P had a brief imaginary friend stage earlier this Fall. Last month, K started talking about her friend, Joke. (How about the irony of his name? She came up with that independently.) Joke started out as an innocent sideline character, but he has quickly become an integral part of K's world.
Anytime I compliment her on a new skill or fact she has learned she says matter-of-factly, "Joke taught me that."
During afternoon rest time she is frequently up on her knees looking out the window in her room telling me about how high Joke has climbed in the trees. Some days she refuses to lay down because "Joke is so high and that branch might snap. I am worried 'bout him, Mama!" I have learned that I am best served to play along and assure her that I will call him in and make sure he is safe.
Her stories involving him are quite creative. When she left school early last week to go to the pediatrician, she told me she left Joke at school to "look after the brothers." Then, Sunday night she cried buckets of tears because we had apparently left Joke at the restaurant where we had been for dinner. I have had to inform her that keeping up with the five people in our family is my limit. She needs to look after Joke.
This afternoon as she & I were entering Barnes & Noble she said casually, "Sometimes it hurts when you walk with toys in your shoes." If you are a mother, you know that phrases like that are cause for pause.
"It probably does. K? Do you have toys in your shoes?"
I knelt down in the middle of B&N and removed her shoes to find a plastic bracelet in one shoe and a toy lizard in the other.
"I'll bet that did hurt, sweetie. Why did you put toys in your shoes?"
"Joke told me to."
I am still not sure what to make of the whole imaginary friend thing. Particularly because Joke is very important to her. She tells me stories about him all the time. I know it is perfectly normal. I do find it hysterical that she is flanked constantly by brothers her age and she chose to invent another boy to play with. Although Joke is apparently different because he is blonde with green eyes "like Daddy's."
As my husband & I were discussing Joke tonight, we agreed to continue playing along with her. As my husband said, it is like the boyfriend you hope will just go away--if you make him off limits she's liable to become more attached. So far he is pretty harmless and fairly entertaining.
I also notice that she seems to use Joke as her 'trial balloon' to see how I might respond to various behaviors. The minds of human beings are phenomenal aren't they?
So, if you happen to see me in real life begging an invisible person to get out of a treetop, or worse yet scolding someone you cannot see, rest assured. He is very real to my little lady. Here's hoping this passes soon. Although tonight at dinner she told me she loved Joke and when they grow up they will dance together, so I think she is imagining a wedding.