July 21, 2009

Mia's Children (Or, I Bet You Didn't Know I'm A Grandfather)

I don't recall having an imaginary friend when I was a kid. I'm sure I did. A lot of kids do. A recent study in Great Britain revealed that one in five kids have imaginary friends. Compared to US research, that seems to be a little conservative. According to another study out of NYU, nearly 65% of kids between the ages of three and nine have imaginary friends. The same study attributes growth in imagination and social skills to these invisible buddies.

Anyway, I don't remember if I had one or not. I always talked out loud to myself so maybe I became my own imaginary friend. Which sounds very Kafka of me. I do know, however, that Mia has many. However, they're not her friends. They're her children.

It started a year ago. Dinner was on the table and we were attempting to herd Mia and Owen to the table. We were more successful with Owen because he was, back then, more portable. Mia stalled and told us she had forgotten something. She returned, empty handed, claiming that her children were in tow. She sat them down and we all ate together. Neither Beth nor I knew we had seating for that many.

The details on Mia's children are sketchy at best. But here's what we've been able to pick up:

  • The majority of Mia's kids are girls.
  • Mia has somewhere between three and 357 children. It's been particularly difficult to figure out exactly how many children we're talking about since the numbers and names change constantly, depending on the situation.
  • The kids' ages range from newborn to 12.
  • The imaginary kids are oddly named, since Mia usually starts riffing on a particular word and goes to town. For example, the other day, we were discussing her children whilst eating pizza. When pressed on their names, she disclosed that the children were named Schmitza, Palizza, Enditza, and Deetza. Apparently, Mia's kids are Italian. More frequently, they sound Eastern European or Southeast Asian.
  • New additions arrive frequently. The gestation period for imaginary newborns is approximately 27 hours.

I love the fact that Mia's imagination is so incredibly vast that she's populated her world not only with friends but imaginary people she feels responsible for. I realize that it's most likely largely a reaction to us bringing Owen into the world, that she wants to impose the same sort of control over something that we impose over her and her brother, and that she, too, wants in on the fun of parenting. But I admire her imagination and I hope beyond anything that she never loses it.

Did you have any imaginary friends growing up? Do you have any now?

Posted by Chris at July 21, 2009 6:15 AM

Max did that at about the same age. Only his kids all lived in Alaska. I think he had about 1000. Some days it was just a few. Others they were ALL there.

I asked him once whatever happened to them. He told me "Oh, Mom. Kids grow up, you know. Leave the nest. I'm okay with it!"

Some days, autism rocks my world!

Posted by: Holly Reynolds at July 21, 2009 7:05 AM

Nope. Never had one. I did talk to god a lot though, does that count? (Don't answer that ;)

But when my daughter was little she had the spectacularly unimaginatively named "Mr Invisible" who rode in a Wonder Womanesque invisible aeroplane which was tethered behind our car. He would occasionally require a seat at the dinner table but luckily I didn't need to feed him because he'd just eaten.

She also reads this blog, but on her Google Reader, so hopefully I won't get in trouble for writing this :)

Posted by: Jo MacD at July 21, 2009 7:08 AM

I had 66 imaginary brothers and sisters :)

Posted by: Stephanie at July 21, 2009 7:09 AM

I had one imaginary friend growing up. My daughter, on the other hand, has about 1,000. For years she had an imaginary brother named Devin who was much nicer to her than her real brother Kevin. There has also been a slew of imaginary pets. Imagination rocks!

Posted by: Traci at July 21, 2009 7:19 AM

No, I never had an imaginary friend, but my eldest daughter has just started to manifest this behaviour. I find it utterly facinating and I love hearing about her/him/it and them depending on her mood. Her younger sister however, has taken it to heart and invented an imaginary friend of her own who accompanies her to the dinner table. This imaginary friend evidently eats real food as she insists on a helping for both herself and her friend. Personally, I suspect that my youngest is slightly smarter than her sister and has realised that a fertile imagination can bear very real fruits, but it's only a suspicion....For now, I'm happy to indulge her friend with extra very real fruit which seems to molify them both.

