The Toddler is Peter Rabbit this week.
A few weeks ago, he was Mickey Mouse. He announced his new identity to me one day, and then he assigned identities to everyone else: I was Minnie Mouse, the Baby was Pluto and Daddy was quite annoyed to discover that he was Goofy. Before that, we were Numberjacks. The Toddler was Numberjack 2, the Baby was Numberjack zero, I was number 7 and Daddy was number 8. We ourselves had suggested that he was number 2, trying to explain the concept of ‘age’ to him. We were never sure whether he’d got it, and whether our own numbers had been assigned reflecting how old the Toddler thought we were, or whether it was our status in the house or just how much he liked the Numberjacks in question. When a (21 year old) friend of ours came to visit and was told she was Numberjack 9 we gave up trying to work it out and just went with it.
I find this role playing fascinating. As a child, I would get completely caught up in stories and want to live in them. I would change my name to that of the main character of my favourite book and insist my family and friends call me by it (usually something archaic and unfortunate, as I read a lot of Enid Blyton and The Worst Witch and so on). Every week, I had a ballet class with three of my friends, and our parents would take it in turns to get us there. As one family did not own a car, they got us to ballet by taxi. We loved this, as we got to go on our own and lie about our names. I would tell the driver I was called Mildred or Darryl and be someone else the next week, terrified meanwhile that one day we’d get the same driver we’d had before and he would rumble us.
But I was about nine at the time. My son is two and a half and he already has this longing to live in stories.
With the Numberjacks, he definitely acts out episodes, but with his paper numbers, not by pretending to be a Numberjack himself. He will launch number 3 and find a three to land on in the house, and once I drew the puzzler for him and he wanted me to trap all the numbers in Puzzler bubbles.
When he discovered Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, it was the Mouskatools that followed us into every day life. If something went wrong, the Toddler would helpfully suggest that a Mouskatool could help Mummy’s car drive faster or bring more Shreddies when they’d run out.
Now, it’s Peter Rabbit, his new discovery. He is Peter Rabbit, of course. I am Mummy Rabbit. His baby sister is Cotton Tail. He will ask me: “Oh! Where’s Cotton Tail?” Or: “Look, Cotton Tail trying to stand!” Or if she is yawning in her car seat: “Cotton Tail is really tired. Wants a little sleep. Oh, poor Cotton Tail.” Somehow this is just irresistibly cute and expresses his love for her perfectly. She is Peter Rabbit’s little sister, an adorable little rabbit who sometimes gets in the way of his best laid plans.
Last night, I was Mr Tod. This was new. I’d never before been a baddie and I wasn’t sure what was expected of me. So as my son skipped, rabbit style, up the stairs, I followed him slowly and said I was coming to get him, trying to stay on the right side of scary. But I needn’t have worried. The Toddler fed me my line: “I smell rabbit!” I repeated this obligingly.
It turned out that Mr Tod gets a lot more done. He was allowed to brush the Toddler’s teeth without a fuss, he managed to change his nappy and he was even allowed to pick the two bedtime stories. Mr Tod wanted stories with foxes in them. The Toddler approved. One of the stories was in Dutch, but Mr Tod had to read it, so I translated it on the fly. I read both of them slowly, with that calm, sophisticated menace that the character has on TV. My son loved it. Mr Tod tucked him in and counted to twenty as he stroked Peter Rabbit’s fur.
I snuck in a goodnight kiss at the end. Thankfully that was allowed.