Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My kid's other mom

Some children have an imaginary friend. My 5-year-old has an imaginary mom. He calls her “My other mom,” and regales us with all sorts of tales about her life. And she has quite a life! While I sometimes think I’m doing OK in my attempts to have it all, I have nothing on this woman:

*She works for McKinsey, the management consulting firm

*She has 18 children. Curiously, two of the other children are my 3-year-old and 1-year-old; I like that even in his alternate universe, my 5-year-old kept his siblings

How, you might ask, has she done all this? She’s 99 years old. My son isn’t aware of the dilemma of the biological clock, so in his mind, she had much of this time to build her career and family. She isn’t doing it on her own. She’s married to my son’s other dad, though we hear less about this gentleman than we do about the other mom. His other dad was, for a while, 33 years old. I think my 5-year-old picked up that we thought this was funny, and so now he’s started saying the father is 45. Not that that’s less cougar-ish, really. When my son got into watching Crocodile Hunter, he claimed Steve Irwin was his other dad for a while. We haven’t told him the story yet of what happened to Steve Irwin (who died 8 months before my son was born).

Recently, he’s decided that Steve Irwin is not his other dad. But his other mother has similarly crazy adventures. She’s taken my 5-year-old to Australia, to Africa, to Russia, to Hawaii, to the myriad other places he’s studied on his maps and his atlas. She’s patient with him on plane trips, though as he told me this morning “People thought she was crazy to take a 3-year-old on a trip to Australia!” She lived in Botswana for a while. This came out when my son once told me that “You’re my favorite mommy!” I thanked him and he clarified that “You’re my favorite mommy in the United States.” His other mother had sub-Saharan Africa covered.

Crucially, she lets him have a cat. This is a major point of contention between us. I am adamant that I can’t have another living thing depending on me -- I’m not even watering my house plants anymore -- and the kids aren’t old enough to take care of a pet. My son’s other mother doesn’t have such problems because hey, she can do anything. Remember the part about her big career and 18 kids?

The other mother ebbs and flows in the frequency of her mentions. I thought she’d stayed in San Diego this summer when my son didn’t mention her for about two weeks after the trip. This would be keeping with a fine family tradition of imaginary friends staying on the west coast. When I was growing up, my family lived in San Diego for three months when I was 8 and my little brother was 3. He had a friend called “Baby Crunchy” who did everything with us, but stayed behind when we moved back to North Carolina. Alas, after a few weeks, the other mother was back, and she’s been with us pretty steadily since.

Have your children had imaginary playmates or parents?

Cross-posted at


Anonymous said...

Ever since I found out my dd was gifted, I wondered where the mom was who was up to the responsibility. One who could keep up, could guide, and could understand what it's like to be so different.

Sadly, after 10 years, I have come to accept that the other mom isn't coming. Maybe your son's imaginary mom can step in?

Anonymous said...

In Defense of a Cat:
They really are the most self-reliant of all the pets and actually prove quite useful during neighborhood rodent outbreaks. A 6 year old can do many of the chores involved in keeping one. They're good companions and getting a kitten can prove to be an excellent "anchor event" for a weekend or two and they're actually pretty easy to take care of. Also (and this is the big benefit in my mind) if you have a cat, it's very easy to avoid getting a dog which may be the biggest time-sucking logistical nightmare known to man. You do not have to walk a cat twice a day. You can leave a cat when you go away for a weekend and if you only scoop its litter box once or twice a week (particularly if you have a fancy-ish one) no one will suffer as long as it is out in the garage. A dog requires much, much more work. As long as no one is allergic, I think you'll find that adding a cat to the house may even be a time advantage rather than an extra responsibility.

C T said...

My daughter has a stuffed tiger that is her best friend, a la Calvin and Hobbes. Does that count?

Anonymous said...

My middle daughter had an imaginary friend AND an imaginary, invisible elephant. The elephant went away because I stepped on him. And because I asked him to walk beside the car and not sit on the roof. It was a lot easier to walk through our house after the elephant was gone! The imaginary friend stayed for years, he was the part of my daughter she was reluctant to show. Using her friend she could tell us she was afraid of a thunderstorm and all kind of other things. My daughter is 14 years old now, the friend disappeared when she was about 9 years old.She told me he is living on the moon now.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yes, it is so great that parents at this site understand. Our child assumed identities of beloved fictional characters and sometimes assigned the related fictional characters to us. It felt like perhaps an early form of method acting where our child would not break character for several months to a year and, then, change to a new character. This stopped by age 8.5 years, but I remember fondly. Thanks.