“Mama, Zeus is sitting right next to you,” Violet tells me from the backseat of the car.
I glance up at the rearview mirror and see my 3-year-old craning her neck around to look at the empty passenger seat in front of her. Her eyebrows are raised high over her widening eyes; her mouth is slightly open with awe. Clearly, she’s not seeing an empty passenger seat.
“He’s looking at you,” she warns, her voice barely above a whisper.
“Oh yeah?” I say, keeping my eyes on the road, the hair on the back of my neck standing on end.
Zeus is a monster. He’s got red fur and yellow polka dots. He has red eyes. But he’s a nice monster, she assures me. (The blue ones are the mean ones.) But Zeus is the least of my problems. It’s Emily and Sofia that are driving me up an imaginary wall.
A few weeks before Violet turned 3, in early June of 2015, Emily made her first appearance. Suddenly, we had to wait for Emily to use the potty before we could leave the house, I had to push Emily on her swing, too, and I had to explain to Violet that Emily didn’t get to decide whether or not we were having ice cream for dessert that night.
“What does Emily look like?” I asked Violet.
“She has yellow hair… and yellow eyes!”
Emily’s baby sister, Sofia, joined us a few months later, not long after Violet’s own baby sister, Sabine, made her debut. Another yellow-eyed beauty (Sofia, not Sabine). Their parents, Jack and Zoom, seem to have no problem with them spending most of their time at our house, as they are constantly at Violet’s side.
Although my adoptive invisible children have made my life harder at times, I have learned that they can be my friends, too. Here are five times you can use your kids’ pretend pals to your advantage.
At the Dinner Table
Having trouble getting your littles to eat their vegetables? Well, guess who just loves kale and spinach? Emily and Sofia! If they like leafy greens, it’s probably worth trying. After all, they are older and wiser, considering they celebrate birthdays about two or three times a week.
Leaving the House
If you’re like most parents, your average time for putting on footwear and coats is about 20-25 minutes. Emily and Sofia have helped me cut down my outdoor prep time to under 10 minutes because what preschooler doesn’t love a good race? First, Emily and Violet race to get their own gear on and then they compete to see who can help Sofia and Sabine faster. Boom, two real kids ready to hit the town in record time. True, their shoes are probably on the wrong feet, but does it even matter? You know those velcro straps are going to be peeling off in the car before you even pull out of the driveway.
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star…
For the most part, Violet is pretty good about heading upstairs for our bedtime routine. But on the rare occasions when she does resist resigning for the night, I like to get things started with Emily and Sofia. (Seriously, Jack and Zoom owe me so many sleepovers.) Once I’m up in the girls’ bathroom helping Emily with the toothpaste, it’s not long before Violet joins me to pick out books with Sofia.
Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody, Everywhere
Putting away toys seems a lot less daunting when you’ve got a little help from your imaginary friends. I like to assign a task to each kid, real or not. Sabine can gather the crayons, Violet will put away the kitchen stuff, Emily’s on lego detail, and Sofia can organize the instruments. Obviously, you’re the one doing the imaginary friends’ chores, but half the work is better than all the work.
That Precious “You Time”
Violet gave up her nap when she was about two-and-a-half, so I only got a few months of that elusive both-kids-napping-at-the-same-time goal every stay-at-home parent dreams about. Once Sabine goes down, Dora the Explorer will buy me 30 minutes for myself, but after cleaning up lunch, sorting the mail, and using the bathroom, I’m down to 10 minutes if I’m lucky. Not good enough. Making time for you is important. I need to just chill for like 20 minutes. So, yes, I have suggested to Violet that a tea party with Emily and Sofia would be lovely, wouldn’t it? You’d be surprised how long two fake blondes will entertain a three-year-old.