Have you watched ‘Bluey’? It’s our favourite animated children’s Australian TV series.
The main characters are Bluey, a six-year-old Blue Heeler puppy and her sister Bingo, a four-year-old Red Heeler puppy. Together, they go on adventures through their imaginative role-playing. The parents, Chilli and Bandit, often engage the pups in their games, supporting and encouraging their curiosity at the world surrounding them.
The show focuses on the importance of play-based learning, constructive positive parenting and emotional validation. It realistically depicts the modern-day nuclear family, with both parents working, sharing the housework and child rearing. There is no gender typecasting or parenting role stereotyping. The father is emotionally intelligent and portrayed as a positive father figure.
There is a great deal of resembalance between Bandit and my husband – in character not appearance! He is Bandit minus the Australian twang and goofiness. He has patience in spades, dives into role-playing with ease, and has the right balance of discipline and love. He’s funny, smart and a very hands on co-parent. He’s a great dad.
Bluey gives my children, Mandy (7 y.o.) and Henry (3 y.o.) lots of ideas to incorporate into their own imaginative role-plays. One episode in particular, called The Magic Xylophone, involving a xylophone that has the ability to freeze the dad, was inspiration for an ongoing game in our house.
Like the magic xylophone, the children have a special magic ‘wand’ that can freeze people. Saying the word ‘magic’ has the power to freeze and unfreeze. My husband takes his role-playing very seriously, never ever breaking from character… under any circumstances. It’s funny to a point. And then, it gets incredibly annoying. Especially, if the children refuse to unfreeze him and only they have the ability to wield this magic wand.
I could be talking to him about an important matter and the minute he is frozen, not even the seriousness of the conversation will make him respond. I could be needing a fresh towel and be stuck cold in the bathroom, and he would not break character to save me from catching pneumonia. Absolutely NOTHING will break him from character unless it’s the magic wand. It has gotten so annoying, that now I hide the wand and pretend it’s lost. Until the children find my hiding spot, wreak a bit of wand havoc and then it’s conveniently lost again.
Recently, I was on the phone with a medical receptionist, trying to organise the family’s influenza vaccinations. I had been quite anxious about getting an appointment and organising our injections to be performed in the medical clinic’s car park to avoid COVID-19 exposure. With the phone to my ear, I glanced over to my husband and asked if the available appointment worked with his schedule. To my horror, my three-year-old had located the wand. With a wave of his hand, an excited squeal, Henry uttered the five-letter word that I’ve come to despise. MAGIC! In a jiffy, my husband was frozen.
“Henry, unmagic your dad.”
Giggles. Giggles. More giggles. Two unrelenting kids. A frozen dad. No answer to my VERY important question.
“HENRY! Unmagic your dad.”
“Gary! Can you make the appointment or not? GARY!!”
All the while, the medical receptionist was huffing and puffing in my ear. She was talking of stock shortages, lack of appointments and pressured me to make a decision. If you can, imagine me with steam coming from my ears and nose. I lost my cool.
For the first time, my husband broke character and responded. I got my answer and made the appointment but at what cost? I broke the magic. I diluted the power of the wand. I destroyed their game of make-believe. The kids were mighty upset with me.
This was a game that brought two fighting siblings together, nurtured creativity and imagination, helped them share and co-operate and supported their emotional and social development. The magic wand was a powerful tool of learning. I had to fix the problem that I had created. I thought to myself “What would Chilli do?”
The next day, as I was sweeping the floor, Henry walked past with his magic wand. He pointed the wand in my direction and said MAGIC! I froze and to my delight, Henry yelled out to his sister “Mandy! Mandy, come quick! I froze Mummy.” Something that has never happened before. We ended up playing Magic Wand until we couldn’t keep the laughter in anymore.
“The magic is back!” I heard my three-year-old whisper to his sister.
I finished sweeping with a huge smile on my face. Who knew I’d be happy to hear that word again?!
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