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Please don’t tell her, but this Christmas, Elka’s grandparents are giving her a cubby house. A little house for her to live her make-believe worlds. A house of her very own, where she can make cups of tea for friends. Small cups of tea with small saucers.

Growing up, we had a cubby house. ‘Twas the night before Christmas, Dad was out there hammering and sawing and erecting… less a cubby house, more a tower among the gum trees. A home in which to imagine.

We fashioned other cubbies in the rainforest, in lantana, in an old olive tree…we befriended the resident fairies and pretended we were Big.

At school, my make-believe grew up, and we played mums and dads. I was the mum or the dad, because I was the tallest. We made porridge for the baby and pretended to take her to the doctor.

I am not sure if I ever grew up from there. Here I am twenty years later playing the same game. Hanging out washing. Washing dishes. I occasionally wear an apron, and a little girl calls me “Mum”. This cubby has a mortgage, and Dad certainly didn’t knock it up over night, but it’s still a cubby; a home in which to imagine. It doesn’t ever quite feel real.

The nine-year-old me is the same as the twenty-three-year-old me is the same as the almost-thirty me. We changed a bit along the way, but I still can’t believe I am a Real Grown-up. How did I get to this point, where I actually can make babies, and I actually can reach the washing line? It feels so surreal, when I stop and give it a thought.

And it seems I am not the only one…when I posted this sentiment on my Facebook page last week, several people responded  –

I’m 34 with 4 children ranging from 13 down to 1. I don’t ‘feel’ 34. How did that happen? Why am I doing all the washing and cleaning and…Where’s the grown-up?

30 with three children, and I feel like I’m still in the “fake it til you make it” stage. Some days I feel hyper-aware of my self, and it doesn’t feel real.

I often feel like I am a nanny…or have been temporarily inserted into someone else’s life. I keep expecting to wake up and be sixteen again.

 I feel like I am pretending to be my mum.

Is this Peter Pan phenomenon universal? Are we all little kids living in a make-believe world? A cubby on the clouds? And does someone, at some point, arrive at our front door with a letter to say that at last, we are it? We are the Real Deal. We are Legitimate Adults.

I watch my little girl buzz around the garden talking to Christopher Robin about drop bears and jagulars and pigs in trees. Her world is so magical. Although her creatures are more colourful and can do far more interesting things, she experiences her imaginary world in the same way I experience my real world – we just go along, accepting everything that happens. Like me, she will move from this imaginary world to the next and seamlessly into reality as if they are all one and the same. The fantasy will continue and will never feel quite real. Just as Real will always feel a little like Fantasy.

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{linking with Essentially Jess for IBOT}