Many of us (I’ll venture to say most of us) had imaginary friends when we were children. We brought them along with us for various reasons. Perhaps we were lonely, perhaps we were only children, perhaps we just needed a friend that was always there for us, no matter what. I found my imaginary friend in kindergarten. She stuck with me for many years, but I didn’t really need her. I had an older sister, I wasn’t lonely and I always had enough friends. But she was a friend that was all mine.
When my own kids were old enough to come up with their own imaginary friends, my daughter found one all on her own. Except instead of an “imaginary” friend, she was a “pretend” friend. My daughter’s pretend friend is a penguin. She and her family live in our front yard with their cousin and a ton of little babies. When we would go places, my daughter would bring her pretend friend along with us about half of the time, especially when her brother was a baby. I think she was compensating for the extra attention I gave her brother, so that she had a companion all her own.
When my son was about three, he, too, wanted a pretend friend. But he didn’t just want one. My son can be a bit extreme in certain things, so he has hundreds of pretend friends. None of them would ever stick around for more than one outing. Sometimes several would come with us, all having names made up on the spot.
Now that my kids are five and eight, neither one of them plays with their pretend friends very often. My son almost never brings his anywhere, since he is quite independent and not at all clingy. These days he only has one when he is playing a game and needs a partner or an opponent. My daughter, however, still occasionally brings her pretend friend, since she doesn’t like to feel alone. Also, sometimes she still invites her friend to occasions like tea parties.
We have encouraged our children to use their imaginations as much as possible, so I was very happy that both kids have at least one imaginary friend.