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Flights of Fancy

Typically, about 3-4 months before his birthday, Simon takes a big developmental leap of some sort that corresponds with the upcoming year. This summer is no different, except that I am pretty sure what he’s doing is catching up with some missed developmental milestones from years past.

Whatever is happening, it’s awesome and a source of nightly entertainment, because the kid is finally launching himself into the wonderful world of imaginary play. Previously, we saw very little of this type of play, and when we did it was spurred on by playing with a girl (typically Caroline, Ruby, or Gabrielle). Making up scenarios and acting them out didn’t come naturally to Simon; he was more interested in fact collecting, sports, and other pursuits grounded in reality.

Now he spends considerable time each day acting out an alternate life among his stuffed animals. They get lined up and put to bed for naps during the day, a tiny stuffed cat named Freckles spends a fair bit of time completing the America Ninja Warrior obstacle course that secretly exists in our house, and each night family drama unfolds at bedtime.

Rainbow Dolphie, for example, spends most nights with me. He isn’t part of the Dirty family, for example, because he doesn’t match Dirty Dog, Dirty Dog’s Twin, Funny Monkey, or Secret Attic Monkey. (Dirty Dog is a blanket lovee; Dirty Dog’s Twin is the duplicate I bought to facilitate washing and act as insurance against loss when Simon was a baby; Funny Monkey is the monkey version of the same lovee, and Secret Attic Monkey was the duplicate I bought but never used that got discovered in an attic cedar chest about two years ago.)

Nor can Dolphie join the Little Family—the tiny stuffed animals Simon keeps under his pillow—owing to his size. That left Dolphie out as the orphan of the group, so Simon charged me with the solemn duty of taking care of him each night.

For a time, I had a reprieve. The Little Family adopted Dolphie so he wouldn’t be lonely. But just a few days after the happy event, the Littles decided that “they couldn’t take care of Dolphie because they have a baby, King Monkey I, to attend to.” God as my witness he used the word “attend” and named a stuffed animal “King Monkey the First”. Ironically, King Monkey I is not yet king; he’s a prince who will be king one day. Maybe he’s hoping the current king will abdicate like King Juan Carlos of Spain just did?

And so it goes. Each night I hear about the birthdays, sibling rivalries, and developmental milestones of his menagerie. Despite appointing himself as the brother of the group, it’s clear to me that Simon has fashioned himself the pater familias.

It’s hard to say what part of this I find the most delightful. I’m enjoying the scenarios themselves, and I love watching Simon flex a previously unused muscle. But I think what might be the most special about this is that the play, a hallmark of youth and innocence, is occurring at the same time most of Simon’s pursuits are becoming more adult than ever.

I think it’s hilarious that Simon loves Jeopardy, wants to play competitive tennis, and is so into World Cup that he called me from my mom’s house four times on Friday to discuss the games. But he’s got his whole life ahead of him to enjoy grown-up games and shows, so I’m thrilled to bits that he’s throwing himself into little boy games, too.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go check in on Rainbow Dolphie. Simon told me tonight that Rainbow Dolphie has become scared of the dark, so I need to take extra special care of him until he gets over it.


2 Responses to “Flights of Fancy”

  1. goldsteinrita says:

    Well, this explains some of the things he has said to me lately. I was in the “where did that come from?” stage. Now I will be able to get more into the spirit of things.

  2. blg says:

    Do you learn about your real life family, listening to Simon’s fantasy family? My mother used to tell a story about our favorite game, played with dolls and called “Mean Mommy.”

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