Play is the language of a child, it is the expression of inner most thoughts, feelings, and desires. Or is it?
I was playing dolls with my daughter the other day and found myself reflecting on the meaning of her play. We were alone in the playroom and she brought me her doll over and over again asking (without words) that I swaddle it in the small blanket like I had swaddled her when she was an infant. She would pick it up and nearly fall over from the weight and size of her child. She mimicked the back and forth rocking of “rock a by baby” and eventually rocked so hard that the doll fell to the ground while rolling out of the blanket. She gathered the doll into her arms and slammed it into the tiny wooden crib, making a loud smacking sound as the head knocked against the side rail.
I found myself analyzing her play. Does she completely lack empathy? Is this play a sign that she will grow up to be a bad mother? What if she has no ability to care for others? My thoughts began to race, and the “parents worst fear” meter was redlining. As I continued to watch and observe I stopped analyzing her play and began analyzing the meaning I ascribed to her play.
I found that I was thinking like an adult. I was observing her play and assumed that she was doing what she was doing for the same reasons an adult would be doing it. An adult that drops a baby or slams it into a crib does so because of a lack of empathy, inability to care, and probably anger. So, of course that must be why she was doing.
OR PROBABLY NOT!!
I began to think more about the meaning that adults ascribe to a child’s play. Is the meaning that I interpret the same as what the child hold in their mind? I remembered back to several articles I had read about children being suspended from school because of play deemed inappropriate by school administrators. Both instances involved young children and make shift guns. One involved pointing a pencil at another student like a gun and the other involved chewing a pop tart into the shape of a gun.
I tend to get pretty frustrated with these situations in which play is criminalized. It seems to me that children are being punished based on the projected fears of adults. Do we really believe that a pencil is dangerous for other children? I wonder if these decisions come from fears of what our children might become. At some point we just have to laugh at these ridiculous stories but I wonder when we adults will realize that children do not think like us? I wonder how the world would be different if adults could play like a child? What if adults were less fearful and more adventurous like children? Oh what fun we might have!
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