Hank sat in the waiting room with his mother not wanting to come into the playroom. I waited in the waiting room with him, accepting his right to make this decision for himself. Soon, Hank was ready to go to the playroom with me. As I accepted his decision not to engage in relationship with me, Hank made a new decision. There’s power in giving a child the room to decide.
In the playroom, Hank played with the pig family, mama, “Little Sweetie”, the sister pig, and “Little Sweetie 2,” the baby piggy. The pig family went for a swim in the swimming pool until the sister and baby pig got out and went off camping on their own. After a while, mother pig arrived. Hank soon revealed that mother pig had dreamed the whole swimming pool thing up!
A farmer arrived and mom kicked him in the crotch because he tried to take her baby piggy away. She saved her baby and sent the farmer sinking in quicksand.
Hank wondered aloud what flood-mud was made of. When I suggested that he could decide about his imaginary flood-mud, Hank insisted that he didn’t know. “Really, what’s it made of?” I repeated that he could decide and speculated that it might have water in it. “Yes,” he said. He thought it did have water in it.
The pig family adopted a pet dinosaur which they kept in a cage. When the farmer came around again, they let their pet dinosaur fight with the farmer. The dinosaur hit the farmer in the crotch and Hank announced that it really hurt him. The farmer lay on the carpet injured.
With the pig family safe but hungry, Hank found a plastic hamburger in the play kitchen refrigerator and fed it to the family of pigs. They were delighted at its enormous size. For them, it was a feast.
The pig family got a couple of horses as pets. The piggy baby got on the horses to try them out for size. As he played Hank told me about how his dad had given him piggy back rides. He explained in detail what a piggy back ride is. As Hank explained, he smiled and enjoyed the thought of having a piggy back ride with his dad.
I can’t say what all that was about for Hank. I did see that the mama pig and the little piggy children were loved by their mother who called them her “little sweeties.” She protected her children and provided them with pets, the first one to protect them and the rest to enjoy. At one point, the sister pig became a brother pig and was afraid of the swimming pool diving board.
Hank expressed a wide variety of emotion during his powerful play time. He played out anger, and protectiveness. He played out fear. Hank played out caring, nurturing love. He played out feeling hurt. He played about power and overcoming threats. He played out aggression as the farmer threatened to take the baby pig from its mother. He mastered his fears and overcame the farmer by burying him in quicksand and abandoning him on the carpet injured.
Hank explored what it would be like to have a pet dinosaur who would protect him against those who would threaten him. He imagined what it would be like to have a horse. He imagined himself going camping and swimming with his family. He imagined what it would be like if his sister were a brother. He contemplated flood-mud and what it was made of. He imagined what it would be like to have a giant hamburger feast. He grappled with the meaning of a piggy back ride and its relationship to horses and pigs.
Hank brought me into a close, connected relationship where he shared his thoughts and feelings with ease. He kept me informed about who the characters in his story were and what they were thinking and feeling. He accepted my participation in his play as I noticed aloud what I saw and heard. Hank responded to my words with more information as he continued to expand his story line. Play magnetizes. Hank is interested in being in relationship with me. He actively works to extend to me an invitation into his world of play. He freely tells me his stories and shows me his play. He does not hold back.
Hank’s parents say he’s becoming more cooperative with them at home. They’re pleased with the growth they see in him. Whatever was happening inside Hank that drove him to challenge his parents at every turn is changing for the better. An empowering play relationship heals.