About 3 years ago, two very interesting friends entered my daughter's life. Aria woke up one day and told me about Dega and Looga, two aliens who had left outer space and taken up residence in our apartment. I had no idea that they would become such a big part of our lives. Nor did I suspect that many more would join them. But in the last three years, her two imaginary friends not only remained central characters is many of her outrageous stories but the cast of characters grew. Into our lives entered Baby Seven, Baby Bear, Andrea, Pearce John, and Fiano plus a multitude of characters that still remain nameless. In addition, a select number of her stuffed animals took on personalities and became “real” to Aria, in that they had distinct personalities and could no longer be referred to as toys but instead as her pets or siblings.
|A drawing of Dega and Looga. Circa 2011.|
To say that my daughter has an extremely active imagination is an understatement. If you ask her if her friends/pets/siblings are imaginary, Aria will nod her head in agreement. I think she knows what the term means. She understands that they are not “real” in the same sense as her friends Max and Stella and yet they are very real in the sense that she cares intensely about them and they help her make sense of the complex and often confusing world around her.
It has been interesting to watch over the years as she constructs elaborate stories, personalities, and even families around each character. The more established imaginary friends have extensive life histories complete with complex family trees. Dega and Looga have always been brother and sister; Baby Seven later joined the arena as their little sibling. While the three are the only members of the family that make actual “appearances,” Aria has spoken about their parents before.
|This is Tootsy, one of Dega's dogs. He can fly.|
I think the thing that is most curious to me is the role her imaginary friends play in helping Aria work through her concerns and questions about the world, both big and little. Dega, Looga, and Baby Seven were abandoned by their parents and as a result have apparently become my foster children. Pearce John is a young boy who loves to wear purple dresses but is teased horribly about it. In an attempt to hide that he is a boy, he has grown his green hair out so that people will think he is a girl. Of course each tragic story requires a long extensive conversation about why people do hurtful things and the need to be everyday heroes in the lives of others. The flip side of each tragedy is a story about compassion and courage. Dega, Looga, and Baby Seven may have been abandoned by their parents but they found a new family that cares for them. Pearce John is bullied, yet he also has a sister who stands up for him and encourages him to be true to himself.
|Baby Bear is one of the newer characters in Aria's Wonderful, Wacky World. She is also one of the few that doesn't actually live with us. She lives with her mother and father in the woods.|
The other night when Aria was supposed to be going to sleep, she whispered to me from her pillow, “Momma, I am worried about Dega and Looga.” Tempted to lecture her about stalling tactics, I instead asked her about her concerns. It took some time to work through them and she was on the verge of tears the entire conversation, but finally she found a place of peace.
After she fell asleep, I stayed awake thinking about the opportunity that had been presented to me to teach my daughter about compassion and I was thankful that at least this time I made the right choice. Rather than dismiss her concerns, I validated them and helped her work through them. Sometimes her imaginary friends can be exhausting. I feel like I am forever mediating between a series of drama filled events with an invisible crew of friends, but then I recall all the opportunities they have presented to us to both teach and learn important life lessons and I am grateful for them.