If you have preschoolers, I'm sure you will recall that stage of play where you are part of the play scenario, but do not get to participate as yourself. Instead, you are expected to adopt the persona of a toy or a storybook character as a rather one-sided dialogue plays out.
I say "one-sided" because I don't get to say what I want. Instead, I am expected to know what the child wants me to say, and if I don't comply, then I am coached, at times rather impatiently.
Here is a case in point from a weekend past. Sooby is playing with Weenie, the Beanie Baby dachshund, when our conversation goes something like this:
Sooby: What is the little puppy saying?
Googie: He is saying he is so glad a little girl found him and wants to be his friend.
Sooby: No, say it like the puppy talking.
Googie: OK. Oh, little girl. I'm so glad you found me. I was so lonesome. Now I have a friend to play with. That makes me so happy.
Sooby: No, say it in a puppy voice.
Googie: (remembering Shari Lewis and trying to muster my best Hush Puppy voice) Oh, little girl. Arf. Thank you for finding me and being my friend. Arf-arf.
Sooby: No, not like that. Don't say arf. Say," What are you going to do, little girl?"
Googie/Weenie: What are you going to do, little girl?"
Sooby: Say, "Was I cold and you're making me warm?"
Googie/Weenie: Was I cold and you're making me warm?
Sooby: (to the puppy) Why, yes, little puppy. Are you hungry?
Googie/Weenie: Yes, little girl. I am famished.
Sooby: Say, "I want you to cook me some food."
Googie/Weenie: OK. I want you to cook me some food. How about some broccoli?
Sooby: Not broccoli. Dogs eat dog food.
Googie: Can I be the little girl now?
Sooby: No, you're too old.
[Pooh arrives on the scene. He is playing with a Batman action figure.]
Pooh: Say, "What are you doing, Batman?"
Googie: What are you doing, Batman.
Pooh: Flying. (Now, honestly, I probably could have come up with this on my own.)
Googie: Oh. Would you like to meet Weenie? He's such a nice little dog.
Pooh: I have to fly some more. Say, "Where are you flying, Batman?"
Googie: Where are you flying, Batman?
Pooh: In the air.
Googie: Oh, of course. Why didn't I think of that?
You get the idea. And if you have had the pleasure of playing one-on-one with kids, you have, at some time or another, had the privilege of playing the puppet part. You may not be a furry little critter head or a humanoid of the stringed variety, but you are a puppet all the same.
You say what you are told, when you are told, and how you are told. You become the ultimate straight man, and you develop a real empathy for guys like Ed McMahon.