Recently, I’ve been deliberately spending more time with Mayuki, playing with her for at least an hour every day. For some reason, that seems to leave me less time to do other things, a situation I don’t really understand. Surely as a reward for being a good father, the very nature of reality should warp and grant me more time.
Anyway, we spend quite a lot of time playing in the tatami room, either playing with a ball, or building things with the wooden blocks, or pretending to do things. We pretend to go to the park, and pretend to go on slides and swings while sitting on the floor. We pretend to go shopping, watching out for cars and only crossing the road when the signal is green. We pretend to eat various kinds of food, from curry rice to chocolate.
And then there are the slightly stranger ones. We pretend to watch videos. That involves pressing the button, and then sitting next to each other while saying what’s happening. We pretend to read a picture book. I tell the story from one of her books, and Mayuki tells me to turn the pages at the appropriate places, or fills in the bits of the story. Or we pretend to play with a ball.
These are strange because we can easily do all of them for real. The books and videos are in the next room. The ball was even in the same room, but we were still playing with a pretend ball. Mayuki quite clearly understands the difference between pretend and real, at least in these cases, and is quite deliberately choosing to pretend. I have to confess that I don’t quite understand why.
Further evidence that she knows the difference between pretend and real is that when, yesterday, I suggested that we go to the park, she knew right away that I meant a real park, and got ready to go out. On the way, we passed the 14th apartment block in the complex, which has a big “14” up on the side.
“Look, Daddy!”, Mayuki said (in Japanese). “It’s great! It’s really tall! There are lots of homes in it! Look! [breaking into English] Four! One!”
So, she was reading the numbers in the wrong order, but still, I was very impressed. I knew she knew “4”, but I didn’t realise she knew “1” as well. I wonder whether she knows all of the single digits. She’s also worked out that the writing on picture book pages is the words that we read, and sometimes points at the words while we’re reading them to her. I don’t think she can read letters yet, but I suppose she might still surprise me. Maybe by the time she’s three, she’ll be reading books by herself.
And I’ll get some time back to do the same.