'Do only mummies work?'
'No, darling,' his mother replies helpfully. 'Daddy works too. But he works at home a lot of the time. He doesn't go out to work in an office like Mummy does.'
I went through this with his sister, of course. She had ideas about what I did for a living, but little in the way of tangible product to point to. In the chapter 'Believe Me', I look at some of the connections between language, imagination and children's theory of mind (their understanding of the mental states of themselves and others). Some have argued that children's theory of mind is really like a theory, a set of hypotheses which can be tested out through the gaining of more and more information about how people think and behave. Another view, known as simulation theory, holds that children come to understand other minds by learning how to project themselves, through imagination, into the point of view of another person. In the chapter, I argue that Athena must be doing something like this, as she tries to imagine my lonely hours of writing:
I try to think what that means to her. To do that, I have to project myself imaginatively into her shoes; I have to perform a quick mental audit of what she understands (the long walks, the hours spent hunched over a notebook) and what she doesn’t. For that brief moment that I am trying to get into her head, I have to enter her perspective as I would try to enter that of a character in a work of fiction. I have to novelise her. Perhaps that is what she is trying to do as well. In order to read my mind, she has to novelise me as I am novelising her: work out where I am coming from, and then run a sort of mental simulation of my point of view, asking herself what she would do if she were standing where I’m standing. Some have argued that this is precisely what mind-reading requires: the simulation of another person’s thought processes on your own mental apparatus. In which case, theory of mind is a misnomer. It has more to do with fiction-writing than it does with science.
Back to the novel, then. Anyway, I can tell Isaac that I've earned my keep this week. There are launches to plan, publicity materials to work on, and emails to send to Lindsay, my brilliant publicist. It's been great fun thinking about the big themes of the book in new ways and in different modes of presentation. Check back soon, for The Baby in the Mirror: The Movie.