My six-year-old has a vivid imagination that manifests in tall tales. It started when she was four. Her first imaginary pet was a dinosaur that lived under her bed. She wanted to leave food for him (under her bed), and we battled on-and-off about feeding an imaginary pet real food. No matter how well I argued the case for feeding an imaginary pet imaginary food, I got the “Duh, Mom, he needs real food, or he’ll die!” response. Two years later, I still find half-eaten apples, hidden under either a book or a stuffed animal, beneath her bed.
I’ve never worried, outside of the occasional moment of parenting panic (read: is my kid a pathological liar?), and, if I’m completely honest, I’m excited by her creativity. Most of what I’ve read claims that it’s not abnormal for young children to lie or tell wild stories. So, in the past, I’ve responded to her in a way that I hoped would encourage her imagination, but remind her that it’s important to tell the truth.
Her stories usually involve pets. She’ll tell a friend that she got a teeny, tiny kitten (we have fish), and he’s so precious that she had to name him Precious (maybe she’s not that creative after all). Or that her fish had babies (pretty hard to do when you’re alone in a fish tank). Or that she rescued a dog from the dogcatcher, and he was so grateful that he used real-life words to thank her, and took her home to meet his family for dinner. Really, he did!
Lately, she’s been sharing her tall tales with friends, and they’ve been coming back to me via parents and teachers. Some stories make me laugh (she told someone she had a twin sister and that her brother, who’s 8, plays hockey for the Avs), but last week she told a story that made me worry. She told the playground attendant that we moved to a house across the street, and she was just going to pop home for a few minutes and she’d come right back. When that didn’t work, she waited until school got out and snuck past where I was waiting to get on a bus. Lucky for me, and the bus driver, that didn’t pan out either. Now I’m dealing with a wild child who loves to fib, wants to explore the world beyond the playground, and is sneaky to boot.
We have daily conversations about safety and telling the truth. I shared Aesop’s Fable The Boy Who Cried Wolf. I’m thinking about getting a dog, so she has something to love. I‘ve been racking my brain for ways to help her harness or channel her imagination so that she doesn’t feel the need to act out so dramatically. I’m a mama on a mission. How can I keep my kid safe, teach her to be truthful, and still nurture her fertile imagination? Do you ever feel like parenting is one big social experiment? I do! If you’ve got any ideas, please, please share!