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Aug 17 2012

Should I Play Along With My Daughter’s Imaginary Friend?

By at 10:32 am

imaginary superhero weatherSomeone new is at our house. (Bonus points if you know what book that’s from. Double bonus points if you’ve read it over one hundred times.)

This someone new is a superhero. Her name is Weather. Her costume consists of flowered underpants, an undershirt rolled up into a bikini top, and a ducky blanket for a cape. Her superpower is… uh… weather. She can control the weather. When she feels like it. Which she often does not. But, she still can, so don’t you call her on it.

Unlike the entire population of Metropolis, which seems to have trouble telling Superman from Clark Kent due to his clever, clever use of eye-glasses (did you know that Superman was created by two Jewish kids barely out of their teens and is actually both a Moses parable and a metaphor for “passing” in Gentile society? I have been told this), I’m pretty sure that, by now, you’ve figured out Weather’s secret identity.

She is my 5-year-old daughter.

Except I’m not supposed to know that. (And for those who know me, yes, it did cross my mind if I should be worried that of all the superheroes and powers to choose from, my biracial 5-year-old girl chose controlling the weather, also the domain of Storm from X-Men, who is played in the movies by the biracial actress Halle Berry. Fear not, if there is a mountain to be made out of a molehill–or a coincidence–I’m on it.)

Meanwhile, back at our house, whenever Weather appears in all her homemade costume glory, I, my husband, and our two older sons are under strict orders to act as if we don’t know who she “really” is.

Which is fine. I’m all about imagination, and fanciful play, and children expressing themselves, and moderate temperatures. Up to a point.

I will call her Weather, and clap vigorously at her ability to move clouds across the sky, and wince only a little as she leaps off the couch to demonstrate her flying skills. What I will not do is play along when my daughter does something she shouldn’t–like, say, make a mess in her room… and blame it on Weather.

I will not let either Weather or The Girl Who Plays Weather pull the wool over my eyes in some circumstances.

I will not let The Girl Who Plays Weather use her alter ego as an excuse to lie to me.

Of course, this brings up the logical question: Isn’t all fantasy play lying? When I go along with believing that she really is the one keeping it from raining on our picnic, aren’t I sending the message that some lying is okay? (And, its addendum question: Isn’t some lying okay? Come on, grown ups, admit it.)

Does this sort of fantasy lying fall into the same category that parents often indulge in? Jews may not have the “Is Santa Claus real?” dilemma but, tell the truth, does Elijah the Prophet actually come to your seder and drink his wine? I know my prophet’s portion ends up in the sink when the kids aren’t looking. And let’s not even start on the ecumenical tooth fairy.)

My daughter may not be a criminal mastermind, but she’s no dummy, either. I have no doubt that she is using Weather to manipulate me in that regard. Testing to see how much she can get away with, gambling that I won’t press her too hard while she’s in disguise. Not to mention deflecting. When I call her on misbehaving, she will, as often as not, insist that it was Weather, Weather, all Weather’s doing; bursting into tears that I don’t believe her and completely brushing the actual offense aside.

I think she’s doing it on purpose. So I refuse to buy into it.

Will she be telling her therapist in years to come about how her mother, not unlike… oh, let’s say Amanda from The Glass Menagerie, tore apart her fragile fantasy world, leading to a lifetime of trauma and Tennessee Williams stylized dialogue?

Maybe. But, at least her toys will be picked up off the floor in the meantime.

And then there is one more issue. Research has shown that when kids think they’ve really and truly pulled a fast one over on their parents, they initially feel happy. And then they feel scared.

Kids are little and powerless. The idea that the big and powerful person whose job it is to protect them from the even bigger and scarier world can be fooled by a little and powerless child telling a lie… well, you can see how that might make one very, very nervous.

When I was 8-years-old, I came from another planet. Some aliens arriving on Earth had accidentally killed me, and replaced me with a duplicate. (Armchair psychologists may also like to note that this particular incident occurred about a year after I, myself, immigrated from the Soviet Union to the US. But, I’m sure the similarities were just a coincidence). I explained this to my mother. She believed me.

Well, I thought she believed me. Except when I was pretty sure she didn’t. Except when I wondered if she really did.

I remember feeling exhilarated. And scared. Just like the experts predicted.

Which is why, as Weather moves into our home and seems poised to stay a while, I am proceeding with perhaps more caution than is probably warranted.

My daughter’s behavior is perfectly normal, I realize that. Mine, on the other hand… Well, I’m shooting for normal.

But, as someone who earns her own living making up characters and situations and getting other people to believe in them… We’ll see how it goes.

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on Kveller are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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