“My friend Jake rides dune buggies,” my three-year-old son Leo offers casually. This is one afternoon last week. We are in the middle of playing legos on the dining room floor.

Imaginary Friend Dune Buggy

“Oh yeah?” I ask.

“Yeah, he’s a big kid. He’s big enough to ride dune buggies.”

“How old is Jake?” I ask.

“He’s three.”

My ears prick up. A three-year-old big enough to ride dune buggies? I’ve gotta find out more about this kid.

 

I continue with my questioning.

“Are you thinking of Jake from our old building?” I ask.

“No,” Leo replies.

“Is Jake someone you met at preschool?”

“No.”

“Is Jake a real person?”

“Yes.”

“Where did you meet Jake?”

Leo stalls…

He plays more legos…

“Ahh Leo, where did you met Jake?” I ask again.

“At the Kid Oil Factory,” he replies.

Well. Things just got interesting.

“At the Kid Oil Factory?”

“Yeah, at the Kid Oil Factory,” he replies.

A thousand questions fill in my head. What does a Kid Oil Factory produce? Does this place make “kid oil,” or is it a regular oil factory with kid workers? So, then, does Leo work there? Does he have a job I don’t know about? And, if so, how is this going to affect my tax filing status?

I inquire further:

“The Kid Oil Factory, where is this place?”

“Right there,” he points to a building on the floor made of legos.

“Ah, I see. What do they make at the Kid Oil Factory?”

“They make kid oil.”

Nice. Visions of the soap-making scenes from Fight Club fill my head. *Spoiler Alert!* In Fight Club they make soap from rendered liposuction fat, then sell the soap back to the people the fat was ostensibly sucked from. But kid oil, huh? I imagine an extremely expensive anti-aging face cream: “now with omega-complex, mango root, and kid oil.”

Kid Oil Face Cream

“So, do you and Jake work together at the Kid Oil Factory?” I ask Leo.

“No.”

“But that’s where you met him?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you play together there?”

“No.”

“But you met him there.”

“Yeah, I made him there,” he says.

“Wait. You met him there?” I ask.

“No, I made him there,” he clarifies.

Ah ha. Details had been getting lost in translation/adherence to “reality.”

“You made him there. What did you make him out of?”

“I made him out of kid oil.”

Duh, mom.

So now the picture is getting a little clearer. My son is basically a Dr. Frankenstein who made himself an imaginary friend named Jake. Out of kid oil. Is this oil somehow extracted from other children? I consider teaching him the definition of the word “macabre.”

He goes on to explain how  the kid oil is poured through cement trucks whose chutes are made of really really really old cement trucks into what I suspect are molds in the shape of children. His idea of this factory seems to be a mash-up of his encyclopedic construction vehicle knowledge and our recent conversation about fossil fuels (coal = really really really old trees.)

Kid Oil Factory

I continue to press him for details, but he becomes evasive and shows me clearly with his body language that he is far less interested in our “conversation” than he is in “playing.” It seems I may have pushed him too hard for an explanation of something he doesn’t fully understand, and like an anxious adult after an intense therapy session, he is mentally exhausted.

The next day I bring up the topic again, but he insists he had been talking about Jake from our old building the whole time.

Fair enough, I let it go.

Maybe Leo wants to keep his imaginary friend a little closer to the vest for now, so I’ll back off with the questioning. But going forward, every time he refers to “Jake,” I’ll be listening.

 

Originally posted on babyoffcenter.wordpress.com on October 8, 2016

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