When my son Beckett was three, he had a whole posse of imaginary friends:
There was Bip and Lap, tween brothers who lived by themselves in a brick office building across the street.
John, the imaginary butler, who spent most of his time in Paris and Chicago.
There was Julie, a blue-faced blonde who lived behind the washing machine (and was the reason Beckett was afraid to get out of bed.)
Lollipop and Junior must have been discreet, because I don’t remember much about them.
And then, there was Kayfee.
Kayfee was a little girl who wreaked all kinds of havoc in our household. She ripped picture books. Drew on the walls and furniture. She broke intricate Lego masterpieces belonging to Beckett’s brother. She left crumbs from stolen cookies on the counter…before dinner. Worst of all, Kayfee had a rather disturbing flatulence issue.
If some mischievous deed was done, I would search the face of each boy: Owen would protest his innocence and I would believe him. Beckett would invariably look up at me with enormous blue eyes, wrinkle his nose and whisper, “Kayfee did it.”
One day, Kayfee sent three Lego mini-figures on an adventure down the bathtub drain and I decided it was time to confront her; Beckett’s first lesson in honesty.
I explained to Beckett that having an imagination was a really good thing, but I knew that Kayfee was not real. Did he? Frustration yielded to tears. No, Kayfee was very real to him. I tried another path; I explained the importance of owning your actions. If you do something wrong, as hard as it may be, you must accept responsibility. I told him I knew that he was Kayfee. And, through tears, he smiled. “Yes, okay,” he said, with a trace of pride. “I am Kayfee.”
As Beckett grows older, now almost five, he is developing his own sense of integrity and has been able to retire his proxies. He is able to own up to mistakes and mischief (although definitely not refrain from them!).
One day, not too long ago, we heard the elevator pulling up to our apartment. My older son Owen, trying to be funny, said, “Bip and Lap are here.”
Beckett froze in his tracks, his eyes as large and terrified as a cartoon chicken about to be eaten by a coyote.
“They’re not real,” I reminded him.
“Kayfee’s not real, Mommy,” he said. “But Bip and Lap are.”