Without a shadow of a doubt, the best thing about having two little girls very close in age is the friendship that has resulted.
They can amuse each other for hours, and I really love eavesdropping on their games. I have to sort of disappear, become a wall, stay completely silent – because if they notice me there, the spell is usually broken, the game is forgotten and the biscuit begging begins.
The other day, I quietly entered the living room while Ava and Ruby were playing doctors and nurses. It was a terrific buy, their little medical set, not only because it was cheap, but also because this is a game I can 'play' with them whilst lying down.
Anyway, on this particular day, I was not the patient – they had a whole queue of dolls and stuffed toys suffering from ailments with varying degrees of seriousness.
Ava was being the doctor, while Ruby was playing the part of the concerned nurse, explaining symptoms, assisting her big sister by passing her stuff, and then putting the treated patients to bed.
"What seems to be de trouble?" Ava said as Ru waved a naked Barbie doll in the air.
"Ummm, issa broken leg!" Ruby replied, seemingly unconcerned about any further damage a good shake might cause. If I'd been that Barbie I'd have been more worried about my head facing backwards.
"Hmm. Let's see," Ava picked up the stethoscope and listened to Barbie's leg for a few seconds. "I fink she definitely needs... an injection."
A syringe full of air was masterfully administered into Barbie's ear.
"There. All better. Next!"
Ruby presented Ava with a medium-sized bear.
"What seems to be de trouble?" Ava enquired.
"Oh. Oh dear." Ava surveyed the glassy-eyed bear. "He needs to take this medicine, once a day, for a hundred... and... nine days. And DON'T FORGET TO TAKE IT."
I sniggered from the other side of the room, remembering my conversation with Ava about the importance of taking all her (disgusting pink) antibiotics.
"Mummmy!" Ruby squealed. "You poorly?"
I considered what illness I might have that would require a good half hour of treatment while lying down and also possibly half watching the 1 O'clock news.
"Yes," I said. "I've got a terrible tummy ache and I'm feeling very tired."
"I am a doctor," Ava said proudly. And this is Nurse Ruby, she will take your temperature."
Ruby ran back to get the gear, and then promptly stuffed her plastic otoscope (I had to look that up, the one doctors use to check ears) into my mouth. "You werry, werry hot, Mummy!"
"Maybe we should all have a lolly?!" Ava interjected.
"YES!" said Ruby.
"No," said I.
"Oh. Hmm. Then let's listen to your heart," Ava used the stethoscope and did the cursory eyes-to-ceiling expression. "Yes. Good. Your heart is still beeping."
Listen, I KNOW I should tell her that a heart beats, rather than beeps (I mean, she'll be starting school later this year, she'll probably get teased) but I just can't bring myself to yet. It's just too sweet.
"Ruby, pass me the hammer please, and the pills."
Ru did as she was asked and Ava used her small, plastic reflex hammer to adjust my eyebrows.
"Doctor Ava, how long have you been a doctor?" I managed to ask, despite Ruby pouring imaginary tablets in my mouth from a red tub.
Ava was wistful, and busy looking at my eyelashes. "Ummm. 'Bout... 45 minutes."
"And where did you train?"
"No, I mean, where did you learn how to be a doctor?"
"Oh! At the chemist."
"And what would you two recommend for my terrible tummy ache?"
Ava did her best to look like she was thinking really, really hard. Ruby legged it out of the room and came back with...
"Maybeeeeee... a biscuit?!"
More on Parentdish: The rules of role play (for adults)
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