Over the Memorial Day weekend, we had some friends from Alden's school over for dinner. Prior to coming to our house, they had attended several other events and, by the time they got to us, Peter (their 3 year old and one of Alden's best friends) was pretty wiped. Still, they played on the swings and went as high and fast as they could go. After that, Peter wasn't feeling well at all and ended up getting a bit sick (e.g. throwing up) and so they ducked out early. He was fine after a good night's sleep -- it had just been a packed day.
Before they had left, and when Peter was starting to not feel too good, his Mom was attending to their newest family member -- Baby Joy, who is about 2 months old. She was breastfeeding the baby and Alden was so curious. He stood right at her side, peering at what was going on, and asking a gazillion questions, "why is Baby Joy eating your boob?" Sarah explained she was drinking milk. "Why is she drinking milk from your boob?" Sarah explained that Mama's make milk for their babies and that's all that babies eat. The conversation went back and forth. I, of course, offered to remove Alden so she could focus on feeding and not be interrogated by a questioning toddler - but, she was unfazed.
Alden was fascinated by the whole visit. Both by the fact that Peter had gotten sick and by Baby Joy, particularly how tiny she was, that she had been in her Mama's belly and was now out, and that she ate from her Mama's breast. Alden continued to talk about Peter being sick and Baby Joy for the rest of the evening (he always refers to her as Baby Joy.... not just Joy. Hence, the reference here!) He wanted to play "Baby Joy" which essentially entailed him making baby noises and pretending to be a baby, insisting that we refer to him as Baby Joy. He wanted to pretend to breastfeed, but we drew a line at that, explaining that he wasn't really a baby and breasts are not for pretending. That evening, I put Baby Joy (not Alden) to bed. When I told him it was time to go to sleep, he turned to me and said, "I can't go to sleep in my bed... babies don't sleep in beds. They sleep in their Mama's arms." With that, he got extra cuddles and snuggles.
The next morning, on the way to school, Alden announced that he wasn't feeling well. He often doesn't feel well in the car, as he is quite prone to car sickness. I told him we were almost at school and he continued to protest that he didn't feel well. Once we got to school, he moped around and said, "I'm SICK. I feel SICK." I offered to read him a book before I left. He grabbed a book, sat in my lap, and then got a look of panic on his face and said, "I'm going to THROW UP." So, I ran him into the bathroom where he proceeded to stand over the toilet and gag, although, he did not throw up. At this point, I suspected I was being played a bit but also didn't know what to do. They certainly didn't want a kid that was feigning throwing up at school. So, I told him he could come back home if he was sick and he nodded in earnest and pathetic agreement, looking miserable the whole time.
Once home, I put him back in his PJs and we crawled into bed. I told him I had calls to do and he had to be quiet. I also told him we couldn't play any games or watch and videos because he was sick, so he needed to just lay in bed. He smiled and asked if we could hide. I shook my head, reiterating that I had work to do and he was sick so he just had to lay in bed. I told him I would snuggle with him, but no games, no playing and no videos.
He jerked his head to look at me and announced, "I'm not sick anymore!" I rolled my eyes and turned to him and said, "Alden were you pretending?" His eyes twinkled and he said, "YES!" Then he said, "was it funny?" I put my sternest look on my face and said, "no. It was not funny." Then I asked him if he wanted to go back to school and he confirmed that he did. So, after calling the school to make sure they'd let him return, I got him dressed again and we went back.
At the end of the day, his child care provider laughed and said he actively avoided the topic all day. He just played and if anyone talked about it, he would pretend not to hear. As we were talking about it, Alden was sitting by, clearly listening, but pretending to be oblivious.
Hopefully he's learned his lesson. He's certainly taken faking and pretending to a whole new level!