Tonight after tucking the kids into bed I came downstairs, and there on the coffee table was a tea party all set up, with a pot, plates, and snacks. Three place settings in all. Looking up I asked Kyle:
“Were you and the girls having a tea party?”
His answer after some confusion then noticing the dishes was no.
I knew what Petra had been up to all day, and I also knew that Natalia had been playing by herself for a while. I concluded it was Talia’s party and felt I should go talk with her about it. We had just tucked them in, so I was fairly confident she wouldn’t be asleep yet, and I knew I wasn’t going to disturb the others because she’d been sleeping in the guest room because it gets more of the hall light, and as of late she’s become afraid of the dark (and of witches).
On entering the room I slipped under the covers to snuggle while I chatted with her softly.
‘Hey Tal? Where you having a tea party today?’
“Yeah” she quietly said.
“It looks like a nice party, I saw three plates and three cups and a pot of tea”
“And three cakes and a spoon”
“Yeah that’s right, Talia if you want you could ask mommy to come to your tea party sometime”
“Well, you were busy, and I was playing by myself ”
“Oh? maybe next time if you ask I can find some time, then you won’t have to play by yourself”
“There was an invisible guy there, and an invisible mommy too, named Erron”
Ughh an invisible mommy named Erron? My heart was suddenly washed with sadness. Was I really so unavailable? Was it really not even worth it to ask me to join her? Do I say no too often? Was it easier to just pretend I exist?
I do value the ability for children to play on their own, I really do, I think it’s an essential skill. That invisible mommy thing just kind of hit me hard.
In reflecting though, I’m glad that Natalia felt comfortable enough to tell me that she thought I was too busy. I’m glad for teaching moments that teach me that tomorrow I need to make time for tea parties and more for tomorrows in the future. Finally I’m touched that the imaginary mommy was named Erron because it means even if I wasn’t at that tea party I was desired to be there enough that I’m who Natalia imagines to be there.