Imaginary Friends

My daughter keeps me on my toes all the time, but there was a time between the ages of three to five when I had to dodge the obstacle course of her imaginary friends.  Dani wasn’t one of those kids that woke up early on weekend mornings needing to be entertained; instead, she’d rise in the wee hours of the morning and be completely content to absorb herself in the magical world she created in her own bedroom.

At the breakfast table on Saturday morning when she was three,  I put her pancakes and fruit on the table in front of her.

“Mommy, can Tommy have a pancake, too?”

Having no idea what she was talking about, I asked, “Tommy?”

“Don’t you see him?” She asked with a puzzled look on her face.

“Maybe my eyes are a little foggy this morning.  What does he look like?  Where is he sitting?”

She looked at me like I’d lost my mind. “He’s right there, Mommy,” she said, pointing to the chair beside her.    I played along and put a pancake in front of the empty chair.

“How did we get a little boy named Tommy?”  I asked her

“He’s not a boy!” She looked over at Tommy and giggled hysterically.  “He’s a dog, Mom.  A pink dog with purple polka dots.”

Tommy evidently talked so only she could hear, and he decided he didn’t like pancakes.  The little pink dog stayed with us for a couple years, although the need for setting a place for him at the table and kissing him goodnight slowly faded away.

There was an array of imaginary friends that showed up over the next couple of years, each having their own unique quality that she apparently needed at the time.  I was surprised when Robin showed up–yes, Batman’s side kick.  Batman would occasionally appear, but not often.   One morning while trying to get out of the house for preschool and work, I put Dani in the back seat of the minivan and buckled her in.  As I shut the door, a high-pitched keening cry came from my daughter, which made my heart drop to my feet.  I opened the door with lightening speed and had her unbuckled and in my arms in less than five seconds.

“Dani, what is it?”

“You shut the door on Robin’s leg.  He’s hurt really, really bad.”

I moved so Robin could sit beside her on the van seat and made a big deal about kissing the booboo on his leg, all the while apologizing for slamming the van door on him.  Once Robin was consoled to her satisfaction, I also buckled him in and we were on our way.

While I didn’t escalate the play with her imaginary friends, I would play along when needed.  I don’t feel it caused her too much damage, as she is a well-adjusted, independent, and imaginative adult today.   I did, however, encourage her to dream big and imagine that she could be whatever she wanted to be–and she did it.  As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  In Dani’s case, it took her parents, a village, and few imaginary friends.



  1. As parents we can be so very afraid of allowing our kids to be kids.. What is the potential future damage? What will the neighbors think? The teachers? Our family? Will people think we’re bad parents?

    I let my daughter tape a paper cone to her head when she was a unicorn… As a child, not recently! Lol! I let her express herself in many ways and she is one of the most level headed and strong people I know! Trust me in this! As a single mom she saw her youngest go through cancer, twice, kept her job, kept a roof over everyone’s head and made sure that the older twins were taken care of! She doesn’t drink, do drugs nor has she been arrested!

    So will allowing our kids to live within their imaginations irreparably mess them up? I don’t think so!

  2. Wow, don’t kids scare you sometimes? I’m sure that imagination is never a bad thing to foster in anyone, after all someone imagined going to the moon and we went. Without imagination nothing new would ever be created. We need people with imagination to create and entertain, thank you for reminding us of that xo

  3. Sweet! I love this. My boys have never had imaginary friends. With my dark imagination, I’d probably decide they were seeing ghosts. 🙂

  4. My nephew had a whole family of imaginary friends living under the stairs. The children were very naughty and always got him into trouble. They also were always late for church (my nephew conducted services for his grandparents at home). There had to be enough chairs for everyone. Service could not start till they had all arrived and were seated. He even had his own language which my sister had to learn!! He is a gorgeous, sensitive, well adjusted young man now. And a minister 🙂

  5. One of our kids also had an imaginary friend for a while. We had to play along and I ended up driving around our neighbourhood one afternoon “looking for” this friend’s house because it was supposed to be her birthday party that day. We played along and not long after that it all stopped.

  6. What a wonderful (and colorful) imagination! I had imaginary friends when I was little. That may have been a key factor in me becoming a writer. Good for you for treating your daughter’s “friends” with kindness and respect.

    1. They were very real to her, and I wasn’t going to crush it for her. I had them also as a child, but I don’t think mine were quite as imaginative. Definitely accentuates the creative side, that’s for sure.

  7. That is a lovely way to encourage your daughter’s imagination. When I was a child, there was Arthur the Angel and I had my whole family playing in my world. I can’t remember what that was but I know my grandmother fondly reminded me of him all the time 🙂

  8. This was lovely! I can remember teasing my younger sister for her host of imaginary friends when she was small, and when I look back now I think that maybe she got it right, and we were the ones who were dull and unyielding.
    Josie Two Shoes
    from Josie’s Journal

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