When I was about two years old, I had two imaginary friends named Mimi and KaKa. These two characters lived in the trees outside–probably because my mother didn’t allow pets in the house. I don’t know a lot about Mimi and KaKa because I don’t remember them, and what I’ve told you is all my mother ever told me. I’m guessing Mimi and KaKa were some kind of furry critters because I really don’t like birds for pets, and I’ve always had a soft spot for cats and dogs.
What does that say about me?
Well, studies show that children with imaginary friends are often first-born. It can be a coping mechanism for a difficulty that has cropped up in the child’s life. (My mother was hospitalized with a burst appendix when I was about that age.) Another study says it takes a creative imagination to create make-believe friends, but it “is not the exclusive property of the ‘only’ child, the isolated, the ill, or the handicapped. Children with make-believe friends tend to be more imaginative, have richer vocabularies, and are better able to entertain themselves. (I know that to be true about me because my mother always tried shooing me outside to play with the other kids, and I really didn’t want to because they didn’t play MY way.) Did I tell you that I was demanding, too?
I did soften and grow after I went to school. When learned how to play with kids, I always had plenty of friends. So don’t go thinking that I was some kind of recluse who wasn’t socialized. Jerome Singer Yale professor emeritus of psychology with research scientist Dorothy Singer discovered that children with imaginary friends get along better with classmates. So there!
Don’t you just love it when experts who “know” compliment you? I do. But I’m also sure there are other studies that have “proven” that children with imaginary friends are psychotic.
Whatever imaginary friends do for children, I’m glad that I experienced it. I do believe being creative does take talent, but it is something you bring with you when you enter the world. It’s a gift to cultivate and nurture, and I’ve learned denying being creative to fit in with the rest of “normal” society can be very painful.
So, have I stopped having imaginary friends at my age? Not on your life! Instead, I’ve found a clever way of hiding them — they live in the pages of my books.