Mothering and Life in General
The daughter I borrow from my husband’s previous relationship (we will call her K1) had an imaginary friend named Apple Pie. I loved to play around with K1 and ask her questions about Apple Pie. “Is Apple Pie a girl or a boy?, Is Apple Pie teaching you nice things? What is Apple Pie doing now?” and so on. I would listen attentively to her answers and file them in memory for another time Apple Pie was talked about. I have welcomed Apple Pie into our home and at public dinners, in hopes Apple Pie played nice with the daughter I always wanted to call my own. Apple Pie, depending on the day, was a girl or a boy, tall or short, and would most often play nice but other times not. The only frequency was he/she had red hair, he/she did not like to be sat on and he/she liked to hang out on my ceilings? That last one was creepy!
Most people are freaked out when they find their children to have a friend ‘who is not there’. Some may think there is something mentally wrong with their child and should ignore this ‘creature’ or guilt themselves to thinking it’s because of working outside of the home to having the child being an only child. When in fact its a common childhood friend.
Personally, I think imaginary friends are a way to express creativity in a child who have an active imagination. This Apple Pie provided a world of readings into the subject of imaginary friends. I read that creative children have imaginary friends and I also read most children have them, just most do not feel comfortable to share. I also learned that these friends progress as the child develops. For instance, a younger child would test out and learn about consequences “Apple Pie did it!” Also the younger child will use the friend to understand how relationships work, “Apple Pie hit me and I said I don’t want to be her/his friend!” As for the older child, they might use the friend to vent off feelings they may not understand or know how to deal with “I don’t like it when my sister takes my things, I would like to grab it back from her, but I will get in-trouble”.
The most interesting thing to find was that imaginary friends are not really figment creatures. They usually start out in objects like babies or phones, then lead up to a ‘person’. After the friend had helped fulfill that stage of learning they go on to other things. Here is where most people get disturbed, at least I know I did. K1 did not talk about Apple Pie for, then, the last two visits, Apple Pie at this time was a member of our family, so I wondered how she was doing. At first it was, K1 gave ‘him’ to a boy at the park, who she thought needed a friend. Very sweet. The following weekend visit, K1 told me Apple Pie died. Poor Apple Pie got out of the car during our 2 hour drive on the highway and got hit by a car. Of course no one could see Apple Pie so they all drive on, including us. To be honest I did not know what to say, I was stunned! What do you say to that? So here comes the explanation to the death of Apple Pie.
At a certain age, usually around 5-9, children often experience death. At this age its understandable that the child does not comprehend, so whats more intriguing then to play with death, to say, with a ‘person’ that wont get hurt. In this play the child understands death as an end to a being, but not an end to a memory. It is this death that is the most gruesome death the child’s imagination can piece together. It has also been said, that it could also be an underlined fear the child has. In K1’s case it was the fear of loosing her parents in a crash. That being said it is usually around this time where the imaginary friend morphs into something else. Most often it’s gaming items or diaries.
It’s very fascinating on what I read, and what I pondered over the few years since Apple Pie’s horrific death, but I never thought K2, our last born, would have one at a young age. K2 was around 2 when she came to talk about her friend. Sitting in the car while her father drove and I could hear giggling in the back. “What is so funny?” I ask in delight. “Apple Pie Momma!” Again I was as stunned as you maybe are. K2 was 6 months when Apple Pie died and we talked only of the death a few times, after that nothing.
So I listened and I thought, I engaged just the same as I did with K1, and I tried not to act indifferent, because of the similar name. I ask about Apple Pie from time to time and I am reassured about this old family name. Although tonight Apple Pie changed his name to Anawort, still up to his or her old tricks of never making up its mind. In any rate he/she is still welcome into my home and at public meals, just as long as he plays nice, teaches nice things and stay out of my chairs. I just pray that this time when it’s time, that his or her end comes a bit more peacefully.