Heartbreak and Parenting

(Photo from WeHeartIt)

Today’s post has absolutely nothing to do with Fibromyalgia, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It does, however have to do with pain. I’m talking about the heartache you feel, when your child is hurt, sick or sad.

Let me give you a little background. Quite some time ago, my daughter, who is three, started talking about her friend Emily. This friend she started talking about, more and more, was an imaginary friend, who has been a part of our daily lives for a year or so.

It is my understanding that it is not unusual for a child to have an imaginary friend, and eventually they just outgrow them. No harm done.

My daughter was a bit disappointed yesterday, that her brother was going to a birthday party, and that she wouldn’t be able to join him. She asked if we could pick up "Emily" after dropping my son off at his party, so that "Emily" could come over to play. Joining in on her fantasy, I suggested that she ask "Emily" to meet her at the grocery store, since she was going with her Dad to pick up a few things. I never thought anymore of it. We’ve been playing this imaginary game for close to a year, and it’s never been a big deal. I should note that my daughter has a VERY creative imagination.

So, I was upstairs when I heard my hubby coming through the door, with our little one, who was crying. She was upset that "Emily" wasn’t at the store, and that she didn’t get to bring her home, to play. I’m talking genuinely upset, with real tears. As an attempt to defuse the situation, I said "oh well, maybe she surprised you and is already here". My husband promptly cut in, and said "no, you don’t understand, she went up to a lady outside the grocery store and ask her if she was coming home with us". Hearing that, made my heart ache for her, as it was all starting to come together. While they were in the store, she was asking where "Emily" was. Hubby suggested that maybe "Emily" was waiting outside. When they walked outside, she saw a lady, and immediately ran up to her, thinking this was "Emily". Of course, the lady said answered "no" to my daughter’s question, and was probably a little shocked that a little girl had just invited her home :s I’m confused why she through an adult could have been "her" Emily, and that she wasn’t looking for another child around her own age. She has always described "Emily" as another child around her own age.

She was so upset about it when she got home, I sat down with her so we could talk about it. It seems that this imaginary friend of hers has become very real to her, and someone she has been anticipating meeting. We have never heard our daughter talking to or playing with "Emily". She has always just talked about her, and it seems that all this time, she has been truly expecting to meet "Emily" in person. We never realized until that point that pretend play had crossed the line and become reality to her.

I felt so bad destroying a fantasy that her imagination had created. I explained that sometimes children create people or stories with their imagination (she knows what "use your imagination" means), which can be lots of fun, however it is just pretend. She seemed heartbroken to find out that "Emily" is not real. I felt like I killed her best friend 😦

Since our little chat yesterday, she has not talked about Emily. I’m hoping that I did the right thing by explaining that this "friend" was not a real person, and that she had created her with her imagination. I just felt that it was no longer harmless, and was leading to real expectations and disappointment. That being said, I still feel like I took something special away from her 😦

Have any of you experienced this with one of your children?

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2 Responses to Heartbreak and Parenting

  1. Anonymous says:

    imaginary friends
    I believe that she was ready to let go, or she would not have. I had an imaginary friend for a number of years, and nobody could convince me that he was not real, until I decided to let go. And, funnily enough, the name of my imaginary friend came up again when I was older…

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