I think it’s safe to say that Cameron has a good imagination. Most kids do, I think! He’ll turn a fishing rod magnet toy into a rocket, a rescue boat (and reel in a metal kayak), a food inspector to ensure it’s safe to eat. He’ll turn a straw into ten zillion different things. He has a half a zoo living in our back yard.
It’s been a long time since the fantasy world seeped into his reality. Around a year ago, I think it was, he imagined trains coming out of the tunnels in the bubbles of his bath, and screamed in terror.
This morning the edges of reality blurred ever so slightly. A man was on one of our busses with his guide dog. The three of us chatted about what that meant; I want to be sure that Cameron knows that working dogs need to be left alone to do their job, as we see them frequently. Lovely sweet Cameron piped up with, “We had a dog. But he died. He was a working dog too. He went to work with my mommy. But he died.”
I haven’t had a dog since I was what, four? So I explained that no, we never did have a dog, Cameron insisted, strongly, that we did, and began to get quite upset. He was acting as though I was telling him that the sky is really orange, just to mess with him. Nothing I could say would convince him that we never had a dog.
But then tonight things got a little more intense.
Tonight at supper we discussed what we might do this weekend, and one possibility is a visit to see the new baby beluga at the aquarium. He remembered that there are now two babies, and that there are seals, and bats. Pretty impressive, given that I don’t think we’ve been there since last summer.
In the tub, he played happily on his own very well. So well that I could do the supper dishes and tidy the hall. I went into the living room to gather pjs and such together for him, but Cameron was playing so well that I let him be. I could hear him nattering on about a baby beluga in the tub with him, and he was feeding it, and it was growing bigger.
By the time I made it to the tub, he was pretty tired. And the beluga was a grown-up-baby-beluga. He showed it to me – an empty bottle of dove soap that he plays with. Very creative! He asked me if belugas need water to live. Oh, yes, I said. Do they need fish? Oh, yes. Time to get out? Oh, yes. Playtime was over. I gathered up his toys, leaving the ‘beluga’ until very last, even after I’d gotten him out. Thoughtlessly, I reached for the bottle, and dumped the water out.
Problem? One little boy had convinced himself that this was a beluga, not a bottle, and I’d just dumped out all the fish from its tummy, as best as I could tell. Then I took it out of the water!
Cameron screamed, his knees buckled, and he howled in utter horror and disbelief. His eyes were glazed in panic. Meaningless sounds slowly resolved into words – accusing me of killing the baby beluga, through sobs and screams. He shot me looks of shock and betrayal. How could I have?
It took me a good fifteen minutes to get him calmed down. Nothing seemed to work. Logic sure didn’t, you’d think I had learned that one already. Trying to bridge him from fantasy into reality didn’t work. I wound up just having to let it go, apologize, and cuddle him. Even after stories and cuddles, he was too upset to fall asleep. It’s taken him a half an hour, and I’m not convinced he’s asleep yet.
And so we enter another phase where the boundaries between reality and fantasy are more than just a little bit blurry. I’m going to have to tread lightly for a bit. If I don’t, I may step on a penguin in the back yard.