My son, Robot, (I’ll be using my kids’ nicknames in this blog) has a friend named Peen. Yes, Peen. Don’t ask me about the origin of the name. Peen is a globetrotter. He’s lived everywhere it seems: Mars, China, Portland, Washington, San Jose, and some place called “Peenum”. He is the fastest human alive. Also, he lives in the Mesozoic Era, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, but somehow teleports himself to hang out with my son from time-to-time. He was even killed once (due to a fatal bite on his foot from a mother seal), but miraculously, came back to life and seems unscathed from the incident. Peen is indeed a swashbuckling, time traveling, reincarnated, superhuman. And he is only 6.
As you may have guessed, Peen is Robot’s imaginary friend. And Robot is the first one to tell you that Peen is imaginary. There’s no illusion that he exists. In fact, at one point, soon after my son started telling us tales of Peen, my sister was so tickled by these stories that she sent him a letter “from Peen”. When I told my son about this letter, he looked at me quizzically. Soon after this, he admitted with a wry smile, “You know, Mom, Peen isn’t real.”
But Peen plays an important role for my son. Peen allows Robot to share experiences he hasn’t yet had. He allows my 4 year-old to be a voice of authority, to participate in “adult” conversations. The conversations go something like this:
Me/husband: Discussing a friend who had climbed in Nepal recently.
Robot: But PEEN…Peen lives at the tip, top of the TALLEST mountain in the world. Only he doesn’t get there by normal walking. He can only get there by hopping… on one leg.
Bottom line: any experience you or anyone you know has had, Peen has done it, too, and done it better/faster/more creatively/propelled by jet packs, etc.
Child development views on the topic of imaginary friends has changed over the years, thank goodness. The Dr. Spock-era folks believed imaginary friends were created due to some sort of lack in a child’s life. More recently, psychology research has shown that imaginary friends are just part of imaginative play and normal development.
I never recall having an imaginary friend, but always kind of wished I did. I’m captivated and a bit jealous of my son’s imagination. Frankly, I’m jealous of the imaginations of all 4 year-olds I know.
I’m not sure how long Peen will be with us before he teleports himself back to the age of dinosaurs, but I hope he sticks around for quite awhile. He makes life much more colorful.
The other evening did not go well. Maybe it was the transition from vacation back to real life, the post-holiday, post-sugar blues. Whatever it was, it wasn’t pretty.
Some days, that’s just how it goes. Both kids are ornery. I am short-tempered and tired and my husband is working late again. Traffic sucks. The kids are having a boxing match in the back seat. Traffic, somehow, sucks even more. My daughter spills her bowl of spaghetti. My son spills his milk. The cat vomits. To top it off, a favorite lamp that belonged to my beloved aunt who passed away mysteriously breaks. There were strangely no witnesses and “nobody” was repeatedly jumping off the arm of the couch.
Sigh. It’s definitely time for a glass of wine and a mommy time out.
Despite my best attempts, I’ve never consistently kept a journal, but for years (pre-kids), I compiled a collection of quotes in a little book. Leafing through the book recently, I was struck by this one:
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival: A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice — meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
I take a breath. I pour myself that glass of wine. I smile and invite them all in. And I take solace in that fact that tomorrow is another day and that one day, in the far-flung future, I’ll look back and pine for these precious, chaotic moments.
I tiptoe into my kids’ room and tuck them in, kissing them on their warm, sleepy foreheads. Goodnight my little guides, my little gurus.