to understand her parents, and herself, in situations comparable to those from her own life. As Aristotle explained twoand-a-half millennia ago, watching a play allows us to experience catharsis, or emotional purging. We see events unfold on stage that we can understand and appreciate because we’ve had similar, if less dramatic, conflicts in our own lives. By watching Oedipus confront his deepest fears, we’re better able to address our own problems, or at least tolerate them. Imaginative play is healthy for the parent, too. Looking at the plastic baby doll with missing clumps of hair and crayon marks on her face, I could admit that I, too, was an imperfect parent. I wasn’t alone. I was also forced to look back on my own childhood, which allowed me to better sympathize with Annie. At age 4, when Mom wasn’t looking, I’d cut a slit in Brown Bear’s mouth and fed him Cheerios with milk. This showed compassion, I now realized, not an appetite for destruction. I just wanted to feed the hungry bear.
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(That’s not the way my parents saw it, however, when they found a smelly, soggy stuffed animal.) I try to keep this in mind whenever my kids “show compassion” by destroying their toys. After playing make-believe with Annie, I also feel better about all those imaginary friends I used to have. I wasn’t a socially inept dork, like everyone said. I was engaging in interpersonal growth.
GRYMES M E M OR IA L SCH O OL
Of course, Annie would also exploit make-believe remember
increasingly annoyed, by a conversation we had shortly after her sister Kate was born: “Can I have a treat, Daddy?” “No, you’ve had enough.” “Just another two candy bars?” “Just? No.” “That’s not fair.” Silence. We were in the middle of a walk. “Can we play Mommy and Daddy?” she asked. “Sure.” “I’m Mommy.” “Good.” I hated it when I had to wear the wig and high heels.
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Volume 18 Issue 11