About this time last year, we welcomed someone new into our lives. He comes with us to the supermarket, to restaurants, and on holiday. He even hops into bed with us most mornings.

His name is Jake, and he is DorkySon’s invisible friend.

When this blog was still very new, I published a guest post by someone whose daughter had an imaginary friend called Polla.  It was such a sweet piece, but I remember thinking at the time how unlikely it was that DorkySon would ever have one, so attached was he to his beloved Binky.

How wrong I was. Over the last twelve months Jake has evolved from someone who merited only an occasional mention – once or twice a week – to a full-blown member of the family.

It has been fascinating insight into the way my boy’s mind works, and really rather lovely to watch.

Jake is very obviously a creative way for DorkySon to explore new ideas and thoughts safely, without feeling overwhelmed. When we found out that we would be moving to Australia, Jake came across here about six weeks before we did, to check everything out for us and make sure it was a nice place. He reported back to DorkySon, told him it was the perfect place for us, and we were then able to move without any upset or stress. Similarly, Jake started swimming lessons, nursery and then kindergarten all a few weeks ahead of DorkySon, and was able to provide reassurance that those things were great fun, and that DorkySon would have a blast.

We had a spell of a few weeks, just after Christmas, when poor Jake had a series of horrible accidents and injuries. He chopped off one finger by shutting it in a car door. He slipped off a roof where he was fixing tiles and hurt his neck. He even died for half an hour, one sunny afternoon when we were sitting in the garden. How to reassure your weeping four year old when his imaginary friend dies is not something I’ve seen in many parenting manuals – that’s really something of an oversight because I could have done with some help.

But now that we are so settled in our new house and routines – now the upheaval is over – that aspect of Jake’s existence has been pushed back a bit, and he’s more just a fun companion, an excuse to tell stories. He often goes on wild adventures around the world – to Africa on safari, or to Antarctica on an ice-breaker – and comes back to tell DorkySon about all the exciting things he has seen. A few weeks ago he even went to the moon. It was a drama-filled trip, because the rocket returned to Earth without him… but fortunately it popped back into space and picked him up again the next day.

We are not quite sure how old Jake is. He seems to have a birthday every three weeks or so, and we have to sit in bed in the morning singing Happy Birthday, blowing out the candles on his invisible chocolate cake. He enjoys riding his scooter, playing football and eating pancakes, just like DorkySon, but he also seems to be quite an independent little guy, and while there have been a few mentions of his mum and dad, he spends a lot of time travelling alone. Apparently he is an excellent driver, although prone to taking corners too quickly.

DorkySon seems fairly well aware of Jake’s limitations. I watched a wonderful little conversation between them the other night. DorkySon called out “Jake, Jake, can you fetch me that selkie moon poem?” (That in itself was fairly astonishing – I’m not sure where or when DorkySon has heard about selkies.). Jake was then berated for bringing DorkySon several objects – an ice cream cone, a strawberry yoghurt, a camera – that were quite evidently not the selkie moon poem. Eventually the right thing was procured, and DorkySon came over to DorkyDad, holding out the ‘poem’ for him in an empty palm. DorkyDad started to speak some words, as though reading from the page, but DorkySon shushed him immediately, saying “Don’t be silly Daddy, it’s an invisible poem. You can’t actually read it.

According to a recent Guardian article, which I read with a wry smile, imaginary friends are becoming more and more common. You can’t help wondering if Soren Lorensen has something to do with that, but the consensus seems to be that it’s a harmless thing, a good way to develop a sense of imagination, and they tend to disappear, for want of a better word, in their own time.

As DorkySon becomes more settled and confident by the day, and begins to make ‘real’ friends during his days at kindy, I imagine it won’t be long before Jake becomes a less prominent feature in our lives. I just hope that when it’s time for him to leave us, DorkySon finds a way to do that which doesn’t involve loss of limb or life. Moving to Africa, or Antarctica, or the moon, will be just fine.

24 responses

  1. I love this post, it’s beautifully written, and thanks for sharing the Guardian article which is fascinating too! It really sounds as though having Jake with you has been a massive support for your son, how wonderful that you’ve been able to encourage it. I remember having several imaginary friends when I was little but my children haven’t shown any signs of having one yet, like your son mine is very attached to his cuddly Giraffe that he talks to and plays with as though he’s real (and also celebrates a birthday every few weeks!) but perhaps there is still time for one to appear!

