Bring My Daddy Back

In my previous blogs about my work with children,  I have emphasised my belief that when children are given an opportunity to direct their play without adult control, they are more likely to tap into their own unique self-healing mechanism and direct their play in a way that would give them the healing they needed at that time.  In play therapy it was my job to accept the choices the children made and to trust and allow the play to unfold in its own way, while offering my attention without judgement to enable the children to move to the next stage. My involvement in their play was by invitation only.

One February, while working at a Children’s Centre, I had a telephone call from the mother of two little girls, Jessica aged four and Annabelle aged six, after the recent death of their Daddy, her husband.  He had sadly  passed away after a long and harrowing  terminal illness.  She needed help  for her daughters and was desperately wanting help for her girls, refusing counselling for herself because she was ‘afraid of the thoughts that would flood in.’

Jessica and Annabelle  brought  CDs of their favourite songs to our play sessions to provide a musical backdrop to their play.  The familar music gave comfort and reassurance.   Their mother waited with a cup of tea in an adjacent room.  Initially, at intervals throughout our play sessions, Jessica ran out of the room to her mother to check that she was still there.

My play props were simple, I had a large box of lengths of coloured silk and other material for dressing up which would provide costumes.  On this particular day, I  was prompted to take with me  a small bunch of snow drops picked from the garden, (it was February) and a sparkly gold star on a silken thread.  In our play session both girls said they wanted to be princesses and eagerly rummaged through the box of material  to find colours for their princess costume.  Annabelle’s choice for a  princess skirt was vibrant red, a colour symbolic of strength and power and palest pink, resonating with the higher vibration of the heart.  A length of gold material, denoting royalty and a high frequency of vibration was chosen for the bodice.  Jessica wanted to wear the same colours as her older sister and fortunately there was enough material for both girls. I wrapped them in the silken material and held their costumes together with lengths of coloured cord.  Annabelle then proceeded to spread out a length of  blue material  in the centre of the room, which she said was a lake ( water in play equates with emotion )…..   I watched and waited for their story to unfold.

Annabelle again took the lead and asked for the small table in the corner of the room to be placed in the middle of the lake and Jessica readily agreed .  They needed help to lift it and together we placed the table in the centre of the blue material.  I asked if the table should be under the water at the bottom of the lake or floating on top of it.  I was told that it was floating on top.  As princesses, the two girls  hand in hand, decided to go for a stately walk around the lake and then Annabelle pointed to the table in the middle, as if seeing it for the first time

After a brief conversation to decide what they should do, they both waded into the pretend lake and together dragged the table out.  With imaginary cloths, they dried the table and then Jessica suggested that they polish the table to make it shiny.  They both polished the table vigorously and when I asked what happens next, Annabelle told me that rubbing the table makes a Genie come out to talk to them. I didn’t question this surprising event loosely based on Aladdin and when Annabelle asked me to dress up as the Genie of the table, I  readily agreed to join in.

Without prompting and in great excitement, Jessica chose some emerald green material for me to wrap myself in and   Annabelle authoritatively told me that as the Genie I was supposed to grant them a special wish.  In my recollection, the Genie granted  three wishes but I didn’t argue and was happy to settle for one wish.  In my best deep Genie voice, I offered to grant the girls their wish.  Without a pause, Annabelle said ‘Bring my Daddy back.’  Jessica enthusiastically nodded . When I asked where they thought their Daddy was, Annabelle with a serious face, told me that Daddy had gone to a  Golden Land.   I asked the girls what we should do  (they had now fully  involved me in their play as the Genie) , both girls said that they wanted to go there to find him and ask him to come back. We looked at travel options and the most exciting  suggestion was to fly to the Golden Land on a magic carpet.

The little princesses chose a length of pink and orange silk to represent the magic carpet. We also took a pretend picnic and juice in case we were hungry. When we arrived in the Golden Land I suggested that the Genie should go and look for their Daddy and the princesses should have their picnic and then go to sleep because they must be tired after the long journey.  This they did. On my return, as the Genie, I told them that although Daddy wasn’t able to come back he had sent a message to say that he loved Annabelle and Jessica very much and would always be able to hear his girls when they talked to him. A special present would be  waiting for  each of them when they returned from their journey.  There were some little white flowers for Annabelle to remind her that she could always talk to flowers and Daddy would be there listening to what she was saying.  She could talk to him in this way. A gold star was waiting for Jessica to remind her of the Golden Land, Daddy would be in the stars and she could talk to her gold star and the stars in the sky and Daddy would always listen to what she had to say.

The two girls liked this story and wanted to tell their Mummy, who was waiting patiently in the next room. It’s always important for children to  de role after imaginary play sessions to remind them of their true identity. With this in mind, we turned off the music and carefully put our costumes away in the box and we folded up the blue lake and the flying carpet. The girls fetched their Mummy from the adjacent room and we  sat down together  and they each told her their version of the story, which brought tears to her eyes.  I suggested that before I saw the girls again, they each draw a picture at home of their story .  After singing our goodbye song together, the girls went home happily with their white flowers and golden star.

Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.

Jennifer work is presented on the Living Memory Research Trust  website

Jennifer’s teaching manuals are offered as free downloads in the hope that they will inspire and encourage personal empowerment.

Also read : Fairytales, Astrology, Enchantment in Relation to Child Directed Creative Play