When a Child Says You're a Horse, You Are

When a Child Says You're a Horse, You Are


THERE seems to be a big difference between the mock-ups children make and those of adults. And that difference is that children -- at least at the beginning of their mock-up period-.-don't pre( tend. With them, it IS! It took me a long time to discover this. David, who was three years old last July, is much more creative than his older brother and sister. Since his Montana ranch sojourn last summer, I am his horse most of the time. More rarely, I am his father, or brother, or anything else required at the moment.

I already have -thrown him a typical adult down-curve in trying to play his game. I find myself inadvertently -- and against my real desire -- using terms like "let's pretend", or "make believe", With him, the mock-up simply IS.

A revealing example of this has just occurred. He and Robert have been playing doggie, and came to the room where I am. Some other lines of thought opened up and were carried along a few moments, at the end of which Robert said something to him, as David. He replied, "I'm still a doggie, and so is my horse." Then he turned to ane, "Aren't we doggies, Horse?"' The difference in the adult view is that it is a modk-up, with David, who hasn't yet been saddled with the limitations of school and society, there's no pretense. He never permits his mock-ups to alter his universe, and he never gets confused about which is which. There have been times when I thought this had happaned, but anon he added some bits of data which clearly defined the limits between one and the other.

I can be horse all day -until an arbiter is required ; for a mixup, and then I am instantly daddy until the decision has been made, He doesn't use a viewpoint such as "will you be my horse?" That implies the action of pretending -- and the other kids already are impinging the other view on him -- as I, inadvertently, did myself. He uses, rather, "You're my horse!" -- a simple, declarative statement of fact. And once he changes mock-ups, the old mock-up is dropped automatically. "We are doggies, aren't we, Horse?" Now, there's a, nice•double-play on mockups. For a moment he wants his horse to be a doggie -- -and while he is often a doggie with me, he is never a horse. The horse is always his property and he is master. He brings me hay, water, curries me, saddles me up and rides around. But let a family conflict come along and ha never turns to his horse for support.

Daddy is the arbiter.

A term that he doesn't use is "play".

Like "pretend", it's foreign to his way of thinking about mock-ups.

One word he does use is "see". -- meaning both "look" and "comprehend". "See, we is climbing the mountain." And lo! the stairs are the mountain -- have, in that explicit phrase of "see and look and comprehend", become the mountain. "See -- this (the bed) is our boat and we are fishing." And the first thing you know, there's a fish on the line and then it's flopping around in the boat and maybe the dog is chasing around after it.

The adult approach would be: "Let's play like the bed is a boat, and we'll pretend that we are. fishing", etc.

Play and pretense are poor substitutes for the all-pervading "see" of looking conceiving, comprehending, and engaging : upon the mock.~p without further indoctrination or delay.

Now he : is dead on the floor beside me.

Climbing. the "mountain" below my typewriter a moment ago, he was calling me "Joe". "Hello, Joe, you is my friend Joe and we (he and Robert) are climbing these mountains to see you." But now a bear has caught him just as he reached the top.

Robert, somewhat adult in his approach to the spirit of the game, repeats, over and over: "All right, now pretend that you're all well again." But David will have none of it, and still lies there --"conked out". Turning to me for help, Robert asks: "What should I say to him?" I said: "Tell him: 'See, you're well now and the bear is gone and you're Robert's doggie'." The effect was immediate. 'woof ! woof! woof!" goes the doggie, springing into instant life.

In the same manner, the car becomes a