Thursday, February 16, 2012

In Character

One of the best things about living in a house full of nerds is continuing to be surprised by the ways my kids keep themselves amused.  When they were younger, characters or themes from favorite books would seep into their play, with Harry Potter being a perpetual favorite. It's cool when this still happens - any parent who has hoped to stave off the effects of media and middle school in the lives of their children would rejoice to hear their 14-year-old daughter willingly playing the part of Hermione with her 11-year-old sister (Ron) and sister's 10-year-old friend (Harry).  However, my favorite characters my children assume are ones they've invented.

There's the Ancient Math Teacher, aka Mr. Minus, and his two students, Bad Boy, who is not so much bad as stupid, and Good Girl, so genuinely pleasant and concerned when she reminds Mr. Minus to take his Gingko biloba that it's impossible to dismiss her as a suck-up. Good Girl arrives at her tutoring sessions with a huge stack of books, gets all the problems right, and is rewarded with candy; when Bad Boy misses questions he grabs at the candy anyway, causing Mr. Minus to wrap his shaky, elderly arms around the candy dish and pull it away, feebly crying, "No!...No!...No!"
Mr. Minus is such a beloved character in our house that my eleven-year-old tried to dress like him for Halloween a couple of years ago.  It might have worked better if I'd let her go to school with gray hair.  As it was, most of her friends thought, with her corduroys, vest, and boys' dress shirt decorated with equations and math symbols, she was going as "a geek."  I suppose they were technically correct, but still.

I was honored a few years ago when the girls began inventing roles for me, the least demanding being The Distracted Mother, which only requires me to keep doing what I'm already doing and murmur, "Mm-hmm," and "That's nice, dear" in response to Little Timmy's increasingly ludicrous (and dangerous) requests.  This usually ends with the arrival of the Teenaged Daughter, who jolts me back into the present: "Moth-errr!  You just let the Little Brat drive the ca-ar!"   I have to admit to occasionally being uncomfortable with how easy it is to play this role.  More challenging is the role of Little Sweetheart's mother, since Little Sweetheart is one of the most thoroughly obnoxious children in existence.  Unfortunately, it's impossible to duplicate her way of talking ("Don't mwock my aaccent, Mwommy!") but we have fun trying.

I can't pinpoint when I started seeing less of Mr. Minus and Little Sweetheart.  Possibly it had something to do with my older daughter's entering middle school, or maybe I can blame it on the Wii that arrived two Christmases ago.  It's probably more realistic to just chalk it up to normal adolescent development.  The girls' characters will still occasionally oblige me with a command performance, but I try not to ask too often and am just grateful that they enjoy being a team of two.  Recently they spent an extended weekend with my parents in Arizona and when they returned, they were addressing each other as "Darling Sister."  Not as exciting as Little Timmy playing with fire, but it's enough.