I was trying to remember if, as a child, I'd ever had an imaginary friend. After some effort I could vaguely recall talking to myself sometimes but that was just me having a one-way conversation. I don't think I ever actually conjured up a little pal who was exclusively visible and accessible to me. Someone I could consult and play games with.
Photograph by Speckly Woo!
As I watch our three granddaughters growing up, I'm intrigued to see if any of them show signs of having imaginary friends. But, as yet, Speckly Woo! continues to have inventive conversations with her long suffering rag doll, Mary, and the 16 month old twins haven't developed a recognisable vocabulary. Most of the time, they burble away in their own little world. Some might say, like grandfather, like granddaughters.
The point is, 'their own little world' is a place we have no way of entering. We can only guess at what goes on there. For example, there are those eerie moments when a toddler's full attention is drawn to a point somewhere in middle distance. Question marks start to appear over your head. Even more inexplicable, the little darlings begin to smile at their new object of interest.
I have read theories that small children may use levels of consciousness that recede or get overtaken as they pass the two year mark. As always, there's a danger that we adults may place a heavily speculative label on that which we don't fully understand. When our daughter was about two and a half, we told her about our wedding. She listened intently before declaring, "I was there. They carried me in on a pink cushion." It's reasonable to expect that my instant reaction would be to try and work out what had given her that idea. On the contrary, I was more intrigued to know who 'they' were.
© 2010, copyright Martin T. Hodges