‘Let’s play mermaids’.
My heart sank. My intense dislike of playing with kids is well documented.
This was Number Three, just shy of four years old, and I was suffering some serious déjà vu.
Ironically, the cause of my previous angst – Curly Mop, newly six, was sitting at the table building Lego. The Bombshell hadn’t even dragged her eight-turning-fifteen-year-old carcass out of bed yet. I was stuck.
I would have preferred it if someone had asked me to wipe their butt, but in deference to the fact that she was asking so nicely (and I was curious why she was holding up a naked Ken doll), I spun around on my seat and said (as convincingly as I could) ‘ok!’
She handed me two dolls. ‘You play with this mermaid,’ she said. ‘And that’s the Mum,’ she said dismissively dropping a completely nude Barbie on the table.
‘Let’s swim!’ she said. ‘Pash pash,’ and off she went. I think she meant ‘splash, splash’ but the fact that her mermaid was locked in a tight embrace with the naked Ken doll left the entire thing open to interpretation.
A blue quilt was spread out on the floor, with some strategic cushions. ‘That’s the water,’ Three explained. ‘And these are the rocks. Put mum on the rock. She needs to work.’
I guiltily dropped the naked doll on the rock, her point well taken.
We wiggled our mermaids across the quilt.
‘Look!,’ she cried. ‘See-saw horses.’ I didn’t have the heart to correct her.
‘Shaaaarks,’ she hissed. ‘They’re sleeping over there.’
‘So we have to play quietly?’ I said.
She moved her mermaid gently along on the tip of its tail. ‘Tip toe tip toe,’ she whispered.
‘Aghhh they’re awake,’ I cried, wishing for a bit more action.
‘No,’ she said fiercely. ‘You sharks stay on the grass,’ she said in a big voice.
‘Awwwwww,’ she replied for the sharks in a small sad voice.
‘Let’s go to school,’ her mermaid said.
I was getting bored. ‘A school of fish?’ I asked, laughing at how clever I was.
She shook her head impatiently. ‘No. Mermaid school!’ she huffed.
Suddenly the Mop came past with two of her Lego horses. Thank god.
‘Look,’ I cried. ‘Seasaw horses!’
Three frowned slightly, then burst into laughter. ‘Muuuuum,’
The Mop began playing with Three and her mermaids.
‘Careful,’ she cautioned the mermaids. ‘People might see you.’
Three stood tall on the couch and held her mermaids up. ‘Cheese,’ she said, smiling for imaginary cameras.
By now I had slunk away, but The Mop had had enough. ‘Bye,’ she said.
‘Stay,’ pleaded Number Three. ‘I’ll give you chocolate,’ she said.
But it was too late. The Mop had wandered off, and seconds later, Number Three reappeared in front of me holding the naked Ken doll. ‘C’mon Mum. Let’s play.’