Posted by: ChocolateChipWookie at July 21, 2009 7:26 AM

I never did have any imaginary friends, but a friend of mine's grandson has one imaginary friend and has for two years. Same name, same age as he is, and I feel like I am watching the movie Harvey except his friend isn't a Pooka Rabbit.
I did, however imagine I was going to be a famous Pop Singer, wearing beautiful hippie type clothes, with long hair and wearing sandals.

Posted by: Maribeth at July 21, 2009 7:42 AM

I don't think I ever had an imaginary friend, I'm much to literal for that, I think. My 4 year old daughter doesn't really seem to have imaginary friends, but she frequently imagines that her real friends from daycare are around and that she is playing with them. I guess that counts. My nearly 6 year old son, who is built very much like me, tattles on his sister when she is playing with her friends as though she is doing something wrong or at the very least to make me aware that his sister is nuts :). I'd be tempted to say that he totally lacks imagination except I've seen the pictures he draws.

I meant to comment yesterday that it looks like Mia's party was lots of fun for everyone involved, at least if the smile on her face is any indication! Isn't it nice to be responsible for the best day ever??


Posted by: Elizabeth at July 21, 2009 8:04 AM

no, i didn't have any imaginary friends in the literal, 'this is bob' sense, but i did have a weird ocd thing about feeling guilty if i didn't give all my toys equal attention (they were my orphanage). hence, i gave away toys a lot because it was too exhausting.
oh lord, an analyzer would have a field day with my childhood.

Posted by: cri at July 21, 2009 8:19 AM

I now have Imaginary Friends,

Wicked Pete, Samuel Adams, Yeungling, St Pauli girl...my list goes on and on.

Posted by: William at July 21, 2009 8:32 AM

I still have imaginary friends. They aren't as annoying as real ones.

Posted by: Jeff A at July 21, 2009 8:32 AM

I think growing up on a farm, excluded from my peers, helped nurture my imagination more than anything. I spent my summers more or less alone (my brother was around but was more concerned with GI Joe and wrestling than me), exploring and playing. I don't remember specific imaginary friends, per se, but I always created vast worlds that were static to certain areas of our farm (down by the fallen rock was a woodland-type realm and along our long driveway was a market area for a kingdom with the never-used side porch & the berm as the castle - I was either the person in the castle or a peasant. Our deck was the new apartment/home I had just moved into with my younger siblings, and my bedroom was, as I grew, the apartment/dorm room I had just moved into. It helped with the cleaning! :D).

Sorry for the crazy parenthetical. Anyway, one of my favorite imaginary things were these different persona that were created by drinking vials of different colored liquid. Each color had specific outfits, too. It was crazy. And awesome. I also vaguely remember playing at being twins (or really alternate personalities in one person). One was good (ethereal, moon-like...I think her name was Crescent) and the other was evil. I don't remember her name though.

I love that Mia's children seem to be so Italian! That's awesome :)

Posted by: Sparkle Pants at July 21, 2009 9:02 AM

So Mia is actually Angelina Jolie?

Those party photos rocked. I loved the bubble machine--what a great idea.

Posted by: Elise at July 21, 2009 9:04 AM

You'd think, that since I was an only child, I'd have had millions of imaginary friends, but I don't think I did.

When playing make believe, I would imagine people... whoever I was "interacting" with. Does that count? I don't think I had any long-standing relationships with those people though, or thought of them as friends. They were more... characters.

Posted by: caleal at July 21, 2009 9:05 AM

I did. Her name was Seely Galeely (I have no idea). When my dad told my kids about her, my oldest daughter adopted her, and started saving a chair for Seely at our dinner table.

Apparently, she's all grown up now, because imaginary kids keep pace with their, um, hosts.

Posted by: Julie at July 21, 2009 9:10 AM

I had a little posse of imaginary friends when I was a kid: Cathy (like Cathy in the comic strips, I guess?) and Timmy. Nowhere near the size of Mia's little family, and certainly not my "kids." I don't think I've ever heard of a child doing that; Mia's hilarious.

