Thursday, May 30, 2013
I'm watching G run around the backyard, excitingly fix balls atop his t-ball stand. He's asking Jesse if she's also having fun. She replies, in his voice, "this is great fun!" and suggests a few things they can try, which he agrees on. He encourages Jesse, telling her she's doing a great job. It's a seamless back-and-forth of good friends, only one of them is a real little boy and the other merely exists in the little boy's mind. You wouldn't know, unless you heard that a solitary voice made up the entirety of the conversation, that Jesse is my son G's imaginary friend.
G has had an imaginary friend in one form or another since his early twos. Now, at three-and-a-half, his imaginary world has only become more vivid and intricate, his longings for someone else to be around grow by the day. He wants to be surrounded by children constantly and although he has outside activities (including preschool) that allow regular contact with other kids, for him, it just isn't enough. He frequently begs for other kids to be around him and yet, after Jesse and G's enthusiastic exchange, he walks back into a house where there lingers only a few adults, and into a quiet room filled with toys that only his hands have grazed over today.
My only way to fully satisfy G's constant need for companionship is to have another kid living in the house full time. For most, that's called a sibling and you better believe he hasn't stopped asking for one. "I'm working on it, buddy" is all I can say. Thank you, infertility.
Despite what I wrote above, I'm totally aware of the following: that the presence of an imaginary friend is not necessarily directly related to wanting a sibling or other kids around (and may very well just be a very active imagination) and that a sibling will not necessarily fulfill the longing for social contact, especially given that said sibling would be at least 4 1/2 years his junior at this point, if we're lucky. From what I've heard, that presence is considered more of an annoyance for many until several years later.
Perhaps I am projecting my desires onto my kid. Perhaps all the kid really needs is a few extra play dates. Still, I can't help but think that the imaginary friends and the pleadings for wanting other kids around (sometimes specifically a baby, along with the promises to help take good care of it) are expressions of wanting a sibling. Why do I think this? Because once upon a time, I was an only child who did the same and I remember exactly why. I desperately wanted another person under 18 in my household. My childhood fantasies of what that would look like compared to what might have been would've probably been very different, but I remember the longing was so strong that I made my parents add an extra setting to the table for my 'sister'. It's kind of nuts to see G do the same. When cousins would come over, I relished in the time and pretended they were my brothers or sisters, even when we were at odds. It didn't matter if we didn't always get along. All that mattered was that I was not alone.
Being an only child was and still is a lonely experience for me. This has often translated into negative, and I see the potential of that in my son now, especially given that both sides of the family are incredibly small. It's not like he has or will ever have a ton of close cousins to make up for what he doesn't have in his immediate family. However, I also see that in so many ways, his life is different than mine was as a child and perhaps that will balance the positive end of things. He's in a far more stable situation. By the time I was his age, my parents had already split up twice and we had moved a number of times because of it. As a child, I wanted someone else to shoulder the burden and share in those experiences. Even in adulthood there have been a number of things that have happened during which I longed for a sibling, not the least of which was experiencing my parent's passings alone. At this point, I can't imagine leaving that kind of loneliness for him.
Quite honestly, I don't need to read into my son's behavior to justify why I want a second. I've already written about my own reasons for why I want another that are separate from him, but still these reminders he seems to give me on a daily basis only intensify this need. At this point, I look forward to adding to our family one day not just as an opportunity to parent again, but as a gift to my son.