I am currently a Stay At Home Mum. This is a label that makes me cringe – it sounds at once rather leisurely and also like you’ve given up on the world all in one go. “Out to the park you say? Nah, we’ll just Stay At Home thanks.” It’s not hugely aspirational is it? And the staying at home we do do is generally fraught with me trying to put a wash on while shaking small children off my leg. Anyway. That’s by the by.
Most parents have the experience of being drawn into their child’s strange little imaginary worlds and, in all the Staying At Home I do, I’ve become extremely familiar with this practice. Sometimes, I really throw myself into it – do all the voices, facial expressions and actions associated with whatever is requested. Most of the time, I’m inwardly groaning at the demand to be Jolly effing Roger on a mission to take back his treasure. Again.
The Toddler has developed a fairly standard sentence to demand imaginary play: “You be X and I be X”, so “You be Jolly Roger and I be Captain Hook” or “You be a knight and I be a dragon” etc. All pretty normal. I know where I stand, whether I’m “arrrghhing” like a pirate or slaying a dragon with a foam sword, we each understand the roles pretty well. But recently, the Toddler has been throwing in a few curveballs.
“You be the woman and I be the octopus”
We both stare at each other, wondering who is going to make the first move. Neither of us know how to start this off.
Then, ridiculously, I find myself asking him for direction.
“So…is the woman in the sea?”
A definite “Yes”
“Okay. Right” I open my mouth to start talking but am still at a loss. I do not know why this is so important to me but I’m learning new things about myself every day, it seems. Improv doesn’t seem to be a strong point, perhaps.
I continue to harass my mini Scorsese for further notes “Is she scared of the octopus or are they friends?” “Why is she in the sea?” “Is she a mermaid?” “Shall we just play Jolly Roger and Captain Hook?”
He stares at me, unable to come up with any answers because he is not yet 3 and is confused by this line of questioning. He silently shuffles out of the room, and returns with a pirate hat and some gold doubloons.
We mutually acknowledge this as an escape from the weird woman/octopus situation and head off to Treasure Island with great relief. Perhaps old Jolly Roger isn’t so bad after all.