One of the Boy's frequent, and perhaps most unusual, stalling techniques at bedtime is to request that we look at things in the ceiling. The first time he made this request, I almost made him an appointment with a neurologist. Or an eye doctor. Or an exorcist. It went something like this:
Dad, can we look at things in the ceiling?
Can we look at things in the ceiling.
What does that mean?
It means you lay down next to me and we'll see funny things.
Okay? (proceed to lay down on my back next to him in a stargazing pose)
What do you see, Dad?
Well, I see the ceiling fan.
No, no, no. You're doing it wrong. That's just something that's here already, what do you SEE?
I don't get it. What do YOU see?
I see a fire engine.
Right there. (points at a random spot on the dimly lit ceiling)
Right there? Right there is a fire engine?
Yes. And next to it is a rainbow. And a robot that's eating chickenuggets. (he says this very matter-of-factly, not a hint of chuckle in his voice)
You see all that?
Yes! Don't you see it? (asks incredulously)
Um. Sure. Yes. I see it. Right there next to the pink dinosaur blowing bubbles.
There isn't a pink dinosaur.
No, dad. I don't see that. No bubbles either.
So, let me make sure I have this right. You see a fire engine, a rainbow and a chicken-eating robot, but I don't see a dinosaur blowing bubbles?
Not a chicken eating a robot, Dad, a robot eating chickenuggets! (he laughs. I don't have the language or patience to explain to him hyphenated-adjective usage. Or gerunds.)
I don't think I'm playing this right, Bud.
Nothing. What else do you see?
Sparkles? What kind of sparkles?
Those kind over there (points again at a different blank white location)
Oh. Those kind. What else?
You see eyes? What kind of eyes?
Tree frog eyes. Look, they're red. And they're glowing like flashlights.
Wait, what? You see glowing red eyes in the ceiling?
Nevermind. Is there a tree frog, or just the eyes?
Just the eyes.
Honey, that's creepy. I don't want to see glowing red eyes in this or any other ceiling. What else do you see?
(He stares at the blank canvas for another 10 or 15 seconds) That's it.
Well, okay then. That was, um, fun. Good night?
Good night, Dad.
We've played this game, off and on, for the last year or so, and it has become my favorite (he'll only play it if he thinks of it, not if I request it). As his language develops, the images in his ceiling-world are getting much more elaborate (And he hasn't seen any more glowing eyes. In fact, he rarely repeats objects) Last night, over by the heat vent, he saw a dentist wearing yellow pants and holding a stethoscope. He was talking to a police officer that was wearing glasses and eating chocolate yogurt. The gray Lego castle (over by the closet door) was perilously close to collapsing because of the giant butterfly that was sitting on it and Mars was spinning backwards because it got bumped by Mercury.
Parenting Tip: A 5-year old's brain doesn't contain logic or consequence, only imagination and adventure. Assuming the environment is safe, just go with it! It's a trip worth taking.