I think when you're an adult and you have "imaginary friends" they call it something else...

Posted by: Fraulein N at July 21, 2009 9:25 AM

My imaginary friend's name was Trina. Sometimes I wonder how she's doing...

Posted by: k8 at July 21, 2009 10:03 AM

I played a lot at make-believe with friends at school, but never had an imaginary friend. One time, my mom tells me, I did have my stomach talk to me. What did it say?

"Don't talk to her [Mom], she's stupid."

I think I was trying to express the idea of a gut feeling. I was three, and mom had just taken the dog to the "old dogs' home".

Posted by: alektra at July 21, 2009 10:39 AM

Mila had an imaginary friend named "ghost" who followed us everywhere and had to be buckled in, fed (like with actual food/drink) and bathed. "Ghost" was a boy and Mila said sometimes she could see him in the mirror in her room. Very freaky!

Posted by: mymilabean at July 21, 2009 10:57 AM

I don't remember any imaginary friends, but then I don't remember most of my childhood.

I didn't really need imaginary friends because we had our dog from when I was 3 until I was 21. He was the best friend because he was always ready to play and never told my secrets. Poor thing was subjected to many tea parties and dress up days, but I don't think he minded because he always had biscuits for a snack!

Posted by: Krush at July 21, 2009 11:13 AM

i had my own band of super heroes. the star secrets. we all had animals (think he-man?). mine was a flying unicorn. it was the early eighties, of course...

Posted by: kati at July 21, 2009 11:16 AM

My 3 1/2 year old son's imaginary friend is grandpa. Yes, he has two grandfathers but virtually no relationship with them and, when he starts telling us about great adventures like climbing Mt. Everest or going deep sea diving, it's always his grandpa who has taken him. "Grandpa" always gets credit for buying him the coolest toys, going to the wildest places and generally rocking his little world. I envision grandpa as a cross between MacGyver and Papi, Paz's patient grandpa penguin on the Discovery channel! Can't decide if I love this grandpa or hate him.

Posted by: rebecca at July 21, 2009 11:20 AM

I didn't just have an imaginary friend, I had an entire imaginary world. So goes the life of an only child. I probably still spend way too much time in my own head rather than in the world around me. The colors are brighter there and everyone always laughs at my jokes.

Posted by: Ms Sassy Pants at July 21, 2009 11:22 AM

I remember when Elijah was that age thinking, "Wow, it must suck to have to imagine everything." and then catching myself and thinking, "What a horribly jaded adult thing to say! Of course I mean 'It must be WONDERFUL to be able to imagine so much.'"

Posted by: kalisa at July 21, 2009 11:48 AM

I was the youngest of five, and my imaginary friends were a family of jack o'lanterns - two parents and two children. Go figure. I think it's great that Mia is the parent to hers.

Posted by: reen at July 21, 2009 1:45 PM

I had loads too, I think one was called Linda Cracks. I was an only child until I was 6 and also quite shy so it was easier to hang out with imaginary friends - I did have real ones as well though!

Posted by: Katherine at July 21, 2009 2:16 PM

I don't *think* I had imaginary friends. I definitely talked to and debated with myself. And, um, still do. My Self has never said "kill them all" or anything similar, so I'm comfortable with her (so far). I've either never had an imaginary friend or still do.

My seven year old, on the other hand has imaginary friends pets AND kids for several years. Friends are typically invisible and often invited in for supper, requiring a space, of course. Kids have a gestation of about 20 minutes (a doll or stuffed animal under the shirt), are newborn for total of about 5-10 minutes and are usually capable of joining us for dinner after that. They are typically named after whomever she last played with at school. Pets are not allowed at the table despite all kinds of protests (my rules).

Posted by: harmzie at July 21, 2009 2:51 PM

I did not have one.. My brother had one though, I can't remember his name. But he was a Mexican Gnome..

