Are imaginary friends real to kids?

When I was a kid, I was jealous of my sister, because she had imaginary friends, and I didn’t. Because Rokko, the three-inch tall invisible deer who followed me around in a little airplane, was real. Then again, being jealous of my sister was rather a habit I had growing up, so take that for what it’s worth. I do definitely remember when I first met Rokko, and that stemmed from jealousy: We were walking in Grampap’s woods, and everyone else kept saying that they were seeing deer, but I didn’t see any. So towards the end of the walk, I managed to find a little patch of light and shadows that I could convince myself was in the shape of a deer, and that was Rokko. Many years later, my mom told me that probably everyone was teasing me in the first place, and nobody saw any deer.

I also had an imaginary superhero named Superfeet (it’s a long story), but I never really met him, and a little later I met some imaginary aliens. Actually two sets of imaginary aliens; there were good guys and bad guys. I certainly talked about the aliens as though they were real, and I knew all sorts of details about them, but I’m not sure how “real” I really thought they were.

As an industrious little child, I went ahead and “built” my imaginary friend out of paper–using brads so that he was fully jointed and everything. He sat in a small chair, and I don’t remember that he ever did much else. I was 4 or 5, I guess. There were plenty of other kids in the neighborhood that I played with all the time, though.

As a kid, I had several. Parents, of course, poo-poohed the idea so conversations and the such were held in private - bedroom, bathroom, outside, etc.

Perhaps my imagination was in overdrive (huh, still the case probably, but I digress) but I could not only see them but each had a distinctive voice, smell, toush, personality and appearance.

::shrug:: Who knows? I was a strange kid :slight_smile:

I don’t think my eldest son (who was 3 at the time) had an imaginary friend because he was lonely - I think it was more that he thought he could get away with anything naughty by blaming it on Relel. He was absolutely adamant that he was real however, and used to give me elaborate descriptions of him, right down to facial expressions.

I have no idea where the name Relel came from - it was just something that came up in conversation one day:

(doing 60mph down a dual carriageway)

Me: T, why have you got the car window down so far?

T: So that Relel can get in of course - he’s outside the window tapping on it, and he’s very angry that we didn’t let him get in at home.

Me:shuddering … Oh, OK then (in fake cheery voice!)

Apparently Relel was a tiny goblin-like creature, who got extremely angry and destructive whenever I wouldn’t let T do something, and it was entirely his fault that my sons room had been trashed. He was actually very menacing - my son used to say things like “Relel is cross with you Mummy, he says he’s going to get you when you’re asleep!” I had this mental image of the creature on Stephen Kings Cat’s Eyes (I think) where the creature used to sneak in and suck the breath out of people!

I was extremely grateful when my son informed me that Relel had had to go back to his own planet to “sort stuff out”. He had hung around for about 5 months, and had long outstayed his welcome!

I had an imaginary friend named “Knock” when I was about three. I don’t remember ever seeing him, but I would say he seemed real. At the time it seemed that my parents would get angry with me for doing something bad like knocking something over, or making a mess, and I didn’t remember doing it, so Knock must have done it. Knock was definitely invisible, and in other respects was quite a bit like me.

I think I may have talked to him, and I seem to remember watching him knock things over, but in the same way that you remember a lie that you tell.

In retrospect, I think that Knock was the result of wishing there was a fourth member of the family to balance it – there was just Mom, Dad, and me, and Mom and Dad usually agreed if I had done something wrong. So I needed a friend who agreed with me that I hadn’t done anything wrong. If I remember correctly, Knock was more than willing to take the blame for anything that happened, and Mom and Dad were charmed by Knock, so it actually worked. I think they used to ask me questions about Knock, like where he was, and what he looked like, and I would answer that he was behind something, like the couch or a chair, and that he looked like nothing. When they would look for him, I wasn’t sure whether they couldn’t see him because he had somehow slipped away, or if they couldn’t see him because he looked like nothing.

Although I don’t talk about Knock much any more, in some ways he is still real. I understand now that this idea is just a way of divorcing me from my failures, but I still have the inclination to believe that something uncontrollable, if not actually outside of me, is responsible for when I sabotage my own efforts. Surely many people are aware that they “accidentally” do things that keep them from accomplishing things. It is not so large a step to ascribe a personality to the entity that is responsible for these accidents. Really, this entity does have a personality. It just happens to be yours.

My daughter Emily (only child) had an invisible friend named “Little Emily”. Sometimes she was Emily’s size, and sometimes she could stand in the palm of a hand. When asked at age 4 if Little Emily was real, Emily freely acknowledged that she was not, but she continued to appear for several more years. Little Emily would frequently misbehave (in ways similar to Emily’s transgressions) and catch hell for it; more severe than my wife and I ever were.

