08 March 2009

Brother and Sister Love Story Meets Battlestar Galactica

When Bella and Bubaloo first moved in with us, they were children who didn’t know how to self entertain.

Coming from a foster family where there were 3 bio kids in addition to the 5 other kids who frequented the home-based daycare, the house was constantly filled with people. It was a house where the TV was always blaring and there was someone always around. The family had each of their children enrolled in an uncountable number activities, topped off with regularly scheduled family outings, so Bella and Bubaloo often spent much of their time in the family van being shuttled back and forth from one thing to the next and waiting in the van for any given activity to end while being amused by a DVD entertainment system.

When they moved in with us they experienced an immediate culture shock. Saturdays weren’t planned out weeks in advance. There wasn’t a constant influx of entertainment, outings and activities. It wasn’t go, go, go. It wasn’t one thing after another. Both kids were beside themselves and didn’t know what to do. It was also quite surprising that as kids they were quite lacking in the imagination department.

Then one day they dreamed up The Game. Although, it wasn’t called the The Game at this time.

As Bella and Bubaloo began to discover one another as siblings and playmates, they did this through pretend play that can be likened to a verbal rendition of Chinese Letters. Instead of creating a story line by line on paper, they would sit for hours constructing elaborate narratives alternating weaving a shared tale. This wasn’t an action-oriented game. It was totally verbal with the kids sitting across from one another.

One munchkin starts with an idea, and the other builds on to it with their own idea. The idea can only be one sentence long. It also has to be linked to the previous idea by the phrase, “And then...”

In action, it might sound something like this. “And then, they were on a pirate ship searching for gold. And then, out at sea there was suddenly a big storm. And then, the boat was tossing in the water. And then, it began to fill up with water because the pirates had sailed too close to the shore and hit a rock.”

In the early days, this was very secretive. It was as if they were almost embarrassed about the discovery of this new imaginary world. They wouldn’t play within earshot of the grown-ups. And they liked to play behind closed doors.

Before we knew what it was they were playing, and how it was played, we inquired as to what they were talking about all the time. Bella responded, “We’re playing a game Brother and Sister Love Story.”

Before I jumped completely to conclusions, but already half-way there, I asked her to share a little bit more about what this was. “Well,” said Bella, “it’s about a brother and sister who live in a far away land and have adventures on pirate ships and slay lots of dragons.”

There’s nothing inappropriate about that, so I had to ask why it was called Brother and Sister Love Story. There was a big piece missing here.

“Because it’s about a brother and sister who love one another.” Simple. Matter of fact. Appropriate. Since we explained to the munchkins how Brother and Sister Love Story didn’t really best describe what they were playing, we suggested they come up with a different name. This is when The Game was born.

The kids love The Game and it’s become a staple of how they play together. Now that they’re 11 and 13 it hasn’t died down one bit. They don’t have marathon 4 hour sessions any more, and The Game is leading to more sibling squabbles, but they love it and play it all the time.

This morning, I came down to get a cup of coffee and they were at the kitchen table eating their breakfasts while playing The Game. Fully engrossed they didn’t even notice or acknowledge me. That’s when I my ear latched on to the phrase, “Battlestar Galactica.”

A few weeks ago, when the adults were down for the count with the flu, we actually let them watch lots of TV/movies and in a moment of delirium we allowed them to watch this show. I love Battlestar Galactica because it’s such a brilliant and intelligent show, but the sex and killing in the later seasons doesn’t really quite make it kid-friendly. They only watched the initial mini-series, but they’re completely hooked. They're fascinated by humans creating machines and space travel. They ask to watch it all the time and we keep on finding ways to distract them.

I hadn’t heard anything about Battlestar Galactica for a few weeks, so I thought interest had finally waned. Waned it has not. It’s just completely permeated their play.

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