Matisse vanishes into a land of total make believe for hours on end. In fact, sometimes I wonder if she ever actually leaves it, and other animate objects (like her family and friends) just come and go from that magical place as her needs necessitate. Her teddy bears are usually at the centre of the excitement; birthday parties, cake making, eating and time-outs are high on the rotation list. No prizes for guessing where she draws her inspiration from.
Sometimes Matisse's world can impact on our quality of life. A typical scenario is that Batesy suddenly goes to sleep in the middle of our dining room requiring Elspeth and I to be quiet until such time that Matisse deems it appropriate to wake up. This rarely ends well; it usually ends up with her in Time Out. On at least one occasion every single day, I charge into her room to put away some washing, or complete some other riveting domestic task, when a cyclonic meltdown behind me stops me in my tracks 'ARRHHOOOOO NNNNOOOO AAA Batteeesssyyyyys sleeeeeeepingGGAAAAA!!" A 1m whirlwind of human throws herself around, along with a few other items that cross her path, and sometimes attempts to hit me before collapsing in a dramatic heap on the floor, bunging on a waterworks to rival Niagara falls. Oh, what I wouldn't have done to be able to do that when someone woke my child. However, she usually ends up in Time Out for such psychotic, totally normal toddler behaviour. Her make believe world is intensely vivid, take it from me.
Lately the stories have been getting wilder and wilder; crocodiles eating Elspeth, going swimming in the river, Batesy messing up the room. I have started to wonder at what point it stops being imagination, and starts becoming a lie. Then I realise, it's only the intent that changes it, so as long as her heart is in the right place, she is allowed to invent away.
At the moment, there are dozens of baby geckos running around the house. Matisse is quite intrigued by them and the fact they are always trying to hide from her. She is often chasing them around, clearly trying to trap one for a pet. With no luck, so she has resorted to adopting an invisible one. She walks around with her head cocked on this funny angle, her shoulder all stiffened, “look Mum!” she declares proudly.
"Oh, what is it? I need my glasses!” I lie.
“It’s a… it’s a… it’s a baby gecko. It’s sleeeeeeping.. sshhhh.”
I resort to whispering quietly whilst the gecko sleeps. The gecko often joins us for our meals, and other antics around the house. I just realised it doesn’t yet have a name. Watch this space.
This morning Matisse was playing on the deck with Elspeth, as usual. It's the only time of the day that the deck received full sunlight, and we had just had our hottest month of record, so they are guaranteed to be out there, dripping in sweat at 7:30am. You will find me in the kitchen. Matisse comes rushing in to tell me that “a cat has come to play!”
“That’s great,” I encourage/placate her.
She rushes back in one minute later, “the cat wants to live with us!” she declares.
“OK. It can live here,” I generously offer.
She rushes off. I continue doing what I am doing in one minute increments, enjoying the sanctuary that parents with toddlers call 'time where the child engages in self directed play’ but you are still actually an integral part of the game and you can’t actually engage in anything that requires consistent thought, like doing any admin, making a phone call or heaven forbid, getting on with my university study.
Another minute passes and she comes in begging “Mum, come and look, Elsie is playing with the cat.” I muster up my most excited face, heading out into the sweltering heat to take a look at this mystical creature. Well, it was slightly less invisible than I had imagined, and it was certainly the strangest looking cat I have ever seen, even by Karama cat standards. In fact, I do think these animals have another name in other parts of the world. A street rat.
And the bit about Elsie playing the 'cat'? Not make believe. She was grabbing it, giggling hysterically whilst it looked up at her with its big beady eyes. I grabbed her quickly, then took a picture of the rat and texted it to my husband so that he could commiserate over the excitement he misses out on whilst he is hard at work. He pointed out how strange it was that a 9 month old was able to fondle it without it running away and suspected it may have been a pet. Gauging from its street rat looking exterior, I didn’t leap very far to that conclusion; in fact, the only leaping I did was downstairs to find the rat trap. For the record, life in Karama is not that badass that we, or anyone else in the neighbourhood would resort to having a street rat as a pet.
Later on in the morning we returned from playgroup and I noticed the rat all snuggled up in the blocks by the toy box. I got my camera to take a proper photo of our "new pet” anticipating its stardom on this blog. But, my portrait session quickly became a homicide investigation as I noticed its loving gaze was in fact, incredibly intense. I felt relieved that I hadn’t gotten around to setting the rat trap, shocked at my apparent lack of empathy toward a dying creature in it’s last living moments. At least it died being lovingly manhandled, surrounded by fake cake and porridge, and overhearing the fact that I would let it live with us. RIP disgusting little street rat.
PS. I am such a great wife. I am going to leave it there so Karl can "have a look at it" when he gets home.