My 3-year-old granddaughter, Lyla, was over for a "play date" the other day.
A "play date" is different from baby-sitting. Baby-sitting means just keeping an eye on the kids so they return to their parents in decent, if not good, health. But this was an actual "play date" because my granddaughter required me to "play" with her the entire time she was here.
I had no idea what I was getting into. I thought "play" meant we'd get out a couple of dolls, probably princesses, and have them act out a scenario, usually "going to a birthday party." It started off innocently enough. "Gramma, you be Belle, and I'll be Rapunzel," she said, handing me the lesser of the two dolls while we sat on the floor.
"OK," I said. I took lowly Belle and "walked" her over to Rapunzel a few inches away.
"Hi, Rap," I said, beginning the action with a cool nickname.
"No, not like that!" Lyla said. "Her name is Rapunzel. And Belle doesn't bounce. You have to hold her like this." A demonstration ensued, with precise instructions on how I was to handle the doll.
Gliding Belle over to Rapunzel, I tried again. "Hi, Rapunzel."
"No, not like that! You don't use your voice. You use Belle's voice, like this." She proceeded to talk in a high-pitched sing-songy tone that I hadn't used since I was, well, 3 years old.
"Sorry." I raised my voice a few octaves and said, "Hi, Rapunzel."
As soon as I thought I had it, Lyla changed the rules. "Pretend you're the mother and I'm the sister," she directed.
"So do I use my normal voice or my princess voice?" I asked, not certain how to proceed.
"Your normal voice," Lyla said, as if I should already know that. "And pretend it's Rapunzel's birthday."
"Uh ... hi ... I mean, happy birthday, Rapunzel," I said, almost afraid to open my mouth.
"Pretend she has a birthday cake," Lyla said.
"Uh, here's a birthday cake for you," I said, then ad-libbed, "Can I have a piece?" Big mistake.
"No, it's just for Rapunzel. Now sing 'Happy Birthday.' "
"Happy Birthday to you ...." (The remaining lyrics are protected by copyright, but I sang the song anyway. So sue me.)
"Pretend you got me a present," Lyla/Rapunzel said.
And so the play date continued, with Lyla instructing me step-by-step what to do, what to say, how to hold the doll, what kind of voice to use and what will happen next.
Without the freedom to be my own princess, I soon became bored out of my mind. I had to figure out a way to escape this play date before I gave the doll a foul mouth, broke it in half and threw it across the room. Five-year-old grandson Luke arrived in the nick of time with his Chima action figure.
"Luke, play with your sister," I told him.
"Luke, pretend I'm a princess and you're the prince," Lyla said to Luke.
Luke sat down on the floor with his action figure, picked up the princess and had them fight to the death.
At that point I told everyone to go outside. "Play date" was over. Let the baby-sitting begin.
Contact Belle/Penny Warner at www.pennywarner.com