Isabel, James, and I were playing with Elmo today. It all started rather innocuously--we gave Elmo some milk in a bottle to drink, and some juice, while Elmo wore his bib. James showed Isabel how to give Cookie Monster some milk, too. Then James tore off Elmo's bib. He signed "hurt". I asked Elmo where he was hurt. "Where? Where? Your nose?" James pointed to his nose and smiled. I gathered up Elmo and said, "Oh, Elmo, that's too bad. Oh, poor Elmo--his nose hurts." Then I banged his nose on the floor. "Oh, no, Elmo hurt his nose! Oh, I'm sorry, Elmo." Well, Elmo got mad.
James put his hand in Elmo's mouth, with a fiendish grin, wrestling him around. "Elmo, no! No biting. That hurts James. Say you're sorry, please." After Elmo says he's sorry, he bites James again. "No, Elmo!" Then James bites Elmo. "No, James! No biting. That hurts Elmo. Say you're sorry, James." James signs that he's sorry. Then Elmo sits in the camping chair. I put some mismatched shoes on him. James takes them off, and puts them on again. He puts Curious George next to Elmo. They sit together companionably. James signs, "sleep". He sweeps up Elmo and looks for a suitable bed. He heads off to Mama's, and gets Elmo comfortable, reaching high up to get Elmo's head on the pillow. He gives him a good night kiss. Then James makes Elmo cry, and signs "milk", and takes him out of bed and hands him over. Ah ha. Elmo has just gotten some milk when Daddy comes home.
It's fun to see how what Elmo does corresponds to what James does, and what, maybe, he wishes he could do. I liked how the biting came right after I hurt Elmo's nose, and I thought it was interesting that Elmo wanted milk before bed. James doesn't usually get milk before bed, these days, and when he asks for Mama, Daddy explains that she's sleeping and she'll come in the morning.
I'm still a little shocked that I hurt Elmo's nose on purpose, but I'd been reading about pretend play and how it's a safe place to explore scary emotions. It's better to be able to experiment with these in this setting, and though I was thinking, like one of the mothers talked about in the book, but why model behavior you don't want to see emulated, I could see that, even without a model, James was perfectly capable of scratching my face, biting my shoulder, etc., and that NOT modeling it hadn't prevented it so far. Maybe if he was able to distance himself from the emotion a little bit, displace it, I guess, it would be easier to see different ways of responding to it, and easier to accept them. It always seems easier to me take advice on a subject before, or when it is not currently, the problem. Even if not, he seemed relieved to be led into a somewhat aggressive, a little bit whiny storyline, and it didn't prevent him from bringing in things to make Elmo feel better, like his friend Curious George, and the milk, and hugs and kisses from Mama and James. Of course, Elmo thinks this is all a pretty dumb justification for a totally unprovoked attack on his nose. Sorry, Elmo. Sorry.