Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Emperor's New Face Paint

One of my biggest goals as a mother--right up there with teaching my kids how to fetch things for me and getting them to leave me alone when I'm using the bathroom--is to help my kids develop robust imaginations. Speaking seriously, I feel that a working imagination is any person's greatest asset. It can help a person solve problems, resolve conflicts, be more efficient, more completely enjoy life, and perchance, be a big hit at parties.

One day I also happened to stumble on some lesser-celebrated side effects of great imaginations: they can get a kid to stop whining and can give a mom some new ways of saying "No." We were driving in the car and Fifi had been whiiiiiiiining about how hungry she was. There was not a single crumb of food left in the entire car, we were at least 30 minutes from home and we were stuck in a violence-inducing bit of traffic on the Schuylkill. I said to her (and, okay, it's possible this didn't originate from a particularly kind place within me...), "Would you like an ice cream cone? I happen to have one right here."

She looked back at me in valid disbelief. I extended my loosely-fisted hand and said, "Here. It's chocolate. You like chocolate, right?"

She smiled and asked for sprinkles. So I gave her some imaginary sprinkles. After she gobbled it up, she asked for some cookies. When I easily acquiesced--with the biggest, sweetest cookies ever made--she then asked for milk and french fries and pizza with chocolate chips and blueberries and cherries but with no sauce. I couldn't even believe it. I had so much fun fulfilling her outlandish custom orders, providing napkins and making suggestions. She loved being the inventor and the customer, and making melodramatic eating sounds. The lines of static cars ahead began to move and we eventually made it home, without violence.

Ever since then, I have regularly used pretending to my advantage without compunction. And the kids, imaginative creatures they are, have learned to cash in on its benefits as well. Face painting, in particular, has been quite popular with the help of pretend paint. And so easy to clean.

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