Darkly disturbing, or golden opportunity?

My daughter likes to role-play. Fortunately, she has one or two friends who enjoy playing that way with her, and even one or two adults who will indulge her every now and then. Not too surprisingly, I’m one of them.

She tends to go through phases with this: an idea will enter her head, we’ll improvise, and then she’ll want to re-visit those characters repeatedly for a week or two, or even longer, and then she’ll move on to something else. Last summer, we were a pair of rat creatures from Bone. She was the one who liked quiche, of course, and I was the one who was perpetually appalled at her whimsy — Hardy to her Laurel, if you will. In our improvisations, the characters and situations escalated, until she was re-creating human civilization by experimenting with its culture as well as its cuisine; my reactions were expected to range from eye-rolling disapproval to outright shock and horror.

It’s okay; I take direction well. Still, I need to be in the right mood for these little vignettes, because the sheer repetition can get draining; conversely, the challenge of coming up with humorous new innovations takes considerable energy and focus.

We’ve moved on from the rat creatures, though. Lately…well, lately, she’s become curious about psychology. Now she wants me to play the part of her psychotherapist, while she plays…a very dark and negative version of herself.

Mind you, I am not unacquainted with my daughter’s dark side. It comes out at night, mainly, when she’s tired. She can be chillingly negative at such times. It used to bother me a lot, until I realized a couple of things:

1. She was always back to her chipper, playful self in the mornings.
2. In a very real sense, this was just another form of role-play for her. There was no use trying to soothe or jolly her out of the mood, because she wanted to stay there. Once I stopped beating my head quite so hard against that particular brick wall, I was able to be much more calm about the whole thing.

So now, all of a sudden, she has invited me to be the therapist for this dark little character. It seems to have opened the door to some brand new dialogue.

I am very curious to see where this will take us.


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