Playing with Little People

by Site Author


After a vicious morning struggle to get her out the door in time for pre-school; after a full day at preschool during which she allegedly bites two classmates; after a traumatic hip-hop class during which she has an accident—that is when my daughter plays with her little people. She crouches above them, placing the little people in a line, moving the mommy next to the daddy, moving the child next to the mommy, moving the baby next to the daddy, always moving the little people, always crouching over them.

I’ve tried to figure out the plot, but I am not allowed to interrupt. Try to ask her questions—“where is the baby’s daddy?” or “how come none of the little people have jobs?”—and you wont get any answers. Instead, my daughter will yell: “Go away! I want alone time!” She wont look at you while she yells this; her gaze will remain fixed on the little people. It is they who need her attention now, not you. You should go make her dinner or something. Go away.

The little drama in which the little people are involved is clear only to my daughter. She will say something that seems to be dialogue from one figurine to the other. “Yay! Welcome to the baby shower,” one figurine will, apparently, say to another. “Can I have something to eat?” Sometimes it’s not clear whether my daughter is speaking to one of us or whether it’s just one little person speaking to another.

Here are details of the little peoples’ lives, from what I could discern watching my daughter play with them. They are all meeting to attend a picnic, baby shower, wedding, or to go to school. Many of them are related: typically a mommy and daddy are identified first, and then my daughter susses out the other relations. But that is about it: the little people divide up into families, and then mill about. There is no arc to their story. This is not Game of Thrones. They arrive to the event, arrange themselves, and then my daughter re-arranges them yet again. Introductions are made and then endlessly re-made. For an anti-social person like myself, it seems like the world’s worst cocktail party.

Being unfamiliar with developmental psychology—having never taken a psych class at all—I am not sure what to make of this whole ritual. It seems important, like some sort of milestone. Though it’s not clear to me what kind of adult responsibility requires the ability to arrange and re-arrange little people. Is my daughter demonstrating a future in management? Genealogy?

But what are you going to do? This is her alone time. And so I watch as my daughter crouches over the little people, picks up a baby, and places her next to her daddy.