Lola had a little friend over, a beautiful brown eyed pixie faced girl with a sad, sloping mouth. I walked past them into the kitchen. Lola was standing over her friend. Well what about fairies, she asked? The little girl shrugged. Connect Four?, I heard Lola ask as I trailed into the bedroom with Ever on my shoulder.
Later I walked through the living room and they had barely moved. Lola was sad. What's going on, I asked. What are you two going to play? Lola looked at her friend, her friend shrugged. She just wants to watch T.V., Lola told me. We aren't allowed to have the T.V. on during play-dates, for the most part. PLAY-dates. See? So I suggested a few games, and her friend kept shrugging at me. A familiar shrug. Lola has playdates every weekend, sometimes just kids down the street she is hanging out with, sometimes an official 'playdate' with a friend from school, and lately there has been a common theme with these little girls: prepubescent malaise, otherwise known as I'm Bored. And these girls are really, really, really bored. Jump rope? Yawn. American Girl dolls? Naw. Pet Shop Creatures? Been there. Baby dolls? Animal hospital? BARBIES, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD?!!! Nope....
But I'd really like to watch T.V.
I've taken to getting involved with their play, something I would have died if my own mother had done. I took Lola and another tragically bored young lady on a 'explorers walk' and by the time we got home they were trilling and tinkering and happy with their collection of acorns and rocks. So by the time we reached the millionth and three play dates of boredom, I had it. Look, you two, I said grimly. You can either find something to do and look like the playful, carefree children you are meant to be, or this play date is over. Harsh. I know. Lola and friend headed out front and within ten minutes were engaged.
We watch T.V. Sometimes, we watch too much T.V. We have a computer. Sometimes, we spend too much time on the computer. ( we=me ) We have video games, cell phones, and Ian has an I-Pod. And, we play. We make room for play, on a regular basis. We insist on it. Imaginative play is so crucial to the development of empathetic, intelligent and creative human beings that to consider it's erosion is truly depressing. Lack of toys never killed imagination, but overuse of toys that don't involve screens could.
Here's a game: let's pretend all these children are on a playdate together at your house, and the power goes out.