I was on the phone with my mom, yacking away and paying attention to only my words, the phone and my mom. It was a hot day, so moisture was building up on the screen of my phone, but I couldn’t care less. I was in the zone.

“Mommy,” my son said.

“Shh, mommy is on the phone,” I replied.

My mom and I continued our conversation about the best TV shows, what my crazy uncle is up to and the color of our nails.

“Mommy, I want to show you something,” my son exclaimed.

“In a minute, I’m almost done talking,” I whispered.

My mom chimed in, “Hunny, go pay attention to that boy of yours, they grow up so fast. Look at me, sitting here a few states away talking to my 32-year-old daughter on the phone. I would long for you to be 4 again and begging for my attention.”

I hung up and went inside to find my kids. I paused, however, at the mess in the kitchen. “Oh what the heck, I’ll go ahead and clean this before I see what he needs.”

“Mommy, there you are, I really, really want to show you something, please come with me.”

“Oh gosh sweetie, let me just wash this last dish, and I promise I will be right there.”

With that he slumped away. Poor guy, he’d been feigning for my attention all day. I was starting to feel guilty, to feel pulled in two different directions. My two jobs of mother and maid were colliding.

I heard laughter in the distance. It was a soft and sweet laughter. The kind that tugs at your mama heart strings, the kind you’ll remember when they are 32 and living many states away. At this sound, I left the dishes to investigate the happenings behind these chuckles.

I walked into the playroom to my son and daughter in deep imagination.

“Oh dear,” I shouted. “There’s a GIRAFFE in the house!!”

My son bounced with joy, “That’s right, Mama! I’m the zookeeper and my sister is a giraffe!”

I quickly jumped into action. I acted as Giraffe handler and began grooming the giraffe. I brushed her “fur” and fetched a wet washcloth to clean her “hooves.”

“I think she’s hungry!” The zookeeper noticed. “Yip, yip, yip,” the giraffe agreed in what I could imagine was giraffe language.

I darted to the kitchen to fetch some lettuce and asked the giraffe to sit nicely and shake for me. Well wouldn’t you know, the giraffe living in my house is so wonderful at following rules, I rewarded her with lettuce. “Roll over, roll over,” the zookeeper requested. The giraffe complied, another piece of lettuce she got.

Later that night as we were gathered at the table, my husband asked how our day was. We all chimed in with details about the giraffe we found living in our house. “We fed her and bathed her and Mom was the official giraffe handler lady. She was so good at it, Daddy!”

You see; if I hadn’t stopped tending to reality, I would’ve missed this. I have to admit, I usually don’t jump into pretend play with my children, but oh my, this was fun. My mom’s words kept ringing in my head, “Go pay attention to that boy of yours. They grow up so fast.”

I not only created a day of wonder, exploration and memories for a lifetime, I paid attention. I played. I pretended. I was filled with imagination and I related to my children. Isn’t that what children are constantly begging for, for their parents to relate to them?

Put reality on hold and give your children an adventure. Who knows, you too may stumble across a real life giraffe in your house.

Jackie Boeheim

Jacqueline Leigh holds a BA in Journalism from Valdosta State University. She’s successfully published articles in multiple lifestyle magazines and online publications. She is passionate about entertaining both parents and children through her writing. Jacqueline's first picture book, Time For Bed With Ford And Red, is set to release in June 2017. She makes her home in North Carolina with her husband and two spirited children. You can follow her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/authorjacquelineleigh/?ref=bookmarks