Last week, we were talking about Christmas and it suddenly occured to me that I may have been neglecting a corner of Ivy's education about life.
'Have you heard of Jesus, Ivy?' I said.
'Genies?' she asked excitedly.
'No, Jesus,' I said. 'Little baby Jesus?'
'No,' she replied. 'Who's that?'
'Well, some people think he's excellent,' I said. 'They think he's the son of God and he was born at Christmas, so they celebrate.'
She was silent for a few minutes.
Is he like a genie?'
'No,' I said. 'He's a religous leader of great meaning to millions of Christian people.'
She mulled this over for a while.
'But can you tell me about genies, Mum?'
'Well, they live in tea-pots and if you rub the teapot they come out and grant you three wishes,' I said. Ivy's face took on the familiar fervour of passion. It was like Thomas, the Wiggles and the Jurrasic period were all delivered to her on a giant blueberry.
'Here are my grant-wishes, Mum', she said. 'A walking apple, a baby made just for kids, and a pineapple pie.'
Ever since, Ivy has refined and elaborated on her grant-wishes. I thought I'd explained that genies live in the land of imagination, but I forgot that the line between magic and reality for the four-year old is tissue-thin. Last night, she begged Keith to talk about genies, and so he wove a tale about an old, dusty teapot in the back of the cupboard.
This morning, Ivy jumped into the big bed. 'I know my grant-wishes, Mum!' she shouted. 'I want a yellow sewing machine made for four-year-old and five-year-olds, a real baby for me to play with and all the dinosaurs as a pet!'
Then she hounded me out of bed and made me search for tea-pots in the cupboard. I found two, and we sat on the floor and rubbed the first one. 'Genie, genie, talk to me,' I droned. 'Grant me wishes: one, two, three!' Ivy threw open the lid and looked inside. 'Not today,' I said.
Teddy did the next one. 'Genie, genie, what you do, wake up!' he sang. Ivy looked inside that lid too, desperately, and even checked the spout for a curl of dusty smoke, and then her little heart broke.
'Oh no!' she wailed as she threw herself on the rug and cried with the painful realisation that no pet dinos or babies were forthcoming. 'Ivy-cakes, genies aren't real,' I said. 'They just live in books and in games. But they are still wonderful.'
Two honey crumpets and a game of Snap later, she'd recovered.
Ah; four. I love it.