Motherhood is: Trying to figure out how to deal with an imaginary friend

Tonight my daughter introduced me to Luna, a light pink, dark purple, and orange cat, and a large, red dog with floppy ears called American Dog who also goes by the nickname of Dave.

Motherhood is: Trying to figure out how to deal with an imaginary friend

Tonight my daughter introduced me to Luna, a light pink, dark purple, and orange cat, and a large, red dog with floppy ears called American Dog who also goes by the nickname of Dave. These are the latest additions to her squad of imaginary friends, which already includes Dooby, a green, furry monster with five red eyes; and two little girls, Sarah and Elizabeth.

While it's fascinating to watch my daughter immerse herself in a world of make believe, it's also flat out creepy to be informed that Dooby and Sarah are sitting next to me on the floor, or that they like to sleep in my closet. For the sake of encouraging my daughter's creativity, though, I try to play it cool and be gracious to my fictional house guests. Heck, it's easier than hosting actual house guests. So here's what you need to know if your child brings home imaginary friends of her own.

Don't worry.

It's totally normal for imaginary friends to appear, typically when a child is between three and eight years old, and some studies even report up to 65% of children have had an imaginary friend at some point.

Oldest children and only children are more likely to make up friends than other siblings in the birth order, and children with imaginary friends tend to have slightly larger vocabularies than other kids their age. They're creative and have strong empathic skills, since they role play both sides of the discussion with their pretend friends.

Kids also understand that their fictional friends aren't real, according to Marjorie Taylor, one of the leading psychologists in this field. In her studies, when children discuss their imaginary friends, they almost always make a point of assuring her that they're pretend.

Just go with it.

Take cues from your child on how to interact with his or her new pal. My daughter made a point of introducing me to Dooby and Sarah soon after they appeared, and I did my best to stare at the same point in space on which she was focused as we made our introductions. Conversely, if you notice your child talking to thin air, and they don't engage you in the discussion, let them be. They may want their friend to be private.

Ask open-ended questions.

Imaginary friends are a tool children use to work through scary feelings, confusing social interactions, and as an outlet to exercise their imagination, so follow their lead. You'll get a glimpse into their complicated little minds, while keeping them in control of figuring out what's real and what's not.

If you've ever read the novel “Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend," you might find this to be the biggest challenge. Without giving away the important plot points of the book, in the story, make-believe friends are only capable of doing things that their children imagine they can do.

If a child doesn't envision that his friend can open doors, then it can't. I wanted Dooby to have the best imaginary life possible (just in case), so I asked a lot of leading questions at first. “Can he open doors? Does he sleep? Does he always have to be with you, or can he wander on his own?" When I shut up and asked questions like, “What does Dooby look like? How do you feel when Dooby's around? Why do you like being with Dooby? Where does Dooby live?" I got way more interesting, creative, and funny answers, and it kept my daughter in the director's chair of her evolving storyline.

Keep rules consistent.

Sometimes children introduce imaginary friends to test rules and limits. My daughter has definitely pointed the finger at Dooby a few times, but instead of forcing her to admit that she was really the culprit, I follow the “just go with it" principle while reinforcing the rules of the house.

“I'm so disappointed in Dooby for hitting your little brother. I'm sure you would have stopped him if you saw it happen, since you know better than that. Let's apologize and make sure it doesn't happen again." This one is still a work in progress for both of us.

Make room for down time.

The appearance of an imaginary friend is a great excuse for us parents to give our children more downtime and to not feel guilty about it. Structured activities are enriching, but children also need sufficient time to get immersed in their own world of make-believe.

A preschool director once explained to me that it can take 30 minutes or more for them to lose themselves in their own world, and then they need time to explore and experiment within it. This free play is critical to their cognitive, social and emotional development, and, as a bonus, it can give us parents a little free time of our own. (It's how I stole some time to write this article. Thank you, Dooby!)

Somewhere I read a quote by the clinical psychiatrist, Kay Redfield Jamison that said, “Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity." All kids will play, and some will do it with imaginary friends. If you're lucky enough to have one of those kids, welcome their new buddies with open arms and enjoy the ride. It's a fascinating one.

10 must-have registry items that will change your life, mama

The baby gear heavy hitters that should be top of your list

Calling all mamas-to-be! It's a fundamental truth of (impending) motherhood that your prepping-for-baby To Do list can feel a mile long, but really the best way to feel organized is to sort out the most important item at the top of your list: your registry. Sure the items you choose to include will end up running the gamut from nice-to-haves to absolutely essential game-changers, but mamas in the know quickly learn one thing: Not all baby gear is created equal.

So while you can and should pepper your registry with adorable inclusions that aren't necessarily can't-live-withouts (go ahead, add 'em!), you should make sure you're ticking the boxes on those pieces of baby gear that can be absolute life savers once you're in full-blown mama mode. From car seats to bouncers and playmats, your play and travel gear will be some of the most obvious important items on your list, but so can unexpected things, like a super comfy baby carrier and a snooze-inducing white noise machine. So to help you sort through the must-have options, we turned to the holy grail of motherhood that is buybuy BABY and handpicked 10 of the very best essential pieces that will change your life, we promise.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.

And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3


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To the mama who had a baby during the pandemic

You deserve hugs, love, recognition and so much more. But I will settle for the next best thing, which is to write you a little love letter.

I am a midwife, and that means two things:

  1. I am a total birth nerd
  2. I want to hug every new mom I see

But we are in a pandemic, which means that the latter is impossible—and this makes me impossibly sad. You deserve hugs, love, recognition and so much more. So I will settle for the next best thing, which is to write you a little love letter.

Darling new mama. Here are seven things you need to know:

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