We have never been to California. No one in our family lives there. A couple of friends do, but no one The Boy knows. But for whatever reason, The Boy is obsessed.
"Can we snuggle, Momma?" The Boy said after we finished reading in bed, just before lights out. This is code for: I'm going to ramble on about my imaginary life in California.
"That's what we're doing. ... What do you want to tell me about?"
"Weeeeeellllll, it's going to be a long time before we go to California," The Boy said, his voice tiny and teary.
"Why do you want to go to California so much? We'll get there some day."
"Well, all my cousins live in California."
I don't care that he makes up cousins in California. I love that he's got such a great imagination. But I also don't want him to be sad about imaginary people.
"Oh honey, no they don't," I said. "Your cousins live in Ohio. You have two cousins, L and S, and they live in Ohio."
And then he started crying for real.
I can't recreate the whole circular conversation. I was too boggled by what the hell I should be saying to try to keep the quotes steady in my mind. First, I tried to make him understand that he was just pretending his West Coast cousins so he didn't have to be sad about not seeing them. He got upset about that and tried to convince me I was wrong. He brought up his imaginary friends, Jetty and Despereaux, and said THEY were his cousins and THEY live in California. Then, suddenly, he switched over to my side of thinking and decided he was just pretending Jetty and Despereaux, which made me sad -- my baby is NOT ready to give up his imaginary friends! -- so then I was trying to convince him that it was OK to have imaginary friends. I had them, I said -- I did, at his age -- and just because other people couldn't see them didn't mean they weren't real to me. That made him laugh. But he was still teary. He decided he had cousins in California after all, Jetty and Despereaux included, but he didn't want to talk about it.
"Momma, I really need to go to sleep."
The husband and I tucked him in, tear tracks still staining his face as he sucked on his blanky.
Seriously. What should I have said? I am so glad he's imaginative, and honestly, the consistency of his California stories amazes me. It's almost enough to make you believe in reincarnation or something. This stuff is real to him and it's not something we've told him. But I also don't want him pining for cousins that don't exist. It reminds me of that chapter in Anne of Green Gables when Anne and Diana dream up such scary ghosts for the Haunted Wood that they frighten themselves.
Do you guys have little kiddos with big imaginations? How do you encourage the creativity but keep them from getting carried away?