My tale begins several months back, when our family visited friends on the East Coast. Along with the joy of a plane trip, the experience of new sights and sounds, endless reruns of the animal show they'd kindly recorded, they had a far more prized possession - two cats.
Otter was fascinated and smitten. She rejoiced in looking for them throughout the house and looked forward to giving them treats every evening. And long after her memories of excursions faded, the torch for Bob and Mabel burned strongly in her heart. Months after we were back home, she would quiz me on their names and inquire about their whereabouts.
Most days, I'd tell SB that the cats were doing well, though living far away. Perhaps one day she'd see them again but in the meantime I suggested she just treasure the memory of the days they spent together. Tonight however, I was hit with a bolt of inspiration that may prove most useful in the coming days.
I decided to pretend the felines were with us. We called them by name during story time, invited the up on the bed. And when the imaginary cats jumped up (complete with the light pitter-patter of feet courtesy of yours truly) we petted them, fed them imaginary treats and red them a story. Bob and Mabel then became highly interested in Otter's tooth brushing technique, were fascinated by her change into a night-time diaper, and positively overcome when SB demonstrated how she gets into her pajamas. And after holding them carefully in her hands while did our late-night hugs, SB was amazingly all too happy to settle in, get covered by her blanket and wait for B and M to curl up under it.
There were no calls for last kisses, no mad scrambles out of bed or protests against lights out. The girl, her stuffed animals, and her new pretend pets curled under her blanket, were cozy and happy and ready for sleep.
I am amazed, touched and overwhelmed by SB's ability to immerse herself in this new, make-believe world. But if I'm to be honest, there is an ulterior motive. Sure I like to nurture the flights of fancy, hoping that one day Otter's outside-the-box thinking will make her the next Einstein, Shakespeare or Van Gogh. But at the end of the day (literally) all I really care about is getting her to bed in time to enjoy a glass of wine and a bad TV show. I just wonder how long this currency will last.