One of the nice things about homeschooling is that there are chunks of time when it is impossible to entertain the children since basic things like laundry and vacuuming up granola need to be done. This means that the kids are forced to play by themselves. At first I thought it was cruel; they were used to being read to, fed, swung, played with and spoon fed play ideas. But gradually, the benign neglect has turned into times when Frankie and Molly disappear for an hour behind the couch, sinking into a pretend world of fairies and ponies and Polly Pockets. I'm delighted to see them disappear into their imaginations, the way I remember doing as a child. Usually I would haul my sister along for the ride, teacher to her student, John to her Yoko (complete with shooting), or grown-up sisters who referred to each other as "Sis" with faintly British accent. The best moments of my childhood consisted of making up homework pages for my sister and making a list of disobedient students who needed to miss recess in chalk on the bottom of the ping-pong table. We'd use the manual typewriter to bang out indignant notes home to the parents of students who were truant and deliver them with great ceremony to my father in his workroom in the basement.
I like to eavesdrop on their dialogues, but carefully refrain from commenting since Frankie gets embarrassed. But I love to hear "pretend I broke my leg and my parents died." Or "pretend I'm a mow-lawner and I came to mow your lawn." Or my personal favorite, "pretend I'm a sixteen-year-old and you are my honey." The other day, I was helping my dad practice the piano when we overheard a plaintive lament "I'm sorry but I think you are going to lose your leg and you will never walk again. I'll give you a sucker. Or, wait, I will give you a shot instead."
On Easter, which we spent with the Hwangs, the parents chatted while the kids immersed themselves in a pretend world where Frankie, Molly and Claudia were all sixteen-year-olds, but Jake was the exception, being forty-nine. They were abandoned by their parents, but as a last token of their affection given plastic Easter eggs with which to gather food. Said food was arranged neatly and elaborately on the stumps near the fire pit and Frankie and Claudia carefully twisted leaves together and called it "Roll-up Goodness." Though the girls were all sixteen, Frankie's birthday was first, so they called her Mom. Jake, of course, being forty-nine, was the Dad. The game was so engrossing that we had to return the next day so they could resume Abandoned Children.
I have to admit, I kind of wanted to join them. I wanted to offer the idea that some long grass could be picked and laid next to the stumps like a carpet and that could be their bedroom and those little yellow flowers could be corn in a lily-of-the-valley leaf taco....