November column for CoastKids magazine
The doctors gave me some pretty strong drugs in the hospital before I gave birth to Ivy via caesarean. Even so, I’m fairly sure that she wasn’t born a middle-aged, perma-tanned man in a blue skivvy. Yet Ivy insists on being called Anthony (famous amongst certain mothers of my acquaintance as being the Wiggle with the tightest pants.)
In public, I’m never sure what Ivy will answer when asked her name. She has a number of alter-egos, and they rise and fall in status, depending on her mood, and the laundry-needs of the Anthony shirt, the Woody scarf and the Wiggles shorts. We might go weeks living with Hairy Maclary, when Ivy will bark in response to any question, and there was a long Toy Story phase where she insisted her name was Woody, and Ted, faithful baby sidekick, became ‘Bazz,’ (Buzz Lightyear, through the language-distorter of a two-year-old.) ‘Bazz can’t walk!’ Ivy would laugh. ‘Bazz can’t talk! Bazz has food all over his face!’
It wasn’t her kindest of phases, truth be known.
Ivy is a marketers dream. An advertising sponge. Her favourite outfit looks like this: Sportacus underpants worn beneath a pair of satin Wiggles boxer shorts she found at Vinnies (a discovery that nearly made her implode with joy.) A Thomas the Tank Engine singlet (too small, too much washed), topped with a stretched-out, over-loved blue long-sleeved top known as ‘Anthony’. Ivy keeps a running commentary on its progress through the laundry system. ‘My Anthony is wet! My Anthony is on the line! My Anthony is dry! I think it is dry!’ This ensemble she tops with a pair of sunglasses I made her for her birthday that feature two Wiggles stuck on straws, leaping, maniacally and permanently, off the side of her head. (Yes, but my job is to make her happy, even when it pains me.)
How did this happen, I wonder? I try and keep her TV to a minimum. She watches ABC Kids, so at least I can avoid commercials. She watches Wiggles DVDs when I’m about to pop a parent-fuse. She’s only seen about four movies and I hardly ever buy her branded clothes and toys. But the synapse that stores pop-culture, pre-school style, is somehow set on overdrive.
I’m thankful that her most recent passion, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, predates the discovery of advertising pester power. True to form, Ivy has taken her obsession totally, pathologically, over the top. ‘Who are me, Daddy? Who are me, Mum?’ she begs ten times a day, hopping with anticipation at the answer she finds so delightful. ‘Jemima Potts?’ we answer patiently (it’s getting a little old to us.) ‘Yes! Yes!’ she cries. ‘And Teddy is Jeremy! And Daddy is… (Caractacus Potts is a mouthful so we get many versions here) Connecticalls! Caracaracs! Acticus!’ She may sing the theme song for a while here, doing her special Chitty dance (hands behind her back, Michael-Flatley style) and then spend a moment enjoying the replay of a favourite scene or two in her head. Then: ‘Who are me, Daddy? Who are me, Mum?’
They say that life can be hard for those close to a person with Multiple Personality Disorder, and for Ted, this may be true. To Ivy’s Jemima Potts, he is Jeremy. To her Woody, he is Bazz. And when she is Hairy MacLary, he must suffer the indignity of being introduced as Schnitzel Von Krumm. I suffer too. I’ve had to be Bottomley Potts, covered in spots, and Muffin McClay, like a bundle of hay. It’s not always flattering being introduced by Ivy. But my happiest days, in this surreal theatre of Ivy’s creating, are the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ones, when she insists on calling me Truly Scrumptious, over and over and over again.