Throughout my 11.5 years of parenting I have watched and listened as each of our daughters has played the game I now lovingly call, “I’ll be.”
As we read stories or talk at the dinner table, or snuggle up on the couch, they love to imagine who they’ll be.
I’ll be the blue pony with the princess crown.
I’ll be the little bunny on this page.
I’ll be the horse and you can be the snail … (So not fair, but so typical😂).
I’ll be the deer with the big eyes.
No, I already said I was the deer with the big eyes!! (Says the big sister) You have to pick something else. Ok, I’ll be the tiny bird and you can call me Crystal, (Phew, crisis averted)!
I’ll be the … And you will be ….Now keep reading please, mom!!
When children learn to read, they are instructed to try to imagine themselves in the story. It is empowering for children to claim their “I’ll be…” and then, imagine what life would look like as that character. It’s not only an enriching pre-literacy skill. This “I’ll be” activity allows children to imagine what it would be like in another person’s shoes.
And how critical this is for all of us at this point in history.
Story time isn’t the only “I’ll be.” There is also the “I’ll be” that exists in heart-felt, connected conversation. This kind of “I’ll be” is a forward projection of what your child may be interested in at the time or how they want to go after what they love most.
I think I’ll be a farmer when I grow up!
I think I will be a koala and you can call me Snowball. (I💖4 yr olds)
I think I’ll be a chef because I love cake!
I hadn’t played the “I’ll be” for a very long time. So tonight, over a warm bowl of our stay-well soup, I started to wonder what I’ll be .. considering all the changes surrounding all of us at this point.
I’ll be more patient.
I’ll be more generous.
I’ll be enjoying more of what is, not what I want it to be.
I’ll be present.
I’ll be outspoken.
I’ll be available to listen.
And though I can’t be a koala, or a snail, I can be looking for ways to nurture our daughters’ “I’ll be’s” alongside my own, every day.
It’s beautiful to have the imaginative freedom of a child. It’s broad scope has no limits. It’s like swinging on a broken limb with an entire beach to yourself. And as adults, too often and too many times we lose the “I’ll be”. It is swiftly replaced with should’s and shouldn’t’s. Too many times we forget the openness of creativity and imagination and let frameworks and templates lay a code for what we have to do next. We lose the “I’ll be” to the ever-commanding, “What do I need to do next.”
But in the end it’s not what we do at all; its how we make others feel.
You see if our 8 yr old, wants to be a chef because she wants to make people happy with delicious food, well, that’s consideration for others and that’s what matters.
And if our 4 yr old wants to be a koala because she wants to be a good friend to other koalas, well this translates to loving and that’s what matters.
And if our 9 yr old, wants to be a horse trainer because she doesn’t want to see horses mistreated, well this translates to compassion, and that’s what matters.
And if our 11 yr old, wants to go for the gold in the highest levels of gymnastics, well, this means she knows the value of dedicated work and believes in getting there with a strong team and this connection to others is what matters.
“I’ll be” is both an intuitive and a revolutionary game that we should never stop playing.