Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Playing Dolls

Ezra had no interest in dolls until Phaedra was big enough to play with them. For those of you who are tutting at all our culture does to deny boys this beautiful expression of caring for ourselves and learning to nurture, trust that Ezra had plenty of opportunities and gentle encouragement to play dolls. Sure, there were occasional forays; I have a sweet picture of him when he was almost three nursing a baby doll in a sling fashioned from a play silk. I think this had more to do with imitation than with playing at nurturing, because it never seemed to develop into the same sort of play that his backyard engineering feats did.

Phaedra chose to sleep with a doll around the time she turned two, and this doll still resides in her bed, with a threadbare face and mittened hands. But sleeping with a dolls and playing dolls are not really the same. I had hoped she would play dolls, and Ezra would join her, and they could both try their hands at nurturing. There was some doll play, but it never seemed to grab either of them. They spent more time telling stories and swinging and building with blocks. Phaedra definitely likes dolls, but she does less pretending with them, and more maintenance, like making clothes and smoothing hair.

Now, Sylvie really plays dolls. She dresses them and carries them places and worries sporadically about their feelings. She always hopes someone will be fooled that she's carrying a real baby.  She cajoles Ezra and Phaedra to play with her, and she always wants them to play dolls. Sylvie is the one that keeps a storyline going, so that everyone will just stick to dolls.

The problem is that Ezra is the most likely to say yes, and his babies are always so poorly behaved. To me, it looks like doll rebellion. His dolls always wake the others from their naps; they refuse to be potty trained or dressed nicely. They pinch the other babies to make them cry. Sylvie announced that Ezra is banished from doll play until his dolls can act right. (I love this stuff!)

So, the other day, Ezra is quietly and pointedly crying behind me as I'm washing dishes, and I ask the question he's silently begging me to ask, "What's the matter?"

His tears fall faster as he explains that Sylvie is excluding him. I look out the window and see the girls playing peacefully; I reflect on all I know about my plastic grandchildren; I ask Ezra if he knows why he's being excluded.

There's a powwow and then,

This lasted a solid hour. I always wonder when this moment will be the last like this I'll see.

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