As Ellie gets older and more independent (and she is without a doubt independent), and her imagination develops, it’s really interesting to watch how she plays. Most often she can be found putting her “friends” (or me) to bed, playing in her kitchen making turkey sandwiches and soup, or demanding to be my helper in the kitchen. She likes to crack eggs and stir things. “Me too!” she’ll demand while pulling her stool close to the action. But sometimes her play takes her to a private magical zone that must not be interrupted.
I was distracted in the kitchen cooking against the clock making sure I had everything done in time when I noticed Ellie hadn’t come in to offer “help” yet. That’s when I peered around the corner and saw her pushing Elmo on her little car talking to him in what appeared to be a secret language. She pushed him a little bit then would look at him and whisper in his ear, “Blah blah blah peepo cheecho bagga go.” Â Then hold his hand and drag him to the piano to sit with him on the bench. Then she wouldÂ cackle with laughter.
I sat there quietly watching like seeing a wild animal in their natural habitat. If I was giving guided tours I would turn to my fellow tourists and say with a dramatic whisper, “If you peer through the curtains you can see an actual toddler engaging in play with what she calls an Elmo. Snap your photos quietly folks because we don’t want to be noticed.”
And just as I tried to snap a picture, Ellie noticed me and visibly got embarrassed. She pointed at me and said, “DADA, GO!”
“Fine fine, I’m going!”
The funny thing is that I totally get it. I understand why she wants me to go. I remember having that window into your private play space abruptly shattered.
I’d be playing with my G.I. Joes or Matchbox cars and my mom would come into the room, sit on the couch and turn the TV on. Oh no. It would always be right at the climax of my play time too, with either a car crash or a final show down between my G.I. Joe guys. And there’d she come, right in the middle of it. “Ahh man! Sgt. Slaughter was just about to take out Snake Eyes!” All of a sudden my play zone wasn’t so private anymore.
I’d try to blow it off at first by dropping my voice or keeping all the dialogue and sound effects internal in hopes to keep things private. But explosions aren’tas dramatic when you can’t make the noises out loud. You know, when you fill your cheeks full of air and make that noise with a slightly explosive ‘P’followed by a long tapering semi-gargle rumbling sound. “Pakkkkrrrroooooowwww!” Yeah, that’s not so fun with mom lingering over your shoulder, whether if she’s paying attention or not.
I’d keep looking over my shoulder to see if she was paying attention or had left yet. By then my whole scenario had fallen apart and I’d move on to other activities. At least I didn’t shout at her to go (that I can remember).
But being on the other side of this now, is just amazing. It’s incredible to watch her develop this imagination and put it into action. She doesn’t need me to occupy her 24/7 or have a bunch of fancy toys. All she needs is her mind and her favorite stuffed animal. So the next time I see Ellie deep in her play zone, I’ll be sure to not watch her like I’m on a wildlife tour and just go back into the kitchen.