The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Monday, February 06, 2006

The peacock on her shoulder

Julia's teacher laughed when we came to the "exhibits self control" checkbox on the evaluation form she shared with me at our parent/teacher conference last week. "I've never seen a kid with so much self control," she told me. I knew immediately that I had Gofo to thank.

Gofo is Julia's imaginary friend. I can't recall exactly when he came on the scene, but he's been around for long enough that he's a permanent fixture in our lives. I've heard of kids who set places for their imaginary friends at the table or buckle them into the car, but Gofo doesn't merit that kind of treatment around here. We mainly know that Gofo is in the room when Julia begins telling him off.

Julia's never seen the old devil on your shoulder routine, but she's somehow managed to mimic it quite precisely in her dealings with Gofo. The naughty Gofo, she tells us, is a peacock who wants to make her do things that she knows she shouldn't do. All through 'quiet time' and periodically at other points in the day, he urges her to do things that he knows are wrong. Julia never obliges him. Instead, she lectures him aloud about why his suggestions would be inappropriate. "No, Gofo, I am NOT going to jump on my bed. We're not allowed to do that here," I'll hear her say when she's up in her room. "Gofo! I can't yell right now or I'll wake Evan up," she'll whisper as she passes his door while he's napping. Sometimes, she'll do both voices and we'll hear all of the ways that Gofo tries to coerce her into misbehavior. In the end, she always puts him in his place.

To listen to Julia's Gofo monologues is to quite literally track all of her impulses and her efforts to contain them. I can never quite decide how I feel about Gofo; Julia's conversations with him are almost eerie at times, but at the same time, I'm amazed by this textbook look at how my child is learning self control. Julia's ongoing discussions with Gofo are amusing to follow, but they're also a fascinating glimpse inside her mind. Like all kids, Julia struggles to be good, and Gofo is the way she gives voice to that struggle. Ironically, when she does misbehave, Gofo is curiously absent from the scene, making me far more enthusiastic about having Gofo around than I might otherwise be.

It sounds so bizarre written down this way; my daughter is frequently bossed around by a subversive peacock. And yet, there's something so sweet and innocent about a child who can talk openly -- if allegorically -- about how hard it is to be good sometimes. I presume that at some point, Julia will no longer need to give voice to her internal struggles to behave and Gofo will go the way of all imaginary friends. When that happens, I suspect I'll start setting a place for him at the table and inviting him to stay a while longer. I mean, come on... what's not to love about a naughty peacock?


At 5:32 PM, Blogger Steph said...

What's not to love, indeed. Over here, we've got Midnight the pretend dog. He doesn't seem to get into trouble around the house, or try to get M into trouble like Gofo does for Julia. But last year in school, I heard tales of him getting stuck in the sand table or left outside on the playground. She talks so matter of factly about him that her new teachers this year thought he was real!

At 8:20 PM, Blogger Jennifer said...

Where can I get a Gofo? For me. Assuming he'd tell me to get off of the computer and clean my bathrooms instead, I could sure use him.

At 9:22 PM, Blogger Kristy said...

You know when I think GoFo will disappear? When Julia's writing a blog of her own. It should be called ;-)

Adorable. Insightful. Smart. 100% Julia.


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