My son’s love language as far as we can tell is quality time. “Mom, will you play with me?” “Daddy, will you build lego with me?” “Daddy, want to join me?” (often said while he’s watching a film.) “Mom, I’m lonely.” “Mom, I have a question.” (his excuse to leave nap time or room time early just to be near us.) “Want to wrestle, Daddy?” Or the most annoying my favourite: “Mom, want to watch me play iPod?”
I started very early with him playing imaginatively. His brain just seemed to work that way. When all his friends were lining up their cars in a row, his had names and relationships and conversations. He’s honestly not great at sports, he doesn’t love games, but he does LOVE any kind of “guys”. Star Wars guys, Rescue Heroes, Pirates, etc etc etc. And he loves to play them WITH someone. He says he gets lonely when he plays by himself. Now, I honestly don’t particularly love just sitting and playing guys. My friend Lisa and I laugh about this sometimes. Both of us would happily do many things with our kids, like bake, crafts, push them on the swing, blow bubbles, do a puzzle, read a book. All those feel productive somehow. But I do try to keep in mind his love language and his favourite activities and try to set aside a few minutes most days to play guys with him.
The thing is… Rusty’s got rules. He has very specific ideas of how each play scenario should go down:
- Which guy do you want? (this question is a lie, you do NOT have a choice, you only appear to have a choice.) The rule is you choose the less cool looking guy.
- No, your guy is a good guy or No, your guy is now a bad guy
- No, he can’t shoot my guy, my guy is the good guy
- No, he can’t have that gun/sword/backpack/helmut/visor he has to have this one
- No, your guy can’t fly
- No, it’s not time for your guy to have a nap (he recognizes this for the ploy it is!)
- My guy is stronger
- My guy can’t die
- My guy can have a lightsaber even though he’s a storm trooper, but no, yours can’t
- He can’t be friends with him, he’s a bad guy
- Your guy can’t ride a dinosaur
- (insert forced guy swap here because my guy was looking cooler and more fun than his)
- Your guy must always lose/die in a battle
It’s frustrating to say the least. I tend to just sit back quietly now and let him tell a very elaborate story about what is happening and only add the occasional idea or nod of approval. As long as I sit there and pay attention he seems to be satisfied. Jon however, can’t seem to get through a play session without antagonizing Rusty. He breaks the rules. On purpose. He laughs at Justus’s outrageous and constantly changing rules and ignores them. He (rightly so) wants Justus to learn to play nicely with others, allowing for differences and enjoying what that adds to play. I used to quit playing with him when he got too demanding, but now I see how much he needs that time with us, so I try to just be there for him.
I realize I’ve made him sound obnoxious. Well, sometimes he is. He’s 3. But I have to say, his imagination is startling. He tells very intricate and detailed stories, full of twists and turns and big words. Often he seems to lose the distinction between his imaginative world and reality, which will be something we watch closely and train him to understand the difference between stories and truth. But I love his mind and imagination, it’s fascinating. He’s fascinating. And I love that he wants to share it all with us.
Just. Not. While. I’m. Making. Dinner.
So STOP asking. 😉