From day one, we have made it clear to Little Chick that it is our job to keep him safe, but it’s also what we want to do. He seems to have a good understanding of this and as he has (seemingly) grown more secure with us he has used the word more often.
Lately, he has been using ‘safe’ a lot, incorporating it into games, especially chase and hide and seek. He has also devised and instigated a game with safety at the heart of it, specifically me keeping him safe and protecting him from dangerous outsiders.
Little Chick loves the Trolls movie – in truth, it is a family favourite that we enjoyed before even meeting him. On one level, he understands that the Bergens are not villains but misunderstood creatures who haven’t experienced true happiness. But that is pretty deep and a conversation for when he’s older. On another level, he knows that the Trolls retreat to safety from the Bergen attack and this is the aspect he incorporates in his play.
Initially, he was happy to shout the warning of “Bergen!” and we would both hide from the imaginary enemy. We would then re-emerge once he deemed it safe. This has now evolved to us diving for cover in Mummy and Mama’s bed and hiding under the duvet until the danger has passed. Further, he has started encouraging me to talk with the Bergen and negotiate with him (or her – Mr and Mrs Bergen both turn up uninvited). The scene plays out like this.
Little Chick [breathlessly, hiding under the covers]: Bergen! Hurt me. Mummy, talk. Please.
Me [politely]: Hello, Mr Bergen. How are you? (pause while I pretend to listen to his reply) Oh, no. I won’t let you come and hurt Little Chick.
[firmly] He’s my special boy and I love him very much. I promise that I won’t let you – or anyone else – hurt him.
[still firmly but a little softer] He’s my family and I will keep him safe forever.
[firmly, think best teacher’s voice] Go away!
(Here I leave a pause for Little Chick to think about what was said and, sometimes, to regulate his breathing. I then gently stroke his hair or reassuringly place one hand on his back)
Little Chick [takes a deep breath then calmly speaks]: Safe.
Part of me worries that this is a latent memory of a real time when he was scared, but I also appreciate that it is most likely the creation of a fertile imagination. For now, I am happy to play the game and am satisfied that he feels secure enough to ask us for help and protection. Our home is his safe place and we are his safe people and we need to work hard to maintain that.