I know this is just a ploy to keep me in her bedroom for as long as possible after lights out (her bedtime stalling tactics are pretty legendary), but sometimes the opportunity to make up stories with my three-year-old is just too adorable to resist.
She usually gives me one of five story plot options:
1) The dog that wants a bone
2) Mazzy teaches a duck how to swim
3) The cow that wants some grass
4) The sheep that wants some grass (not to be confused with the cow)
5) The pig that's looking for mud
Then I try to set up a scenario where there is some obstacle to overcome (There's a drought so the pig can't find water to make mud! The dog goes to the pet store but he left his wallet at home!) before the inevitable happy ending.
Recently, Mazzy switched it up and asked me to tell her a story about her friends playing on the slide. I was tired (having already told both the cow and the sheep story) so I said something like…
"Mazzy's friends wanted to play on the slide. So they found a slide. And they played on it. And they were so happy! The end."
Mazzy was not satisified. "But theeeeen…. the teacher said they couldn't play on the slide…." she continued.
Was my three-year-old daughter actually trying to develop the plot?
I tried again.
"But then the teacher said they had to stop playing on the slide because they had to go in for lunch. So they ate lunch and waited very patiently for school to be over. And when it was over, they ran to the playground where the slide was still there waiting for them. So they slid down the silde and were sooooo happy! The end."
"But theeeeeen… the slide wasn't there…"
"No, the slide was there."
"No, it wasn't!"
It was like she knew good stories involved a beginning, a middle and an end and I had shortchanged her from a proper dramatic story arc. That all stories, even ones told to a three-year-old, must have a little bit of tension.
"Okay, so Mazzy and her friends couldn't find the slide. And they said, 'Oh no! What are we going to do?!' and then Mazzy suggested they walk around the neighborhood to see if they could find a different slide. And they walked and walked and walked until they turned a corner and saw a playground they had never seen before with a slide that was even better than the first silde. And they played on it and were so happy! The end."
Apparently, Mazzy was also learning how to prolong a story unnecessarily. If she wrote a movie, it would be Titanic.
"But theeeeeen…. the old woman still has the heart necklace…"
Mazzy discovering her imagination is one of the most thrilling things to watch as a parent. Every day we are faced with a slew of imaginary friends and made-up scenarios.
She makes me pretend to be a monster so she can run away screaming. She welcomes invisible little people to sit down and drink tea. She has created safe places within the house where tigers cannot reach her. (One time, I was able to con her into cuddling, because I told her my bed was the only place that was safe from polar bears.)
Last night, Mazzy decided to swim the length of the living room in a race against several stuffed animal competitors. When she finished the pretend race in a pretend pool (to much pretend fanfare from Pooh and friends), she announced she was getting a prize.
"What's your prize?"
"Okay! Congratulations! Here's your lollipop!" I said, grabbing a bit of air and handing her a pretend treat.
"No, Mom. A REAL LOLLIPOP!"
Right. Mazzy also knows when it is to her benefit to separate fiction from reality.
She's pretty smart, that kid.
Yesterday, I found the brilliant short film "The Scared is Scared" on Rants from Mommyland. It's directed by a student named Bianca Giaever (yay! woman director!) who asked a six-year-old boy what her movie should be about and then filmed everything he said.
It is, in a word, AWESOME.
Above all else, the film reminds us why it's so amazing to have kids. Because along with tough love and epic tantrums, comes the opportunity to witness a creative mind taking shape and coming to life.
It is a fascinating, heartwarming, hilarious and beautiful thing.