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.