Roman went to observe happenings at the Portland Jetport last month with his in-home support staff Jacob. They saw tankers and ground crew hard at work, a passenger exiting a plane door, and a plane taking off.
The next morning, Romi is playing in his room with his commercial airliner. I hear him say "What's a plane?” Then quickly he responds in the same voice register: “A plane is a bird... with people inside."*
And he is laying on the sound effects, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, brsssssss, zzzzzzzzzz.... zoom!”
He follows up with: “Everything is closed up in no time 'cause I'm all done. It's a door, see?”
He is talking to his favorite Playmobil plastic pirate, Captain. Captain wears a partly laced red shirt that shows his several chest hairs to advantage. He sports dotty beard stubble, and soldiers on despite the loss of his snap-on hair during an unknown altercation several years back. Now he just has a hole in the top of his head, and his hat-wearing days are over. But Captain did not go on disability. Despite this horrific injury, he still drives a bus and commandeers a plane in a pinch.
I hear Roman stimming, whipping plastic people around, motoring the plane back and forth on his rug. He moves out to the hall to check the acoustics on hardwood. He runs the plane back and forth then picks it up to watch the landing gear spin. (Mmmmm- wheels!)
Bikes, running, swings, slides - Roman has always had a deep love for physical play. Lately though, perhaps because of the cold weather outside, he’s been developing his imaginative play skills.
According to Psychology Today (What? I read it all the time!**), make-believe is central to child development, boosting language skills, emotional intelligence, and creativity. Most kids grow out of this phase by the age of 8. But Roman? Is not most kids. He’ll be 13 next month, and he’ll likely be making-believe for years to come. (<-- Me too, if one considers how long I've been 42.)
I’m guessing that to get the full benefit of imaginative play’s self-regulation effects (“reduced aggression, delay of gratification, civility, and empathy”***), Roman would actually have to let SOMEONE ELSE touch his toys. Not. Gonna. Happen. And invitations to playdates? These have been rarer for Roman than vegan zombie sightings. *sad face*
Outside of his plastic universe, Roman spends most of his free time running around in the yard with our Yellow Lab. I overheard him talking to her the other day before throwing her a fetching stick: “Rooney. Do not be a dog. Understand, girl?” A great listener and available 24/7, she is the perfect dog-friend. If only other kids could be so easy!
* The bird-plane makes perfect sense. After all, there’s a cat-bus in one of his all time favorite movies, My Neighbor Totoro.
** Busted. That was pretend.
*** Here's the Psychology Today reference.