My 3 year old has an imaginary dog. Well, he has one and he claims that everyone in the family has one also, but he takes care of them. He named them himself, and his creativity gives me great pride. They often ride with us on car trips. At times he will be playing with a toy, and he will stop to tell his puppy, Meadow to get down and to stop licking him. Of course this is with a big smile on his face, because what little boy could resist puppy kisses.

His imaginary animals by no means come from lonliness, as his Mother stays home with him as well as his little brother and another boy close to his age that my wife watches every weekday. In fact, he likes to have us play with his imaginary puppies also. It’s a group activity. I have to admit, that I envy him somewhat. I don’t recall having an imaginary friend, and it seems like a lot of fun. Is the mid 30’s too old for an imaginary friend? Maybe I’ll just conjur one up for myself.

Oldest son’s puppy: Meadow
little brother’s: Honeybunny
Mom’s: Froggy Doggy who is of course green
Mine: Sugar
Nana’s: Lollipop
Friend’s puppy: Ding Dong Doggy

My five year old daughter invented her primary imaginary friend when she was two. She told me she was going to Cowie’s house.
“Cowie?” I replied, “who is Cowie?”
“A little baby who like to go ‘Moo.’”

Cowie lived with us for the next 2 plus years. My daughter used her as a sort of alter ego–she lived in a house that was the same color as ours, she lived across the country in the same town as her grandparents, Cowie always let her kids (Cowie matured to a wise parent at around three years old) have ice cream for dessert etc…

When my daughter was about three and a half, she let slip that Cowie wasn’t real. I felt like crying. But she still referred to her on and off until she was four and a half. Then she told us that Cowie lived to be one hundred and died. And that was that.

I had imaginary friends I called “The Neighbors.” I know, sounds like a horror movie. Anyway, I used to play catch with them, which is hard to convince yourself of, since you have to run and get the ball. Dumb kid I was.

On a more philisophical note, many Buddhists, including the Dali Lama, believe that anything you honestly believe exists until you don’t believe it any longer. If you think about it, it’s very true.

Slight variant on the OP.

Imaginary friends are not limited to 3 year olds.
The only difference between 30 year old me, and a 3 year old, is that my imagination has a lot more accumulated information to draw on. I may also have a better grasp of reality - for the same reason of accumulated knowledge.
Some might be tempted to argue that a personality developed in the mind is not real, but then, where does your own one come from? Somewhere else??

I know where I stop and my imaginary friends start.
It’s important to have some grip on reality. :wink:
I guess that’s why I’m a character animator, and why I enjoy writing and drawing - you know, creative shite!

(a note - my “imaginaries” as I call them, have been years in evolving - just like any kind of personality really.)

I think an imaginary character is a coping mechanism for sure.
They combat loneliness, trouble, help with figuring out, learning, or may just be an explanation for something when not all the facts are known. (well, that last one is basically imagination, yes?)

I would also like to put forward the notion that Adults have them too - by different names.
Spirit guides, guardian angels, totem animals.
I am not mocking anyone who does have such a thing.
Imagination is extremely powerful and very open ended - who is to say what motivates it?
One thing is for sure. They are all personal “coping mechanisms” of a sort - a belief in something that won’t hurt you, is a great comfort to have - whether you are 30, or 3.

P.S. - my apologies - I forgot this was the General Questions forum instead of Cafe Soc’.

In answer to the OP, mine were embodied by my teddy bears, but I didn’t have any free floating imaginaries.
I used to imagine a lot on behalf of the two bears though. :wink:

A good friend of mine has a 3 year old little sister who has an imaginary friend called ‘Sugar’ one day her little sister started screaming her older sisters name telling her to get off…however her sister was in the other room. Also when her sister was researching, she found something on a dead person and her younger sister came in and said ‘‘Sugar looks just like that!’’ This dead person had blood dripping from her mouth and all around her face in the autopsy picture. Then a friend asked how old Sugar was…the three year old girl could only count up to ten, yet she straight away replied ‘‘34.’’ So i don’t know if this has anything to do with the spirit world occasionaly or has anything to do with the dead.

Imaginary zombies??!!!

My imaginary friend as a kid was Leonardo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He was way braver than me and took us on all kinds of cool adventures.

I don’t really remember any of this, I just read about it in my kindergarten diary years after the fact. So I don’t know if I actually “saw” him or if I knew it was pretend. But I like the theory that imaginary friends allow us to try things we wouldn’t be able to do on our own.

(I only just noticed this was a necro thread, sorry)

I remember my imaginary friend. I do not remember him ever being real.

Oh, and mine was a floating egg named Humpty.