Around the time that DS arrived in the world, DD, then two, started talking about someone called Emma. A girl called Emma had just started at nursery, so I assumed it was her. Then it became clear that Emma was her brand new imaginary friend. She knows perfectly well that Emma isn’t real – last winter my mum was quizzing her about what Emma looked like and DD said, with some exasperation, ‘Grandma, Emma isn’t real, she’s my Maginary Friend!’.
More than a year later, Emma is more or less constantly with us, and at some point along the way she got herself a new baby brother, called Pang (I have absolutely no idea where this name comes from), who, coincidentally, is the same age as DD’s real baby brother and does what he is doing. Except Pang is usually asleep and you couldn’t say that about DS.
This morning I was told I couldn’t follow right behind DD on the stairs because ‘you will step on Emma’. She joins us for meals, and playtime, and trips in the car and into town, and even comes on playdates. Emma (or Pang) has also started taking the blame for suspicious ‘pop-pop’ smells emanating from DD’s rear, pushing DS over, breaking things, and making mess.
I think this is very sweet, and completely normal, and probably useful. As far as I can see, Emma is not only a companion and confidante, but the relationship between Emma and Pang might be helping DD deal with her usurped place as sole child, and her status as a big sister. DH worries that Emma ‘exists’ because DD is lonely – he had his own imaginary friend when he was little – but I don’t think she is. Sometimes when she wants to see a particular real friend who isn’t around, she says stuff like ‘I’m pushing Maginary xx on the swings’.
DD does have a few special friends, but she’s not yet at the age where her real friendships have much depth, because the language and emotional intelligence isn’t quite there, so maybe Emma is someone who completely understands her, without having to try and explain. I didn’t have an imaginary friend but we did have a big old cat called Bluey who I used to say was my best friend, and I do remember telling her things.
I expect one day Emma and Pang will just fade away as real friendships evolve and deepen, although Emma might actually help DD through things like starting school, as Soren Lorenson helped Lola in ‘I Am Absolutely Too Small for School’. In the meantime, I’ll have to put up with their pop-pops as well as DH’s.