I am a bad mother.
Like many other mummies bringing up toddlers, I have countless reasons to feel this is so (every day somehow feels like it is made up of more little disasters than little triumphs!) – but there is one thing I did just recently that tops them all.
Ever since Ava introduced us to Cat (her imaginary kitten), countless other invisible visitors have dropped by. And, in the last few months, all sorts of other imaginary things have been going on too – Ava's increasingly using role play for games and entertainment.
For example, at the top of the stairs, there is now an imaginary gatekeeper who, despite us always asking very politely, will not let us through the stair gate unless we give him two imaginary sausages; and Ava opens her imaginary cafe (which serves only imaginary cake and cheese sandwiches) on a daily basis. It's quite expensive as it goes (an imaginary £64 per head).
Anyway, not so long ago, as I was on the telephone chatting to a friend, Ava and Ruby were playing on the other side of the room next to the toy kitchen. I was keeping half an eye on them to ensure there were no violent exchanges, and as I chatted away, so did Ava – though I had no idea what she was saying because I had zoned her out for the purpose of the call.
When she approached me, I was trying hard to concentrate on what my friend was telling me – but despite several little ssshhhs and, even after making the sign for 'I'll be two minutes!', she persevered. She was offering me some invisible thing on the palm of her hand and saying repeatedly: 'Look! This is for you mummy!'
I gave up and duly popped what I assumed to be one of her cafe delicacies into my mouth, then made the obligatory 'nyum nyum' noises and did a comedy gulp to show I had eaten it all up.
The look on Ava's face was one of absolute horror.
Because she had not given me my usual cheese sarnie and a cake with a cherry on top. What she had handed me was her invisible fairy princess (inspired, I think, by Thumbelina). And I had, with as much cheer and silent drama as I could muster, eaten her.
If Ava had been really upset, I would have been truly mortified. As it went, she was less sad than she was furious. I quickly finished my phone call and Ava stomped off across the living room shouting: 'You ATE MY FAIRY!'
Oh crap. I tried to make out that the nyum nyum noises had actually been kissing noises, that I was just really pleased to see that fairy – but the fact that I had so very obviously swallowed her had me pretty much sewn up.
Ava huffed. And crinkled her face into the biggest frown she could manage. And put her hands on her hips. And then said: 'It NOT funny. I have go that shop and buy nuvver one.'
Then she grabbed her shopping trolley, stomped out of the room and slammed the door behind her.
I think she has sort of forgiven me now – although the incident is still occasionally cropping up in conversation, accompanied by a liitle wagging finger. I'm just grateful that, in the world Ava inhabits, there are imaginary shops that sell imaginary fairytale creatures. Lord knows what I might eat next time I'm not properly concentrating.