I was sitting with my mouth wide open, the doctor was saying “open wide and say aaaaaaahhh” and I was obeying – with fear. This is a horrible moment really isn’t it, we none of us love having medical instruments pushed into the recesses of our mouth.
Dr. Bog Bog put his electronic thermonitor* into my mouth. “Wide open?” you say… “Don’t you need to close your mouth around the thermonitor* for it to register your temperature?” “Ahh…” says I, “you have not been to the clinic of Bog Bog before, have you? Well prepare yourself and never let your guard down – tis a wonderful and amazingly restorative (or damaging) medicine that is practised here – but be warned, it takes no prisoners, and expects total obedience.”
Dr. Bog Bog is not using the thermonitor* to take my temperature, he is using it, to seek out, and remove ants from the back of my mouth. Have I turned your stomach yet? Dr. Bog Bog is actually, one of the many alter egos of my son, two and ten months, and with a vocabulary and imagination to create infinite dimensions, still, just the tact of a two year old. Where he got the idea that there were ants in our mouths, I really don’t know, and most of the time, I am not sure I want to. Now, we have had manticores, giraffes, woodlice… you get the picture. They are gently sought out with the appropriate medical tools, and then carried carefully out into the garden, where they are released to live out their lives in peace. Alex has a keen interest in the medical sciences. He has (and uses) a real nurse’s stethoscope. Shortly after today’s routine ant search he was checking Yellow Teddy’s heartbeat, while Matthew held teddy. Matthew gently tapped Yellow Teddy’s back to the rhythm of a heart beat, and suddenly it occurred to me that Alex’s imagination is so vivid in part because we have aided and abetted it along its way. I am by no means taking credit for this – I wouldn’t dare! And I would be wrong if I were to try. No, Alex’s genius and deranged mind belongs wholly to him, I am just here to keep it from straying too far off the beaten path to find its way home again. But what we have done, is fostered it. When he first got his stethoscope, he listened, rapt, to our heartbeats; then (in a heartbeat) turned straight to Big Teddy, to hear his. Matthew and I met eyes and we both thought at the same time, “shit he isn’t going to hear anything” and for us, and for our son, this was a Bad Thing. So quickly Matthew drummed a beat on Big Teddy’s back, and we were rewarded with a beaming, satisfied face, because Dr. Bog Bog knew his family was in good health.
It can be a burden. Today I was screamed at, because I sat on a pile of potatoes that Farmer Ag had brought in from the fields. I am forever sitting on precious things. “They must be picked up, and moved to a more convenient place then,” I tell him. And then there was the Forest. Oh, we were in the forest for months. Alex, standing in the middle of the garden, refusing to move because he has become stuck in the mud, in the forest, and must be dug out by the Parent.
This imagination is a wonderful thing – I would surely bore you to tears if I told all the very funny stories he has come up with, but let me assure you, the Land of Bog Bog is rich, varied, reassuring, and sometimes a little frightening. Alex is a passionate child. He is a challenge to raise, that is putting it mildly, but a joy as well.
My husband commented at dinner tonight that it was like eating with one of the foreign students his family hosted when he was a child, mixed with a Monty Python sketch, and I think that pretty much sums it up. I am struggling to see the line between creativity and insanity and the gods are still in conference about which side of the line Alex will fall – perhaps he will straddle the fence. I always say its best to have a finger in each pudding you can reach.
I have found the most helpful tip in dealing with babies and children when they are utterly mind boggling – and maddening. And for record I don’t mean “maddening” in the “cute” way, I mean in the way that could actually make you wish you had remained childless for a minute. I squint at Alex and see him, and I see an alien, who has been in a pod crash here in my garden. He hatched out of the egg just as the pod splashed into my pond, and I fished him out. He looked like a small human, so I reasoned we would all be better off if I did not hand him over to the authorities, but instead raised him as my own. He has all the intelligence, actually a shed load more, than me, but none of the practical knowledge. It is my job to teach him about the finer points of table manners, anger management, social niceties… I am here to protect him and have compassion for his poor, big, alien brain, all the brilliance of the cosmos within and not the language to communicate it. He is insecure, he is brash. He needs closeness, love and cuddles, but he will hurt me just to see that he can. He has greatness in him, and he can be a nuisance. But if he is loved, nurtured, taught and protected from the Secret Alien Unit of the New World Order, he will thrive, and he will bring untold good to planet Earth. I just need to have patience, with my little alien, and he will grow, yes he will grow.
That is what I think when he does any number of bizarre things in the day… it is what I think when he wakes in the night (“what planet am I on?!”) in a panic, calling for me. It’s what I remind myself of when we tell him to close his eyes, and he screws up his face and squints, nose wrinkled, head cocked to the side, as if he is trying to read a very perplexing fine printed broadsheet.
I wonder what happens to the imagination, and I wonder if it hurts. When a child puts the doctor, farmer, ballerina, mouse, tiger to its metaphorical bed, does it cause the child a pain, like discovering your parents have cheated in a game? Of course we don’t have to lose our imaginations, but find me a 35 year old man who wants to inspect my mouth for ants and you have found me an interesting specimen indeed.
I have a feeling that with Alex, it will remain a very strong player for his whole life. I think a lot of backpedalling would have to take place to take this child from where he is to Mr. Banks pre Mary Poppins. And for that I am grateful beyond belief. Imagination is a link to whatever god the universe has hiding from us. It is the leap from science, to faith. It is the act of saying a little thank you to the blossom as it falls from the tree into your hair, making your baby giggle. It is not all, but part, of the wonder that makes life bearable. Shudder to think of the world where nothing is dreamt of, where no one at all believes in Father Christmas. A world where pixies attending a midnight summer ball, gowned in glossy green leaves, have no children the next day to boast to of their clever dancing. I will submit to the daily mouth inspections (so long as Dr. Bog Bog uses the suitable equipment) and apologise sincerely when I have thoughtlessly sat on a baby chick (just come out of his shell).
Luckily, the healing properties of the Magical World of Bog Bog keep the chick safe from my bottom, and he is safely returned to his Mama. My little chick, just come out of his shell is physical proof that wishes can also be flesh and I shall protect him from the unseeing bottoms of the world. And the alien hunters.
*As a child I reasoned that a thermometer monitored your thermo and did not understand the true pronunciation. This is something I haven’t been able to train myself out of saying, and sadly I have infected Alex with this malady. He actually thinks it is called a thermonitor, and pronounces it beautifully. I will explain to him when he is older.