Cameron chewed his ‘crispy’ salmon, playing with bits of the crust that had fallen off. Home made fish sticks are pretty easy, and way yummier than any I’ve bought in stores.
He picked up one bit, and scrutinized it, and asked, “Mama, how come this bit looks like a fish?” He flipped it over, waggled it a bit, and then changed his mind. “Or a fish fin. It looks like a fin. How come?”
I sighed. The words ‘how come’ are fingernails on chalkboard to me, lately. Especially when whined. But at least this wasn’t whined, he sounded genuinely curious.
“Because you have a good imagination, my love.”
He smiled a little, and wriggled a little, waving his ‘fish fin’. I opened my mouth to ask him yet again to stop playing with his food and EAT IT, but held off on doing that as I watched his expression change.
His mouth closed into an amused little smile, as he held his fish fin still in front of him. His eyebrows lifted a little, and the smile grew a bit. He liked whatever he was thinking about. But then … his eyes uncrinkled a little. His mouth opened a bit. And then his eyes widened until they looked as big as his dinner plate.
“Mama ….? What if I’m imagining all of this?”
“All of what, Cameron?”
“This! Dinner. The kitchen. Here. You?” The last word was just about wailed.
Seriously? He’s just barely five. Where did this come from? Did I miss the notice that the daycare’s theme of the month is philosophy?
I knew he was looking for me to reassure him, to tell him that it wasn’t all his imagination, but no. I’m not that kind of mama, apparently. Apparently I like to get revenge on my child for his drive-me-bonkers behaviour earlier in the evening by messing with his mind and making him think.
“So, are you saying that you think you’re somewhere else for real, daydreaming, and this is what you’re daydreaming about?”
He looked at me blankly, processing., for a moment. “Maybe I’m real, but everything around me is just my imagination, like a dream?” That fish fin was slowly lowering to his plate, as if there was just too much going on in that mind of his to pay any attention elsewhere.
I waited a moment, then asked, “Is there any way you could tell if something is real or imagined?”
He set the fish fin down, then nudged his plate. Then reached over and nudged mine. “If I imagined it I wouldn’t really feel it, would I? No. Um. But if I imagined I could feel it then I would.”
He looked like he was thinking very hard, so I sat silent a bit longer, ate a little (darnit, overcooked the salmon, it was dry, if this was his imagination at least I could be a better cook), and tried to remember what little history of philosophy I once knew. Someone big wrote about this, I just knew it. Or maybe I imagined that.
“Noooooo,” Cameron thoughtfully said. “If I was just imagining all of this, there wouldn’t be oranges in the salad. I hate oranges. Why would I imagine oranges in salad? There would be mango in there if it was my imagination.” As if this was the craziest idea in the world, he shook his head at me and laughed.
You should’ve seen the look on his face when his mean mama said, “Ah, but what if this is all my imagination?”