"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Friday, May 25, 2012

the evolution of evil....in play

As a psychology major, I completed the majority of my coursework in child psychology and child development. I figured, as a background, it would come in handy when I became a kindergarten teacher. Turns out a degree in Spanish Language would have served me better in my particular school, but it sure has been interesting to watch my psych seminars come to life now that I'm spending my second career in the trenches of child behavior and development.

When Evan began to pretend play, it was very literal. He would, for instance, drive trucks and pretend that they were real trucks, working on a job site. There was very little made-up dialogue or narration, he just acted out what he imagined would really occur among construction trucks. As he got older, the play became more abstract.  Now, using the same trucks, he would create a scene for his "guys." The guys would talk to each other, complete jobs, and, of course, operate the trucks. And the play continued to evolve to the point where he didn't even need toy trucks and "guys" because the play happened MOSTLY in his imagination. Now, HE was the construction man, working with the other construction workers (me and Max) on the job site. But, the characters in his play were always on the same team. They were all The Good Guys.

About when he turned four, Evan started to incorporate the "other" side into his play...The Bad Guys. It was a little alarming, I remember, to see my little boy imagining a world of Evil in his play at first. But, the eternal struggle between Good and Evil is all around him....from Disney movies (Toy Story 3 and Cars 2 being his early favorites...and both are heavy in the Bad Guy department) to the natural world (his obsession with animals taught him early about the predator/prey dynamic...not to mention, the "evils" of hunting). The way he incorporated The Bad Guys in his play was pretty benign, though...typically, he and Max (his trusty sidekick) were The Good Guys (brave knights, police men, animal rescuers, etc.) and, together, they fought off, outsmarted, imprisoned, or otherwise claimed victory over The Bad Guys (fire-breathing dragons, diamond-stealing robbers, rare animal poachers, etc.).

Until this morning.

I suppose I should have seen it coming...now that he's five, it's only natural that his pretend play should continue to evolve...I guess, on the bright side, at least he's still involving Me-Too Max in his play....but, did he really need to draw Sweet Baby Molly over to the dark side?

Evan (wearing an apron, an oven mitt, and an Evil Sneer and talking in an Evil Voice): Hey, Mom. Let's play Evil Guys!
Max: Me, too!
Evan: Yeah, Evil Max, you too. And Mommy. And Molly. We're all evil guys!
Me: Oh. Well, what do Evil Guys do?
Evan: I don't know what. Evil Max, what do you want to do today?
Max: Let's bake cookies!

Max sits with me, Molly, and Lavender Bunny (his, well, lavender bunny), watching Evan as he gets out our wooden Cookies Playset....a little unsure about these Evil Cookies.

Evan (still wearing apron and oven mitt...now, with a purpose and now, wielding a spatula...still sneering and talking evilly): HA HA HA [that's my evil laugh, okay guys?] What kind of cookies do you want, Evil Guys? The kind with frosting? HA HA HA!
Max: I want frosting AND sprinkles!
Me: Oooh, that sounds good. I'll have the same.
Evan: Okay. HA HA HA! And now, to make the cookies! But I'm not going to wash my hands because Evil Guys don't wash their hands! HA HA HA!

He finished making and decorating the cookies and brought the tray over. As he passed out the cookies, he said, "Okay, Evil Team, now that we're done with our snack, what should we do?"

"Well," I started, afraid to venture too far into the World of Evil, but wanting to stay in character, "We could go to the toy store and take all the toys so no one else could play with them. That sounds like something a Bad Guy would do, don't you think?"

"Yeah!" said Evan, "Only, we'll share them because even though we're Bad Guys, we're still nice."

Lesson Learned:
Baby steps into the World of Good and Evil. I'll take it.

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