My 4-year-old daughter Katie begs me almost every day to play with her as we drive home after I pick her and Ellie up from the day care, and it's getting harder to say no.
For Katie, a visit to the Little People village in her play room is just the thing to top off the day. Farmer Jed rules over a village of Little People figures, Barbie dolls, Polly Pocket dolls, fairies and the Prince Charming doll from Shrek that we go out of a McDonald's happy meal.
She has about three plots she follows - Prince Charming attempts to marry one of the princesses, usually a Barbie doll, someone steals a treasure chest from the fairies and Farmer Jed has to find it or a clown doll attempts to take over the Little People village in a coup. The clown never wins, and its either the prince or Farmer Jed who does him in.
That's great, and it shows that Katie has an active imagination, but why do I have to be involved? Playing with Katie every now and then presents good, father-bonding moments but to be asked to do it everyday makes me feel like I'm just a bit player in her on-going television show.
I wondered how to make play time with my daughter more enjoyable, thus resisting the temptation to be a complete heel and retreat to the living room to watch Sports Center.
Then, an idea struck me one night when Katie was playing with a My Little Pony and a small, black dog doll. She was having some kind of pretend conversation between the two when she asked me to be the dog. I then went into a re-creation of the "The Argument Clinic" sketch by Monty Python.
It was a big hit with Katie. As we finished the "Being Hit On The Head" lessons from the sketch, I thought of other favorite scenes from television and movies to do with Katie. There is a lot of doll play material from the movie "Airplane!" Katie has already gotten the lines down, "Surely, you must be joking." "No, I'm not joking and stop calling me Shirley."
Now, I can't do this with Katie every time. She still wants to do something with princesses and kings and hidden treasure, and I play along. After awhile, though, I will slip in a line from "Blazin' Saddles" or "Young Frankenstein" just for fun.
Now it seems that I've taken role playing to the next level with something called Diverman in the bathtub. The wind-up Diverman and his side kick, a blue dolphin, come to the rescue every time somebody calls his name.
Anyway, the game helps get the bath out of the way and Diverman can't appear until Katie has washed up.
Surely, it seems like a lot of playing for a little girl.
But she can't get enough, and I'm learning to have fun with it, too. And stop calling me Shirley.
Jay Jones is a staff reporter for the Rockdale Citizen. E-mail Jay at firstname.lastname@example.org.