Two dolls wrestled in Sundoy’s hands. “The dollhouse is not a contact sport,” I said to him as he dropped the dolls down through two floors.
He stacked the toilet on top of the dining room table. “What’s for dinner?” he asked as he fell over laughing.
“This isn’t Skylanders vying for control of the Universe,” I said, “This is a dollhouse. We want to play with it like….” I trailed off. I was going to say like girls, but my thoughts offended me. I chided myself for a generalization based on gender. “…like a dollhouse,” I finally said. I thought even that sounded ludicrous, as if play involved pre-defined parameters. Children are the experts at play, after all. Who am I to instruct them?
It surprised me that Sunboy’s 7-year old ideas upset me when directed at the dollhouse. But then, I remembered, I never had a dollhouse as a girl. I realized at that moment that the dollhouse was fulfilling something I had latently felt was lacking. Although I had bought the dollhouse for Flowergirl, the dollhouse was also for me, a re-writing of my childhood. I wanted Flowergirl to have what I didn’t have. I wanted to watch her play with the dollhouse the way a 3-year old girl would naturally play with it. The way I might have played with it when I was her age. And I didn’t want a boy to show us how.
I took a mental step back. I noticed how much fun they were having. The light was streaming in the window. The figures in the dollhouse were posed to watch a movie together. Their miniature world was enchanting and captivating, a world of our creation with endless potential to begin again. We could hone the details until we found the right combination. My children were laughing together. They discovered the bed could turn over to become a rocking cradle for the baby. Oh, what I was missing while I lived in my head.
Moments appear suddenly, like shooting stars, magical and fleeting. I memorize the feeling, the pose, the light now gone. Moments defy capture, and slip through the nettings of word and photo, leaving elements behind as a touchstone for the mind. I had burdened myself with context and history, and in doing so missed the beauty of now.
I returned to playing with them. Being a parent means always having a willing, enthusiastic playmate. The hard part is remembering how to live in the moment, as a child.