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  1. BOOK REVIEW: A Gift From Brittany: A Memoir of Love and Loss in the French Countryside by Marjorie Price Kate Forsyth 15-Dec-2017
  2. BOOK REVIEW: Inspector Morse: Last Bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter Kate Forsyth 13-Dec-2017
  3. BOOK REVIEW: Le Chateau by Sarah Ridout Kate Forsyth 09-Dec-2017

WORK IN PROGRESS

A fairy-tale infused historical novel for adults set in the late 18 th century, moving between Imperial China and France during the ‘Terror’ of the French Revolution, and inspired by the true story of a quest for a blood-red rose.

The novel will draw upon ‘The Blue Rose,’ a fairy tale set in China about a quest for an impossible rose.

Imaginary Friends

My sister Belinda had a best friend called Sarn when she was little. Sarn went everywhere with Belinda, ate with her at every meal, and slept with her every night. The only problem was that no-one else could see Sarn.

Before my mother could sit down she had to ask if Sarn was sitting on that chair. Sarn was forever being trodden on or locked outside or forgotten when peanut butter sandwiches were being made. One day Sarn was left behind on the wharf by mistake. Despite all Belinda's tears and pleadings, the ferrymaster refused to turn the boat back. Luckily Sarn had the gift of magical transportation, and managed to find her own way home.

Imaginary companions can drive a parent to distraction. Some find it unnerving to see their child talking earnestly with someone who cannot be seen. Others find their patience running out when their child insists on a place being set at the dinner table every night.

Some children invent a scapegoat to take the blame for mischief or accidents. 'It wasn't me that smashed the glass, Mum, it was Johnny.' Parents can sometimes be exasperated with this response, seeing it as lying to get out of well-deserved punishment, while their child may still be involved in a game and not understand their concepts of truth-telling and falsehoods.
Other children have such an intense relationship with their imaginary friends that they spend all day talking and playing with it. That makes their parents worry whether such an profound and vivid fantasy world is healthy, and many try and break their child of the habit.

Yet up to 30% of children aged between two and ten have imaginary friends, and research shows that bright, creative children are especially likely to invent them. Usually they come into the child's life around two and a half, and drop out when the child starts kindergarten or school. First-born and only children have imaginary companions more often than do children with older siblings. This may be because the child is lonely and dreams of the perfect friend and companion. Certainly Sarn had her most animated life soon after I was born, when my mother's attention was distracted away from Belinda, and began to fade away after my sister began kindergarten.

Young children do not know where the unreal begins. Their imagination is vivid and their terrors real. Often make-believe is a coping strategy through which children work through their fears, deal with emotional conflicts, and satisfy their need for mastery over life situations.

The American sitcom 'The Nanny' based one hilarious episode around the life and death of Gracie's imaginary friend, Imogen, who was accidentally eaten by Fran the nanny while sitting on a cookie. Gracie was distraught, draped herself in black, and insisted on a funeral for Imogen. Fran was racked with guilt, until Gracie's psychotherapist explained the little girl had invented Imogen to fill the hole left by her mother's death, and that hole had since been filled by Fran herself.

Similarly the 1996 movie 'Bogus' tells the story of a young boy sent to live with an unsympathetic aunt after the death of his mother. He takes refuge in the company of Bogus, a flamboyant, gentle, loving, and altogether imaginary Frenchman, played by Gerard Depardieu. With the help of his invisible friend, Albert comes to terms with his mother's death, and his aunt with the loss of her childhood innocence.

Although both these productions based the invention of imaginary friends on the premise that something is lacking in the child's life, this is by no means the norm. Most experts agree that fantasy and make-believe is extremely important in the development of a child's creative thinking. As Albert Einstein said, 'imagination is more important than knowledge'. It is with imaginative and creative thinking that problems are solved and new discoveries and inventions made.

One should really only start to worry if your son or daughter rejects playing with other children in preference for their imaginary friend, or if they are still talking and playing with an invisible companion well into their primary school years.

This probably means that their real life is not satisfying and interesting enough, or that they are having trouble learning social skills. For many children, the playground can be a terrible place and other children very cruel. In that case, their over-absorption in make-believe is a symptom of a deeper problem, and you may wish to speak to the school counsellor or seek independent help in identifying the problem.

Usually, though, the best response is to enter into the child's illusory world with her. Take pleasure in the richness and intensity of your child's imagination, and enjoy the glimpses she gives you into childhood's fantastical realms. For who doesn't need a little fantasy in their lives?