Wednesday, August 3, 2011

California dreaming

I think I've written before about The Boy's obsession with California. (Yep. Right here and, oh look! foreshadowing, I was crushing his dreams then, too.) For at least a year, he's been telling us about his life in California. He has a condo there and we're all going to live there with him and there's a shark and a goat and 11 dogs and he has a surfboard and .... this stuff just goes on and on and on. Every single day, multiple times a day, we hear about California.

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?

6 comments:

~she~ said...

Wow, that's really something! No, my kids never made up imaginary friends that stuck around. The most creative one would play house with characters like a mom and dad, but these people weren't permanent fixtures in her life. One day, he'll probably just drop these friends.

Cupcake Mama said...

Would it help if I sent you some pics of CA so you could talk about real stuff in CA? Or some pictures of other kids in CA? We live in a condo, I could take a picture of it or make a little story book similar to what he has been discussing?

Erica said...

Come visit us in Venice! Surfboards galore!
Also - Jetty and Desperaux? How cute is that? Anna's babies and stuffed animals have names like "purple baby", "blue baby", "mr. lobster", "hippo"... and so on.

Sarah said...

That story gave me chills, because there is this TEENY part of me that sometimes does believe in reincarnation. Sometimes I wonder if some of the bizarr-o stuff kids come up with seemingly out of nowhere could in fact be explained this way. I mean, I KNOW it's silly. But...

mcswigg said...

i was going to say the same thing about the reincarnation. i read a book once about children who had memories (3-6 yr olds) of who "thye used to be"... their families, where they lived, etc.--why dont you ask him the name of the cousins? where do they live? what do they look like? then maybe research to see if they really existed. have you read the book of the little boy that supposedly remembers being an a bomber in WWII and shot down????crazy stuff but indeed perhaps real stuff.

Paige said...

I definitely believe in reincarnation - clearly your boy was a California surfer in a past life. = )