Hindsight Parenting: New Siblings and Imaginary Friends
So Ila has a sister. Now stop calculating and clutching your chest. I am not and never will be pregnant again. The vasectomy and heart condition has ensured that (And honestly…phew.). And no, no there is no illegitimate child involved. Although, I am sure there are some who live to fuel the small town gossip mill who just read my first line and ran off to shout THAT type of story from the roof top of the very tall ivory tower that serves as the gossip mill’s sturdy structure and meeting place in my community. Nope…there is no sister, but there is.
That last line made no sense to you did it? Yet it makes perfect sense to me…and to Ila…who made her sister up. Yup. It’s an imaginary sister. Let me introduce you to Jess. She is 12. She has glasses which she no longer wears. She lives in our garden (We don’t have one and even if we did, it’s buried under two feet of snow.). She has dark hair, loves the color purple and doesn’t want to go to school at all. Somehow, although she is Ila’s sister, she has a completely different mother and father, but they don’t live in the garden with her. Jess has existed for my daughter for quite some time now. She’d show up sporadically. A mention here and there—but lately she has been a fixture in our house and in Ila’s imagination.
You see, even though “Jess” has been around for months, her constant presence showed up after Ila’s father and I had a particularly nasty blowout within ear shot of our daughter (If you knew how difficult it was for me to actually put those words down on paper, you would perhaps be less apt to judge me…maybe not.). But it happened. I am not proud of my behavior. My husband’s behavior was equally reprehensible and because I am UBER sensitive to NOT screwing up as much this time around as a mother, Jess’s appearance coinciding with the shameful argument has plagued me. I blamed myself (shocking!) for the creation of Jess and worried (me worry??) that my daughter was somehow damaged because of my behavior.
In fact, it may be my imagination, but it seemed that lately every time Ila’s father and I have just a normal conversation, Ila begins talking to “Jess” loudly as if to drown us out just in case the fighting takes place again. I could be wrong…maybe not. And true to my nature I have been pretty good at beating myself up about it all, sure that I had psychologically scarred my daughter for the rest of her life. And it is a rare mothering moment for me that I have no Hindsight whatsoever to fall back upon. Imaginary human beings living in my house never happened during the first 19 years of motherhood. I knew nothing about the phenomenon except for the fact that my little sister had an imaginary friend named “Big Friend” who we used to have to set a place for at the dinner table. But since my parents argued incessantly, that knowledge did nothing to quell my guilt.
So I did what any mother in this day and age does when needing information, I poured over everything the internet had ever published about imaginary humans (all right maybe not EVERYTHING. I may be exaggerating…just a tad…maybe not.) According to the doctors that write for BabyCenter.com, having imaginary friends or siblings or even animals is natural and normal for preschoolers. Studies actually show that kids with imaginary humans turn out to be more cooperative, creative, independent, and happy than those without.
This was good news, not only for Ila, but for her weary mother who thought that the presence of “Jess” was proof of my ineptitude. So what now? Well, I am off to play school with Ila…and Jess. Apparently it is Ila’s sister’s turn to be the teacher. I am eager to get started. I wonder what she’ll teach me today. She’s already taught me so much.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.
[Photo credit: (ccl) Thomas Tolkien]