My little Girlie Girl is about to turn four and I have noticed the line between imagination and reality is a thin, fragile and very tricksy thing.
Tempestuous Cornish storms were forecasted. We love the atmosphere of watching foaming, gargantuan waves crashing against the beautiful coastline so endeavoured to have a (safe!) family storm chasing trip.
Girlie Girl watched daddy intently as he gathered together his camera, batteries and memory card. In a moment she sped off upstairs and returned with her pretend Disney Princess camera. When you press the button it flicks through pictures of princesses and makes a satisfying 'whir...click' noise.
'I'm going to take lot of pictos' *
*Pictos - A Girlie Girl term which I believe is a combination of Pictures and Photos
Brilliant. We encouraged her desire to be a photographer throughout the day. The whir...click sounding off at every opportunity. In the car - whir...click, watching the waves - whir...click, eating lunch - whir...click. We talked about what pictures to take, positioning the camera. We revelled in our interaction and embracing imagination, in short, we thought we were fabulous parents actively encouraging our daughter's artistic talent, imagination, hand/eye co-ordination and so on.
The mood changed in a snap when the words 'How do I get my pictos off the camera?' piped up from the rear seat.
My husband and I eyed eachother worriedly and the wonderful imaginary bubble popped leaving us scouring our brains for a good explanation that would not dash our daughter's dreams.
I believe we babbled something about how tricky princess cameras were for getting pictos out of them and waffled some words about 'magic' and 'special imaginary pictos.' She seemed satisfied and we breathed a sigh of relief.
Later I was presented with the Princess camera again, 'I think you get the pictos out with this screw' (she pointed to a silver screw). 'We need a screw diver' (interested use of words!)
It was here that I had to sit her down and tell her the truth about the pictos in the camera being imaginary and that we could draw pictures from our day instead. 'OK mummy' she said with a painfully brave smile and sat cradling her camera for some time.
In the kitchen, husband and I silently talked about how awful we felt and how amazing our little Girlie Girl was to accept her reality, indeed I think we were more upset at her courageous acceptance than if she had screamed and threw herself on the floor in a tantrum.
I'm not sure what is to be learned from this escapade. Should we have been realistic in the first place but missed out an a wonderful fun time taking pictos?
When Imagination Goes Wrong:
Last night I had another, much less positive experience of imagination when it goes awry. When I recount this tale it may come across as serious and, of course, it is serious when my child is upset but I have to laugh at certain points along the way.
We were given an 'Alien in an Egg'. You put the egg in water and, over a period of 2 days, it cracks open and a creature comes out.
Well we had lots of fun talking about what might hatch out of this egg. Ideas ranged from Dinosaur to Jelly Fish, each thing described with gusto and much excitement from Girlie Girl. She was immediately attached to the egg and wanted it by her bed. We decided the bookcase across the bedroom would be better. Everybody went to bed happy and thrilled at their new 'pet'.
I would like to mention that Girlie Girl decided to wear her brother's Gruffalo hat to bed.
Sometime later I was changing Toddler Boy on the bedroom floor just in time to see Girlie Girl rear up from the bed, still with Gruffalo hat, stride across the room and proceed to yell and scream at the bookcase.
I was by her side in an instant asking what was the matter. Toddler Boy, released from his nappy changing bonds, seized the opportunity to fulfil his plug fetish and pulled out both night lights, plunging all into darkness. The next few moments were a blur of lights flashing on and off, (he repeatedly pulls plugs in and out whilst flicking the switch and is YET TO GROW OUT OF IT - MONTHS OF OBSESSIVE PLUG BEHAVIOUR - MONTHS!!!) and a howling Gruffalo child.
Daddy came up. After many cuddles we found out that Girlie Girl thought the creature had escaped from the egg and was staring at her from the bookcase. Just as she made this announcement Toddler Boy set off the canons and fanfare on his pirate ship for extra dramatic effect!
Once the children were settled and the egg removed from the bedroom I did allow myself to laugh whenever the image of Gruffalo child shouting 'He's staring at me!' and Toddler Boy brandishing his pirate ship popped into my mind.
Another bittersweet moment of children, imagination and hilarity in adversity.