My preschoolers are learning about “family.” So we get out the little dolls to teach Mommy, Daddy, Brother, Sister, Baby, Grandma, Grandpa. That part is simple enough. Every child seems to know Mommy. We read a book called “I love my mommy because…” Each animal says why it loves its mommy. The bunny loves its mommy because she kisses him all better. The dolphin loves his mommy because she plays with him. One of my students pipes up, “I don’t love my mommy.” Not the usual response. I asked why. “Because she doesn’t play with me.” I doubt that. But maybe she has other things to do. Like, pay bills and feed everyone.
Even if they don’t have a daddy at home, they still recognize Daddy for who he is. I have to push away the twinge in my heart when I ask the question, “Do you have a Daddy at home?” and they answer innocently, “No.” They can’t help who their daddy is. I can only be thankful for mine.
So we continue to learn. I like holding up the old people. A year or so ago I first saw the old people dolls. I thought, “What? The children are playing geriatric hospital now? Is that the new ‘it’ game?” I soon learned it’s a convenient way to teach Grandma and Grandpa without having to bring your own, or to take photos of each child’s grandparents. The children like the grandparents. They have fond associations with Grandma and Grandpa. I smile as they smile.
Things get confusing when I introduce “aunt” and “uncle.” Daddy’s brother. Mommy’s sister. But they are grown-up. Not like the baby sister who is sleeping at home. Or a big brother she is hoping to play with. The photos don’t help–Aunt looks like Mommy. It’s only clear to the children who have aunts, uncles, and cousins all living in the same home. Sometimes, as a middle class woman myself, I hate to admit that I have looked down on the extended family in one home. But with my limited exposure to this different culture, I feel the warmth shared in the family. The closeness of the relatives. The perspective is refreshing.
Examine the family one day at toys R us, if you have the chance. Then look at the families around you. Think for a minute on your own. How can this concept be reduced to a plastic model? It’s impossible. But the concept is real. That’s how preschoolers recognize it. Talk with them about it. And, talk to your family. They love you.