My oldest always had a imaginary friend. It was Darth Vadar. He would come to dinner with us, and have picnics on a regular basis. I'd often find my daughter walking around the house with her hand up in the air, I'd ask what she was doing and she'd tell me that Darth Vadar was holding her hand.

He was actually a lot nicer then people give him credit for.. but he did have a bit of a temper.. ;)

Posted by: molly at July 21, 2009 3:30 PM

I had an imaginary friend named Mrs. Poleski. Yeah, I dunno :P

Posted by: Heather at July 21, 2009 5:33 PM

I had three growing up, Frankie, Johnny, and another little boy that my mom told me I announced had just died one day. (I have no idea why they were all boys.)

My daughter hasn't talked about hers in awhile, but at some point she had her sisters, Anna and Meena (both adopted; Meena was from India), her husband Michael (he was an inflatable pool toy in the shape of a firetruck), and Dragon. (He was a dragon who slept under her bed and took her flying at night.) We loved all those stories.

I miss my imagination.

Posted by: Heather at July 21, 2009 6:08 PM

When I was five, I had imaginary mice that lived inside the seat belt of our car. When I would roll up the long seat belt in the back seat, it messed up all their furniture.

Posted by: Amy at July 21, 2009 7:29 PM

"Apparently, Mia's kids are Italian." Okay that made me laught out loud!

I definitely did not have an imaginary friend. I had many older siblings, so the thought never crossed my mind!

Posted by: coolchick at July 21, 2009 9:13 PM

I sure did! I had two. Soody and Pocklock. I talk all about a similar situation at the table in my FAQ.

It's healthy. I turned out okay - as soon as you get used to the twitching. ;-)

Posted by: Pocklock at July 21, 2009 9:26 PM

I had one imaginary friend when I was little, and it was before my brother or sister were born... so maybe it was purely for entertainment purposes? Anyway, her name was Bowie (she had a large pink bow in her hair and wore a blue dress). I don't remember much beyond that.

I've heard that imaginary friends can also be (non-evil) ghosts of children -- and living children are more "open" to seeing them because they haven't learned to fear ghosts or the supernatural. I don't have an opinion either way on this... but let's just say that weirder things have happened.

At any rate, studies have shown that kids who have imaginary friends develop language skills and retain knowledge faster than children without them, which may be because they get more linguistic practice while carrying out "conversations" with their imaginary friends than their friends get. I'm guessing that Mia might prove this study in the positive... :o)

Posted by: ironic1 at July 21, 2009 11:54 PM

I had an imaginary family as well -- husband (Scottie), and Scottie's son from a previous marriage (divorces were big in my family at the time), and a whole slew of daughters. Anytime we went out to eat in real life, my parents had to find a spot with two empty spaces next to it so that the vehicles holding my imaginary family could park with us.

Childhood imagination is a wonderful thing.

Posted by: Sandy at July 21, 2009 11:57 PM

I talked to a friend about her imaginary childhood friend; she calls it "imaginary," but she experienced it as real and has very clear memories about how he looked and what he did. It's not that she just 'acted as though' she had a friend, he was as real to her as her other friends, and she doesn't feel like she was creating it/him as she went, she was more of a passive observer of something that was going on around her. Just like when a real friend visits. I'd never heard it described that way before, I always thought the imaginary friend thing was the same as "pretend there's tea in that cup" when kids have tea parties and they definitely know there's no tea there, or when my kid plays princess and knows she's not really a princess. It's not always the case, apparently, and I'm probably just sheltered or naive, but that was surprising to me.

Posted by: robert muller at July 22, 2009 1:10 AM

I had a skunk named Beetle. He always was with me. Mom says she'd walk by my room sometimes and hear me chatting away with Beetle. I don't remember any of that...My brother's friend was Jibrey. Jibrey was always around, we never questioned him. I was told he very much enjoyed riding bikes with us.

Posted by: Amy at July 22, 2009 12:41 PM

LOL! "The gestation period for imaginary newborns is approximately 27 hours."

I don't think I had any... and I don't have any now either :)

Posted by: Nadine at July 24, 2009 2:25 PM