Gotta love Barbie!!
I play Barbie with my daughter. We play Barbie a lot! She is 9 and I am 48. Just the perfect combination of a child who has everything she wants and an older version of this child, who grew up having only one Barbie. And the fake one, I might add.
Sofia is such a processer! Since she was very little she communicates through her play. She didn’t speak until she was about 3. But she has always been a very bright child and attentive to her surroundings. She talked through sign language, not the traditional one, nor the so called baby sign language, but her own sign language that she invented at age of 15 months. As a former child therapist, who used play therapy as a way to communicate with my elementary age clients, I am thrilled to watch my child with much excitement what she is going to “invent” next in our play together. But, don’t get me wrong. I adore my child and love to play with her, but there have been times, okay, many times, that I just hate being there too! On the floor, in that messy play room, changing the outfits of “my Barbies” for the hundredth time! Watching her create these weird stories of Barbies walking around with panties in their heads and jump off imaginary cliffs, after birthing their seventh baby.. OMG, it gets intense sometimes! And there are those times, when Sofia approaches me unexpectedly, when I am either working or in the middle of something and she says “can we play Barbie?” I just want to die!!! Partly because she is so sweet for wanting me to sit down and play with her, but part of me wants to say “for goodness sake, child, can you play by yourself at least once!? I AM BUSY!!!!”
This child has been through a lot, God bless her. With 12 surgeries before the age of 4 under her belt and multiple hospital stays and traumatic health events, she is my little warrior. I remember every time she would return home from a stay at the hospital, or even a long and scary doctor’s visit, she would go straight to her play area and say out loud to us, “I NEED to play!” She would play for hours with her dollies and doctor’s kits (which was a real one, as a matter of fact, with “real” hospital stuff she collected over the years). Sometimes she would even cry after her play or fall asleep so intense it was. I would let her play and create. I would sometimes watch her destroy her room, be angry and rough, without any prompting from my part and or redirection. I would just watch. Sit and watch. Sometimes she would include me. Sometimes she wouldn’t and wanted me out of her room. Sometimes she would need to close the door.
Lately, at this age now, her play has developed into trying to figure out family dynamics, relationships, and procreation! Oh, yeah, the Barbies have all found partners now! They have had multiple dances at the ball, and gotten married the traditional and not so traditional ways, and now they are having babies! So, you get the idea of what types of topics come up for conversation during those plays. The concern and the curiosity that emerge from those plays are so real and wild sometimes, and the answers she expects in return are also very real too. Don’t fool me, mamãe! (this is how she calls me. It’s mommy in Portuguese!). It is not just a “let’s pretend” kind of play anymore. Things have gotten real in there. There have been questions such as “how in the world a baby’s head can fit into a vagina?” And questions going from “do women really roar like a lion when they are giving birth” to comments such as “men are so out of this world, they think different than us, right mamãe?” Hallelujah for Barbies! My girl has already figured out men!
Last night, Sofia approached me with a hug and a kiss after her bath, and said “mamãe, you know how you wrote Macaca Red and Macaca Pink’s stories? She was referring to her favorite stuffed monkeys she has since she was a baby and the story books I wrote about them. She continues on: “I think you should write about Barbieland!” Now referring to the Barbie world she’s created — you know the free world where they have their own set of rules of a 9 year old perspective!? I told her I thought that was a great idea and asked her why she wanted me to do that. Then she answered with her sweet voice “because there is so much to be said about them. They are our stories together to share”.
Be still my heart. Be still.