I have often wondered what it would be like to be a drama teacher dad. Now that my eldest child Oscar has just turned three, it seems timely to reflect upon something I have thought about for years – would the drama teacher aspects of myself as a father be seen in my child, even at the tender age of three? Well, these are just some of the characteristics of little Oscar that have been emerging, and continue to appear and strengthen as each day passes:
Language and Verbal Skills: Oscar likes to talk. A lot. But, it’s not just nonsense or broken sentences. He talks with complete sentences and then carries on a conversation back and forth with both children and adults. He picks up words he has heard (like most children do), but somehow at such a young age goes beyond parroting them back to me, instead using them in context. Is there higher order thinking happening somewhere in that little brain? According to his teachers at day care, Oscar possesses language skills significantly beyond his years.
Confidence: Is it any surprise that the son of a drama teacher should possess healthy doses of confidence? Probably not. But not all drama teachers would necessarily consider themselves confident people. I used to be confident anywhere and everywhere, but over the past decade have discovered I am not as fearless as once thought. I am now only confident in certain situations. I can think of few life skills more important than confidence, so I am thrilled that Oscar is confident most of the time. But, as we all know, over-confidence and cockiness is a curse, so getting that balance right is so important.
Imagination: Oscar has a very vivid imagination. He makes sound effects carrying food on a fork from his plate to his mouth at the dinner table. He even talks to inanimate objects around the house, such as apologising to a mat for accidentally tripping over it. Characters in books at story time each evening come alive. I once caught Oscar talking to a farmer in one of his story books. He even answered for the farmer in a different voice. He wasn’t reading the spoken lines of the farmer in the book; he was having his own conversation with the farmer. And like myself, Oscar finds accents amusing. Putting on funny voices are a never-ending joy. Yesterday, Oscar was wearing a t-shirt with the body of a dinosaur on the front. It is his favourite t-shirt (this used to be his “I Love My Drama Teacher” shirt, but that has been handed down for his brother to wear) because he can wear the headless dinosaur shirt and make his own head the head of the dinosaur.
Play and Role-play: We all know children’s’ imaginations run wild while playing. Oscar is no exception. Firetrucks talk to each other, toys read books together, and monsters hide under beds. When Oscar is “in the zone” there is no stopping him. It’s almost like I resist stepping in and breaking his imaginative world. I used to be the same. For years as a young child the best thing in my life was Matchbox and Hot Wheels toy cars. This world was pure escapism. I set all the rules, played all the people driving the vehicles and made all the decisions. Very empowering! Sometimes, Oscar gives me permission to enter his “world” while playing. I feel privileged. It is his world, after all, and I am always careful to play by the rules he has created.
Puppets: Did you know any object in the world can be a puppet if you want it to? Who needs a puppet that’s already a puppet? Oscar turns broomsticks into puppets, nappies into talking puppets, pillows into puppets and even television remote controls and computer mice. No stage is needed. Puppet shows can happen anywhere – on the side of his bed, in the middle of the back lawn, at the dinner table. About the only thing he hasn’t turned into a puppet yet is his little brother Hugo!
Audience: As drama teachers, we instruct our students that one of the key differences between a rehearsal and a performance is an audience. Oscar definitely understands the purpose and role of an audience. I think all children do to some extent. We see their behaviour change when an audience is present. But during play, Oscar’s audience is inside his mind. Sometimes I think this imaginative audience is more powerful than a physical audience. This audience is invisible to outsiders, but very real and powerful inside Oscar’s head. He is playing all the characters, speaking the dialogue for everyone with different voices, directing the action (then re-directing it and re-running it until he is happy with it) and remaining very focused and engaged in his ‘performance’. I suppose you could also argue the opposite. Maybe there is no audience inside his head and Oscar doesn’t need an audience for imaginative play. Or is Oscar both performer and audience at the same time, with the real Oscar being the audience? Observing him during imaginative play while he doesn’t know I’m watching is a wonderful experience, especially for a drama teacher. I am witnessing unbridled creativity occurring with intensity and ambition, yet without fear and without boundaries. If only drama students in our classrooms could sometimes do the same.
There is no doubt I encourage with my son so much of what I have posted here. It is an absolute joy to see Oscar’s smile when playing, not so much with traditional toys, but with his imagination. With two young sons and now a daughter on the way (no, we won’t be naming her Emmy and if i do, I’ll need to change Hugo’s name to Tony for the complete set), I have discovered the best thing about being a drama teacher dad is that I get to be a kid again. My students would argue that kid never went away.