including dinner, when we would set out a place for him, and bedtime, when he would get a hug from Mom and Dad…)

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      1. As I mentioned, the child was seriously into her stuffed animals; they all had (have) names and would go wherever she went, although they didn’t go to daycare, they stayed in the car until I picked her up. She would have a favorite for a couple of weeks and then a different one would be her favorite for awhile. At night while we had goodnight stories, her favorite would sit with her on the bed, then as I tucked her in, I would kiss her goodnight and then I would have to kiss the stuffed animal goodnight too. This tradition has evolved, so that these days, when the teenager heads to bed, she comes into my room to get a kiss/hug and also to collect the kitty, who is usually with me. After she scoops him up, she often insists that I kiss the kitty goodnight as well!

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  16. When my son was little he liked to pretend. One of his favorite games involved assigning roles. He always got the good parts. He was Batman;I was Robin. He was Santa;I was an elf. He was Kirby Puckett;I was Kent Hrbeck. You could tell he’d had a lot of orthopaedic surgery when he was the orthopedist and I was the resident, The dialogue I remember was,”Come on Dr Fisher we have bones to fix.”

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    1. long ago i was sitting overnight with a child at the U hospitals. across the room was a little girl with terrible respiratory problems – she had spent her whole life in the hospital (her family had abandoned her – probably too difficult to face the reality of how critical things were.) the respiratory therapists came in to pummel her chest every four hours, in order to loosen the secretions. at about 3 a.m. i noticed that she was sitting up in her crib, with her dolly across her lap, and she was pummeling the doll’s chest. in my mind she was loving her doll – as people loved her and helped her stay breathing. i can’t get that scene out of my mind – it’s burned there forever. she died about a year later – still living only in the hospital. but she got lots of love from the folks caring for her, even if her family didn’t want her.

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      1. Barb, a co-worker of mine has a daughter with a similar disease. It was really something to watch what they all went through as a family. I can’t imagine being in that situation AND abandoned. May she rest in peace.

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    2. cmon dr fisher we have bones to fix will stick with me for a while. your son had qute a set of circumstances to shoulder, sounds like he figured out how to deal with it.

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  17. Fun stories and images, Babooners. I’ll be on the road to Yellowstone Park for the next 7 days, so will miss the guest blogs till I get back, mostly. Hope you all find ways to stay cool.

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