My five year old has playdates every day with two boys he says are triplets with him. He asks me to call their mothers so they can come over, or he can go over there.
When he comes up with a bizarre idea, he will tell me one of the other two said it first. Sometimes he’ll tell me with grave sorrow that one or the other of them did something bad.
Kiddo#3 has discovered imaginary friends. If you call them that, though, he says darkly, “They’re invisible friends.”
As someone who talks to angels myself, I completely agree that invisible friends are fine, but I think these guys take a step beyond invisible right out into “doesn’t exist.” For one thing, they’re clearly extensions of the Kiddo himself. His name has a few common nicknames that go with it. Let’s say his name is Robert and he goes by Robert in general. These other two would then be Robbie and Rob.
Kiddo#3 simply has too much enthusiasm for life to be one person. He bubbles out to extend into other realms, other personae. “We’re triplets,” he tells me. “Can you call their moms to have them come over?”
I made something new for dinner. “Robbie doesn’t like this.” I say, “That’s too bad. Robbie doesn’t have to eat it, though.” He says, “But Rob likes it,” and then takes a little taste. “Rob eats this every night.”
To some extent you can see how he’s projecting his feelings outward. But in other respects, I think he feels the need for a sycophant. The other two never tell him what to do, so Robbie never gets blamed for something bad that Kiddo#3 did. They’re all the same age (which I hear is a good thing for triplets) but Robbie is clearly younger than Kiddo#3, and Rob is the more mature one. Kiddo#3 places himself in the middle, the one who can have fun without misbehaving, and can be a child without the responsibility of needing to do what’s right.
It’s kind of like living with an ego, a super ego and an id all carved apart, and all inhabiting the same chair at my dinner table.
I had my own imaginary friends, although I was younger. As I got older, they transitioned into story characters. Imaginary friends are good training for a writer. They’re also good training for a parent, since you’re keeping track of something inside your head while you’re doing something else.
We neither encourage nor discourage the triplets. They’re useful for a season, and shortly he’ll shed them for other pursuits. But maybe in the back of his heart, he’ll always know he has two friends: the one who has no cares, and the one showing him the direction he’s headed.