I've heard that that there are parents of rather dull children who believe (all evidence to the contrary) that their children are imaginative and clever. My children actually are. The 7yo draws and builds and makes things, and develops elaborate games built around carefully constructed scenarios, always retaining his own persona. He's a second grade deus ex machina, contriving and controlling the actions of all of his imagined characters. It's his world, they just live in it. 4yo, however, assumes a role, and remains in character, sometimes for entire days. His preschool teachers were highly amused during the three-day period at the end of last summer during which he insisted on being addressed as "Master Yoda", remaining crouched at all times over a walking stick he'd made from Tinkertoys. Currently, his interest is in animals. Most evenings, he decides to be a puppy, or a cat, or (after a zoo visit) a panda. During his panda phase, he referred to all of his meals as "bamboo", and instructed me to close his cage door when I put him in bed. I could only hope that he wouldn't tell anyone about how his mother locks his cage at night.
Sometimes these two personalities mesh very well. 4yo loves the elaborate schemes and ideas that his brother concocts, and 7yo is usually quite willing to indulge his little brother by pretending to pet him when he's a dog, or by addressing him as "Master" when he's Yoda. Sometimes, though, one or the other of them will fail to observe the conventions, and conflict is the inevitable result. A heated discussion occured one night last week, as 7yo explained that a Lego figure was going to work, and that traffic on the road that he'd built from wooden blocks (enhanced with hand-drawn black and yellow lines) was horrific; another route would be necessary. 4yo grabbed another Lego figure and said that he was ALSO going to work, and he was going to get in the Millenium Falcon and fly to his job and...
"No! No! This isn't space! They can't fly! They don't have spaceships!"
4yo persisted, explaining how his guy was going to fix the droids when he got to work. 7yo, exasperated, tried again. "There can't BE any droids! This is just regular! He's just a regular guy, he doesn't have any droids!" A few minutes of back and forth ensued; it didn't sound like a conclusive resolution had been reached. These discussions are frequent, and sometimes matters of style, rather than substance, are at issue. "Oh shoot", said 7yo, as one of his buildings collapsed.
"Don't say 'oh shit!'", said 4yo. "We're not allowed to say 'oh shit!'"
"I didn't say 'oh shit!' I said 'oh shoot'!"
"It sounded like 'oh shit!' We're not allowed to say that."
"You're saying it."
"NO, I'm NOT! I'm saying NOT to say it! I'm not SAYING it!"
There's all the difference in the world, isn't there? If you say it in the cause of urging others not to say it, it doesn't count as saying it. The disagreement continued, now back to more substantial matters, as the 4yo decided that he couldn't be limited to earthbound nine to five. His guy rode the Millenium Falcon to his droid-fixing shop. 7yo's guy fought Beltway traffic in his Camry on his way to his job with a defense contractor. I just listened from the kitchen