Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The games that kids play

(Let's see if I can get this right.)

Sarah got in the car with me at elementary school this afternoon and promptly said that she "had good news and she had bad news."

When she gets older, hearing those words will likely be the cause of increased anxiety on my part, but I wasn't too worried today. So, I patiently waited for her to gather her thoughts.

She asked me which she should tell me first, the good news or the bad news. I replied that it was up to her.

So, she went with the bad news first.

She told me that sometime during the day, prior to going outside to wait for me to pick her up, she misplaced her gloves and therefore didn't have them now. I told her that this was not really bad news and I was confident that she could locate the gloves tomorrow when she returned to school.

"So, " I said next, "what's the good news?"

Sarah then began to spin the beginnings of a tale that I am sure she will come back to again and again in the coming days as she thinks about it more. If my memory serves, it goes something like this (so far).

Sarah has an imaginary friend (Laura), whose cousin is 4 years older than Laura. The cousin (a boy) has a father who is overseas fighting in the war and has not been hurt. (That was the good news.) But he had been shot once before and was in the hospital for a few weeks recovering. Also . . . the father grew up in China and moved to Ohio when he got married and started his family.

As Sarah told me more of this story while I was driving the car to get Grace, it became clear that the boy cousin's mother is also in the military and is living here in Ohio, somewhere in southern Ohio, closer to Kentucky. The mother is also fighting in a war, which confused me.

I assumed that the impetus for this story was something Sarah was discussing in school or was borne out of the times she had heard Lynda talking to her mom on the phone about Sarah's cousin who has been serving as a bomb disposal specialist in Afghanistan for several years. Or it might have come from the prayers we say each week at our bible study group for relatives who are in the military overseas. But Sarah said that the cousin's mother was fighting in a war here in Ohio and the boy cousin was worried that his mom was going to be killed in the domestic war--(she didn't use the word domestic).

As we pulled into the daycare parking lot to pick up Grace, I explained to Sarah that military people serving here at home were not in danger of dying, as they weren't in combat here. But Sarah quickly pointed out, with a touch of patronizing exasperation that she was talking about an imaginary war (the DUH! was implied in her voice) and therefore the imaginary cousin's concerns were completely valid . . . in this imaginary context.

My head was swimming at this point and my careful internal psychoanalysis of where Sarah's story had come from crumbled. Now, I don't have any idea where it all came from and I suppose I don't have anything to be worried about. She's just spinning out her elaborate and detailed imagination wherever her mind takes her.

Which, it turns out, takes her to some pretty interesting places.