I believe that imaginary friends are a healthy part of a child’s development. I think that it demonstrates a strong creative mind and I encourage it. My older son frequently invited Bambi the deer, and Spirit the horse to move in with us when he was little. I’m familiar with having an extra personality in the room to interact with. (I’m not even including all the voices in my own head.)
My youngest son, Kaden, who is four years old, does not have an imaginary friend. He has his Grandpa.
About a year ago, Kaden started talking about his Grandpa. It was so out-of-the-blue it made me wonder if he was seeing someone who didn’t exist (like in The Sixth Sense).
I would ask him to describe his Grandpa to me so I could determine if it was a long, lost ancestor or if something was “visiting us.” Kaden would reply his Grandpa had “white hair and wore pants.” Well, shoot, my Dad has white hair and wears pants. It must be him. I would show him a photo and Kaden would say “yes, that’s my Grandpa.” However, I can guarantee my Dad has NOT done any of the things Kaden says he’s done.
Kaden will say things like:
“My Grandpa chased a bear away with a sword.”
“My Grandpa wants to get me a motorcycle.”
“My Grandpa has two blue horses and has the fastest race car.”
Or, if you ask him how he knows…the names of all the planets or bees collect honey, Kaden will say, “My Grandpa told me that.”
The funny (okay, weird, strange, bizarre) thing about this “Grandpa-friend” is my Dad lives in Florida and due to health issues has only seen Kaden a few times. (Most recently in May when we went down for a visit.)
I don’t want to burst his bubble by saying, “Believe me, that is NOT your Grandpa.” But honestly, as someone in the sandwich generation who is not just raising children, working full-time, but also trying to manage their parent’s declining health and the issues associated with that, sometimes I want to!
I even spoke to Kaden’s teacher about it because it was so odd to me. His teacher was shocked to find out that Kaden hasn’t seen his Grandpa more often. Apparently, he’s talking about him at school, too. His teacher laughed. He laughed A LOT. And then he reassured me this was normal and evidence of Kaden’s very strong and vivid imagination.
Of all the characters Kaden loves to imagine he’s playing with (dragons, superheroes, animals with jobs), he chose MY DAD as this fantastical being?!
My parents were still together when my Mom passed away from cancer 10 years ago. My sisters and I were super-close with our Mom and not as close to our Dad. He was there, but not as involved with us on a day-to-day basis as Mom. The irony of all of this is these days, I hear about MY DAD more often than I probably did when I was growing up. And it’s from a four-year-old. I’m convinced it’s my Mom’s doing… all the way from Heaven.
This is how you know the universe has a strange sense of humor (and so does my family).
By the way, Kaden told me that my Dad flew a rocket ship to Mars.