Mr. Spider and the Invisible Monkeys! Before you ask, no I haven’t been on the vodka, and they aren’t some wierd band I’ve just discovered either. These are two of my children’s favourite animals. They don’t really exist, but that doesn’t matter to them in the slightest.
S’s imaginary world has really come to life over the past few weeks. D has always had a very vivid imagination, and S seems to be following in her footsteps. When D was about three I remember how much she loved playing with ‘Mr. Spider’ – which was basically my hand. Talk about cheap toys! I’d cup my hand upside down, lay it in the palm of her hand and say that Mr. Spider was tired. D would dutifully go and find a bit of cloth or a blanket for it, (seems strange calling my hand an ‘it’), and would sing it to sleep. Other times Mr. Spider would jump about all over the place, which was basically me just jumping my hand from one bit of furniture to another, and D would go and catch him. Mr. Spider was very popular and very useful for long bus journeys – he didn’t take up any room in my bag, I didn’t have to remember to bring him along and he never broke or ran out of batteries – very handy! (pun intended). Sometimes he’d join us when we went on long walks, when D got tired I’d occupy her by making Mr. Spider balance on walls alongside her, occasionally asking her to catch him because he was falling off, or getting him to jump on her head and hitch a ride.
Another favourite of hers were the’ Invisible Monkeys.’ We walk past a green on the way up the hill into town and there are a number of trees by the path. I can’t even remember how it started but I’d often play at spotting ‘invisible monkeys’ in the trees, D would then try and catch them – often by just waving her arms around, pretending to snatch one from thin air and mimic putting a lead on them too. She’d proudly lead her invisible monkeys to school, some tied to the pushchair with invisible string, others balancing on her shoulders.
On her first day at Primary School last year I walked up the hill with her. Going to her new school was such a big step, for both of us, and I suppose we were both quite nervous; so our favourite silly made-up-monkey game was a great distraction. I dropped her off at the school door, a huge lump in my throat – just as I kissed her goodbye, she whispered conspiratorially in my ear, ‘Remember to feed all the monkeys when you get home.’ I whispered back that I would.
I walked away from the school gates, with a ton of invisible monkeys at my side, and no one to share the game with anymore. I wiped a tear away, and thought I’d imagine feeding the invisible monkeys, that way I’d be fulfilling my promise. I missed her a lot that day….
As D’s got a bit older she’s kind of grown out of the monkeys and Mr. Spider, which I’ve quietly felt a bit sad about, because they were fun games to play and because it means D is growing up – which of course is no bad thing really, it just makes me a bit wistful sometimes.
On the other hand, S has just got to the right age for this kind of play. Last week I thought I’d try re-introducing our imaginary friends and they’ve gone down a storm. Mr. Spider often climbs precariously along the wall at the bottom of the hill while S giggles and tries to get him to jump off onto his shoulder and the monkeys regularly allow themselves to be caught and walked to and from school. The windy path, overlooked with cherry trees and surrounded by undergrowth is now officially a jungle inhabited by tigers and giraffes, invisible ones of course.
The really nice thing is that D seems happy to revisit her old playmates too, and happily passes S the none-existent, invisible monkey leads, and holds them still while S scoops them up into his arms. Today she ordered S to ‘Go find a giraffe!’ so she’s thoroughly enjoying the make-believe again. The fact that this is a no props kind of play is great, even they can’t argue over completely made up animals.
I must stress I don’t play these games all the time, that wouldn’t be ‘imaginative games’, that would be ‘mental illness.’ Looking at the world through their eyes is fascinating and funny, and I’m very happy to play along with them. The thing is, when I’m old and grey and my kids have grown up and fled the nest, in my mind’s eye, I’ll still see the invisible monkeys hanging about in those trees., I just won’t have anyone to catch them with. Right now, I’m treasuring the times we have and wishing time wouldn’t snatch my babies away quite so quickly.
I’ve just had an absolutely fantastic link sent me. You HAVE to watch this!!!! It’s all about little monkeys! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3mFtW1A2oM&feature=related