When imaginary friends (in our case the Cheetahs) arrived in Giles’s shoes, my automatic response was to acknowledge their existence and get on with the more important jobs of the day – like getting the correct number of children out the door and to the correct educational establishment.
I do believe that the Cheetahs are/were Giles’s way of explaining that his feet hurt – that’s why they came to join us. I don’t believe their breeding, inviting friends over and the arrival of the Dinos or the Banana People reflect an increase in his pain or discomfort – more the security of having a team of unquestioning friends available at all times that can reassure, share experiences, amuse and generally be there when things are all a bit too much.
In this wonderful age of technology, a simple Google search of “Are Imaginary Friends healthy?” provides you with a myriad of articles, mostly saying that imaginary friends are a perfectly normal part of child development, a few linking to the paranormal (not my cup of tea) and the odd one saying that children with imaginary friends are clinically insane. I’m not going to link to those – you can make up your own mind and do your own searches.
However, as I find myself repacking the lunch box to ensure there is adequate room for the Cheetahs to play or driving out of our way to collect them from football (and yes, we stopped at the side of the road by Sopwell Nunnery and they jumped in through the window) I begin to wonder whether I need to be a little more matter of fact about it and not accommodate their every whim.
On the other hand, as I said in Cheetah Enrichment, the happiness of their keeper (and thus his ability to cope with full-time school, nosebleeds, reflux and not being able to keep up with his friends when running) seems directly proportional to the involvement of the Cheetahs, and to a lesser extent, the Dinos and Banana People. The more they’re incorporated into every day life, the better we seem to be doing. Every parent wants their child to be happy – why rock the boat?
Over the last couple of days we have spent the best part of 3 hours of quality ‘mummy time’ (as my kids call it) together building football pitches, bouncy castles, games areas and goodness knows what else for the Cheetahs – out of duplo and wooden bricks. Giles has told me about what we’re building, what we need to include and why the Cheetahs need it using vocabulary his sister didn’t have at his age. We’ve built toilets (of course), a cafe area for the mummy Cheetahs to wait in, an undercover area to play in if it rains, scanners for entry onto the bouncy castles so everyone gets a fair go, a fire station (just in case there’s an emergency), adapted the wooden Noah’s ark into sleeping accommodation (complete with bedding) and chastised the naughty giraffe for knocking things over. If this isn’t understanding the world around you and appreciating the needs of others, what is?
He can explain why we need to do things (often to make sure the little Cheetahs can access what the big Cheetahs can without hurting themselves or being hurt by the bigger ones – very much a link to real life), he makes sure the different Cheetah groups take turns (it was musical chairs tonight) and that they have the food and drink that they need. They have clean clothes to change into after football and can go in the bath if they’re too muddy – as it’s very important to keep their fur soft and shiny. He carries them with the care that a mother cradles her newborn and is thinking ahead to how they’ll keep warm in the winter.If this imagery helps him cope with all that life has to throw at him and gives him an appreciation of the needs of others, I reckon the Cheetahs can stay for as long as they need to – but what do you think? I’d love to hear your experiences of imaginary friends and how they joined your family.