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Bluey and the Importance of Rejection-Free Playtime

The first half of the newest season of Bluey has been out on Disney+ for a few months now, with the second half coming this year. If you haven’t seen it yet, let me tell you: It’s good. It’s really good. As soon as the intro music hits, my daughter, Winter Monet, and I are locked in for a wonderful story that entertains and inspires us.

Bluey is an Australian kids’ cartoon about the Heelers, a family of four blue heelers. Consisting of the father Bandit, mother Chili, and daughters Bingo and Bluey, the family experiences many adventures and mishaps in the eight-minute-episode format.

I appreciate how the show doesn’t depict the parents as perfect. Many times they make mistakes or dodge their responsibilities. These parents feel relatable to me. My wife and I are both working parents, and many times after I get home or when I’m relaxing, typically tired, my daughter wants to play with me. In those moments, I have a choice to make: do I play, or do I make a valid excuse that I’m too tired or busy? In situations like these, I believe I can learn much from Bluey.

Photo courtesy of Ludo Studios.

When Bandit’s kids ask him to play, he attempts to engage with them without the baggage of his day interfering. When his children want to play imagination games, he wholly accepts the worlds his kids build. He’s no longer the father, but a newborn puppy, a manager, a dancer, or even a son. No matter how he feels, he slots right into whatever role his kids need.

Even more, he never points out the ridiculousness of their requests (like when Bandit and his brother Stripe end up as horses at a wedding), but plays along, fully committed to what is happening. He understands that his girls don’t need his rules or input; they just need his time, his attention, and his imagination.

I think this is the most important aspect of the show, and one that’s often missed. Bandit is a great father not because he’s perfect, but because he invests in his children’s playtime.

Now, sure, I play with my daughter, but I believe it’s how I play with her that truly matters. I need to remember that playtime is everything to my three-year-old, and her imagination and storytelling are a huge part of it!

She waits all day for me to pick her up and spend time with her. After a long day of work, it could be easy for me as a parent to say, “No, I don’t want to play this. I’m too tired,” or, “Let’s just play something easier.” But is that the message I want to give her?

When I reject her way of playing, I actively shut the door on her desires. I say that my interest takes priority.

Truthfully, this is familiar territory. Growing up as a nerd, there were plenty of people who didn’t understand my interests, and who definitely weren’t willing to take part in them. I felt judgement and exclusion far more as a child. It was difficult navigating through a society I didn’t fit into. Ironically, my church was where I felt the most ostracized.

Even now, as an adult, I still get glossy eyes and zoned-out looks whenever I talk about the anime I’m watching, video games I’m playing, or nerdy items I’m buying.

Thankfully, times have changed and nerdy culture is now more popular than ever, but many painful memories for nerds of my generation still remain.

As someone who understands the pains of rejection, why would I want to reject my daughter’s ways of playing? When she comes to me with her toys, her books, and her imagination, I want to do everything I can, much like Bandit does, to accept it all as a wonderful part of who she is.

Photo courtesy of Ludo Studios.

I’ve worn too-tight princess shoes more than I’d like to admit. I’ve had my nails painted. I’ve worn stickers for entire work days because Winter gave them to me. I’ve watched so much Baby Shark and Mickey Mouse that I can sing the songs along with her—and I do!

When she tells me I’m a princess, then I’m a princess. When she wants to be held like a baby, I pick her up and swing her side to side. When she tells me I look beautiful, no one can tell me any different! All of these things mean something to her, so I want to make sure they mean something to me.

I am determined that no matter what my daughter experiences outside our house, her home will always be a place where she, with all of her interest and dreams, is accepted and encouraged.

I understand that I only have so many years left until “Dada, play with me” becomes “Dad, I’ll see you later.” I pray that all the investing and engaging I do with her as a child will somehow leave the door open, if even just a bit, to continue engaging with one another as she grows up. I hope as she gets older, though our relationship will change, we still make time to play together.

Parenting is hard. So is being a kid. I’m definitely not one who wants to add more to my plate, but I believe saying yes to my daughter in playtime is one of the best and easiest ways to cultivate a wonderfully fun and truly magical relationship.

IT savant by day, Dungeon Master by night, Ryan can usually be found behind some sort of screen in San Antonio, TX. When he isn't killing party members, he enjoys leading worship at his church, while also trying his hand at any creative outlet involving Photoshop, After Effects, or Premiere Pro. The highlights of his life (and many photos of his dog) can be found on Instagram and Twitter @ryanpguerra

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