  2. It is wonderful that he has the ability to create an imaginary friend to help him to explore and understand the world. Jake sounds like a really great friend and he is so well travelled! Children and their developing brains are just so amazing it never ceases to fascinate me and it is really wonderful to hear that you are all settling into life in Tassie, including Jake x

  3. What a great imagination your son has which will probably lead to him writing stories. I love how he sends Jake ahead of him to check things out that he’s unsure about. Has Jake ever said things were not good? I wondered how you handled it. I always read your blog you were all very brave to try a new life so far away and it sounds like a great move. My daughter had an imaginary friend who lived in the large mirror doors of our wardrobe,she’s thirty now and it never did her any harm.

  4. Ah this takes me back to Kittys Nimpon Pimpon imaginary friend who was with us for nigh on a year. It’s interesting to see just how ingrained in family life an imaginary friend can become isn’t it?
    What I love the most about imaginary friends is the insight it gives us into the imagination and creativity of our children! x

  5. Lovely post. My eldest had “Stadger”, who was his constant companion between the ages of 3 and 5. He just very quietly faded away – I don’t know if he went away in the spaceship that the two of them were forever having adventures in. I rather miss him (and the little boy who loved him so)

  6. As you know, we live with a whole host of imaginary friends and have done now for nearly 4 years. I am frequently woken by them in the morning and apparently they really do like shortbread with chocolate chunks in it but they can’t manage a whole one which is why their Keeper has to help them finish it. It does give the most amazing insight into the minds of our children – I am sure the Cheetah Keeper will be a great story teller – or lawyer, or politician!

  7. The boy had an imaginary friend for a couple of weeks. I was quite excited because I was looking forward to the imaginary friend stage. Then the imaginary friend died, a couple of times, got left at the restaurant we’d had dinner at, and finally was never heard of again. He/she (we were never too sure – I think he/she was based on Holly the Red Dwarf computer, which changed gender) only lasted a couple of weeks.
    Now he has fairies, and we have a fairy party every night. The fairies leave their rainforest home every night to fly to our house for the party, then they fly off again before anyone’s awake. He writes letters to them and they write back. It’s very sweet.

  8. My daughter had an imaginary friend (in fact, at one point she had 3!). She even spoke to her in their own language called ‘Kolish’ which I found a little disconcerting. But it didn’t seem to do her any harm and they all went away in time.

  9. Love it! You’ve reminded me that I had an imaginary dog. I used to walk about with a piece of string with him on the end. He ran away and found new friends though, leaving me heartbroken. I haven’t thought of him in years… may need some therapy.

  10. Loved this post. Reminded me of an Australian film I watched with my girls years ago – Opal Dream (or Pobby and Dingan). Two imaginary friends that are real to everyone in town by the end of the film. You won’t be disappointed and make sure you have your tissues at the ready by the end! By the way we are moving to Eugene, OR (from Cape Cod, MA) by the end of our summer (Aug) and although not as far as you moved your family, it’s a big one for us with girls going into 3rd and 6th grade. I think we need an imaginary scout to ease us into our new land!

  11. My husband had an imaginary enemy when he was little called “The Little Boy.” Sounds sinister, doesn’t it? Scared to think of what this may mean about his young mind.

    And thank GOODNESS Jake was resurrected. That sounds like an awful 30 minutes!

    What a lovely post about a wonderful friend in DorkySon’s life, if only a friend for a little while.

  12. Wowsers…. you is on firing blogging form at the moment girl. Loved this post – wonderfully written; you write about Dorky Son with such gentleness and intelligence – love that Jake went ahead to check out things before you moved over there. I think imaginary friends are very healthy for children, and help them to negotiate the world and feel safe in it when there is so much change happening, and Dorky Son has had a huge amount of change over the last year. Fab post. X ps. Little A had an imaginary friend for a while called Bobby-in-a-Mow. X

  13. This has always been a fascinating topic for me, a friend of the family, her child had one when we were kids and I couldn’t work it out (I can be so practical it’s scary) I imagine my girls will never have one as they have each other but I would love to find out what it’s like one day

  14. Pingback: Happy 5th Birthday, DorkySon « dorkymum

  15. Did I have imaginary friends when I was young? I don’t remember. I think I am far more apt to have one now! Jake sounds like an upstanding sort, able to deal seamlessly with missing fingers and temporary death. I vote for Antartica when he goes, so he will have lots of penguins to play with.

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  17. Pingback: Binky the Angel Dear Lovey « Dorkymum | Stories from Tasmania

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