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February 4, 2013 - Jen Zbozny
When your child has an imaginary friend, it can create real issues ... And opportunities. It's all in how you handle it, but it's difficult to know how.
Eve has an extraordinary imagination, as most children do. They make up stories at the drop of a hat. The world is full of magic to them and they easily incorporate it into their tales and games. That makes it hard to know which characters are imaginary friends and which characters are part of today's adventures only.
It makes it difficult not to offend Eve sometimes. At times I haven't been able to tell which bunny is only a part of today's game of bear and bunny house and which bunny is her very real and deeply loved imaginary friend bunny. I know, real. imaginary. bunny. Welcome to our world. Where is Elwood P. Dowd when I need him?
Innocently I will answer the question, "and then what did they do?" (for the thousandth time) with a statement like "then all the bunnies went home to their mother who tucked them in after a snack of blackberries and they all went to to bed. The end." At that point Eve will get haughty and announce that I don't know anything because THAT bunny is the biggest and strongest bunny ever and is coming over later in case anyone at the playground "be's bad." She gets insulted for the sake of her dear friend who is clearly not just a bunny in a book but very very real.
THAT bunny sometimes makes me insane because I am expected to know certain things that are basically impossible to know. I am also expected to participate in telling endless stories about said bunny in the same way I tell Eve about herself. When she asks what she was like as a baby herself, she often wants to hear what the bunny (whom I can't see) was like when I took care of her as a baby too. Curiously I am always wrong. Curiously this never deters Eve from asking me more questions about her either.
Shucks. That would be great. It doesn't seem to work that way though. Nothing short of a screaming mama meltdown is going to off that rabbit until Eve is ready to let go. Shutting it down before she's ready would be devastating to Eve. That means I've had to find the positive side to the bunny insanity.
I think I've done it. I think this invisible pal is a safe sort of hero for Eve. The bunny is an expert on everything even when Eve isn't. The bunny fearlessly makes new friends and masters new skills quickly and with ease. That gives Eve a role model and a fall back position. If Eve makes a mistake or is uncomfortable, the subject of of the bunny quickly shows up. Usually I can ask how the bunny would deal with such a situation and we can use that as a spring board for helping Eve figure out how to cope. Usually it works and gives her a way to open up.
Like so many other phases I thought we'd never weather, I'm fairly certain THAT bunny won't be around when Eve heads off to college, so I guess I can put up with her for a little while longer. Similarly, like dressing Eve, and having to carry her everywhere, I imagine I'll miss it when THAT bunny finally goes away.
Do your kids have imaginary pals? Are you on the hook for them like I am with Eve's version of Harvey? I'd love to hear your stories from the invisible friend trenches.
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