For the last few weeks, our four-year-old son B has been talking incessantly about his grandpa. B tells us about his grandpa’s pets (a three-legged dog, a cat, and a blue bird). When we drive past it, B points out his grandpa’s house, a beautiful, white Victorian two-story number. We have heard about all the jobs grandpa has had, most of which are as a successful business owner.
Besides the need to talk about his grandpa ad nauseam, here is the other issue: both of B’s grandfathers are dead. He never even had a chance to meet either of them. And before you think that this is an “I see dead people” sort of thing, I assure you that it is not. Nothing B has said about his grandfather remotely resembles either of his real ones. Now, if B had said something along the lines of “My grandpa was so mad when daddy pierced his ear” or “Mommy, my grandpa thought the outfits you wore in your early 20’s were kinda slutty,” then I would believe there was something psychic happening. But that is not the case, so we have indulged his grand patriarchal ramblings, figuring this is just a stage all children go through in which imaginary friends are created. But these conversations are so frequent that it makes me want to march him into his speech therapist and tell them to reverse all their progress because I need some peace. Here is a sample:
“My grandpa doesn’t like vegetables, but he likes pizza.”
“My grandpa read this book to me. He likes it.”
“Well, that’s fantastic.”
“My grandpa has a brother.”
Sigh. “Whatcha need B?”
“My grandpa owns a donut shop.”
“You better fucking tell me where, kid.”
As you can tell, I am exhausted by these conversations but I also don’t want to discourage something that brings him comfort in a way. My husband has speculated that the presence of an imaginary grandpa is a way to have a more masculine influences in his life. Other than my husband, we don’t have too many male relatives that spend time with our son. He has two very present and attentive grandmas and three aunts, all of whom spend time with him. I am not going to attempt to guess where this imaginary grandpa came from, but I would like to cut down the amount of conversations we have about him. So after extensive reading of parenting books, several talks with a prominent child psychologist, and a Skype phone call with a couple of pediatricians, I think I got my answer. Totally kidding of course- I just asked his teacher what she thought was happening.
First, she told me not to worry about the reasons why he is doing it. Much like his desire to lick doorknobs, the reason for inventing a grandpa is irrelevant. I didn’t even speculate on a reason why this grandpa showed up, choosing instead to follow the popular parenting method of “who the fuck knows what a kid’s reason for doing anything is.” The teacher told me something that never occurred to me while I was ignoring B’s chattering: B is merely professing his own desires, but doing it in the form of an imaginary grandpa. B has wanted us to get a big dog, like his grandpa has. His grandpa seems to own many stores that center on B’s interests- sticker books, donuts, Legos, and ice cream. The teacher’s recommendation to us was to indulge B’s vivid imagination, but try to bring it back to reality and politely remind him that his grandpas are no longer on this celestial plane.
I will be a tiny smidgen more patient with B about this but will also need to start steering him towards reality, something I often have a hard time dealing with myself. I too would like to project my fantasies onto a non-existent relative. So may I please introduce you, dear reader, to my second cousin, twice removed?
“Hey reader? Did you know my second cousin, twice removed, has a homemade pasta shop next door to their house so that if she doesn’t have something planned for dinner she only has to take a few steps to pick up something?”
“Reader? Did I tell you that my second cousin, twice removed, owns a winery in Italy that grows Sangiovese grapes? She drinks most of it herself.”
“Reader? Reader? My second cousin, twice removed, has a second bathroom so that two people can pee at the same time without involving the backyard.”
“Hey Reader? Did you know that my second cousin, twice removed, knows how to apply make-up for both a daytime and nighttime look? Plus, she never has to exercise to maintain her weight.”
“Reader- hey reader! My second cousin, twice removed, is a highly successful writer who actually makes money from her words.”
Wow! That actually does make me feel better. Eventually, I know B will forget about his grandpa and our conversations with him will move onto other more real topics. We have years ahead of us full of uncomfortable and meaningful talks. Eventually, we will tell him about this period in his life, of the love he had for an imaginary grandpa, and hopefully he would think it is funny. My second cousin, twice removed, certainly does.