The benefit of pretend plays

I have often seen children engaging in pretend plays. They pretend to be doctors examining their friends, who pretend to be patients, or young girls pretending to be princesses with everyone around their subjects. It always amused me as to what pleasure there could be in such play. Everyone has to come back to their realities, so how can such play for a small time bring joy to kids?

While working as a behavior therapist to kids with autism, I came across a 5-year-old girl who always used to pretend she was going to McDonald’s with her mom. When I talked to her mom, she revealed that her daughter likes going to McDonald’s with her but due to time constraints, she was unable to fulfill her daughter’s demands as frequently.

Then it dawned on to me that pretend plays are not just plays, instead they are powerful weapons to fulfill those wishes and desires which can’t be accomplished in real life. These are the dreams that we see with open eyes. We can we whatever we want or do anything we like, with nothing ever stopping us.

Still, I had no idea that adults also engage in such pretend plays. This realization came to me one day when I had gone to a hair salon. My hair stylist was a new girl, who was quite fond of talking. She started with her job, her boyfriend, her family and hobbies.

When all those topics were exhausted, she started talking about me and asked about my family. Usually while talking about my son, I share about his disease and his developmental problems; even with strangers.

However, on this particular day I decided against it. Maybe I was too tired due to a series of nights out with my son. I just went along with the flow and answered in monosyllables in the beginning. As she probed deeper, I just answered that my son started high school this year. I had no idea that this response of mine would open a plethora of queries and dialogues. Had I known such, I would have kept quiet.

Nevertheless, words once spoken can’t be taken back. So here I was, answering tons of questions from this girl; whom I had met just a few moments back for the first time. It so happened that her nephew had also started high school and she started drawing similarities.

We talked about how my high school teenager son never likes going to parties with his parents, how my he discusses about all his new friends with me, how he becomes shy when I ask him about his girlfriends. I even shared about my son’s driving lessons and how I am worried that he drives so rash. We discussed potential career options for my son.

I even invented my little girl, who loved her older brother and accompanied him everywhere. A future that I had always envisioned even before my son was born.

When I was coming back from the salon, the realities of my life slowly started sinking in. I had to take an appointment with the neurologist about my son’s increased seizures, talk to the orthotist abut the new leg braces for my son, search the internet for a new wheelchair for him, talk to his physiotherapist, take referrals for a new speech therapist. The list went on and on.

But those few moments at the salon gave me a chance to be a typical mom to a typical teenager. I talked about all those issues that other moms probably talk every single day.

I am not unhappy with my life or my son. I absolutely adore him and would never trade him even for the greatest treasures of the world. Yet, those moments of pretend play were intriguing. I felt rejuvenated after a very long time.

Pragya Jha

Mom to a teenager kiddo with special needs. Currently living my dream of studying psychology and pursuing a career as a Behavior Therapist. 

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Volume 10, Issue 24, Posted 10:05 AM, 12.18.2018