Margot has been preoccupied with death for a while now. For a long time I imagined that it was because I almost died when she was three weeks old (pulmonary embolism) but recently, out of the clear blue sky, Margot said, “Mama, I’m so glad I didn’t die in your belly.” I managed to just say “I’m very glad, too” instead of clutching my daughter to my chest and sobbing into her hair which is what I wanted to do. I was very sick (with Hyperemesis Gravidarum) during my pregnancy and could not eat or drink anything at all for over a month, and had a very scarce and limited diet for a long time following. In spite of those facts, we never thought that the child I was carrying was in any danger. Still, when she made that comment I was overcome with the idea that her obsession with death may have started when she was just a little ball of cells growing inside of me wondering if she would make it. Yes, this may seem a bit strange and unbelievable, but there is scientific proof that what babies experience in the womb affects their lives as children and adults. I know, also, that Margot remembered being in the womb around age two. She told me that everything looked red and that it sounded like “ba bum ba bum ba bum.” So, does she really remember the first trimester of my pregnancy? Is it possible that she has been thinking about death for LITERALLY her entire life??
I (obviously) can not ever answer that question. The real point here is that, however it happened, I have a child who says things like, “I’m glad I didn’t die in your belly” and over breakfast says (in her sweetest voice and without any serious concern) “is today the day we are going to die?” Believe me, the day that she said that to me, I looked more than twice every time we crossed the street. She just has this tendency to say unsettling things about death and dying. She sees a photo of someone and says “when they die, I want to see their bones.” In true Unschooling spirit, I have leaned into this fascination. We have borrowed every book the library had to offer about death. Her favorite one for a while was called “Missing Jack” about a boy whose cat Jack died. We have a cat. Named Jack. Who looks extremely similar to the cat in the book. She asked to read it every day multiple times a day for over a week.
So, the other day when Margot told me there was a ghost in our house, I went with it. Margot told me the ghost was scary and we needed to scare it away. We got some pots and pans and banged away saying “please leave us alone!!” The ghost went on it’s way and Margot and I talked about whether or not ghosts were real (we decided we don’t know for sure) and why that ghost was angry (it was because her brother died). And then, a new ghost came out. A little girl, the same age as Margot (even though she is the ghost of a woman who died because her body got too old and couldn’t live any more). Her name is Delilah and she has been living with us ever since. Delilah has curly hair like Margot’s but she can change the color of her hair whenever she wants to. She has a scooter just like Margot’s, but since Delilah is a ghost her scooter is also kind of magical; whenever we go anywhere in the car, the scooter attaches to the back of our car with a magnet and she rides behind us. Sometimes the angry ghosts come back to our house, and when they do Margot asks me to protect Delilah while she bangs on pots and pans to scare the angry ghosts away.
I know that imaginary friends are not anything to be worried about. I also know that only children are more likely to have imaginary friends than children with siblings and that sometimes children create imaginary friends in order to deal with a trauma. I’m not worried about Delilah’s presence in our lives. (Although when Margot told me there was an angry ghost asleep in my bed I admit I immediately put an end to all ghost talk for the rest of the night…) I have done the requisite googling to assure myself that children with imaginary friends develop better social skills and deeper empathy for their peers and grow up to be healthy and intelligent adults. One article even jokingly suggests that parents make up imaginary imaginary friends for their children on any preschool applications to indicate that their children are “gifted”. So, I’m cool with it! We play along and ask questions about Delilah and Margot even tells us that she’s not REALLY REAL if we pretend to, say, paint her nails or comb her hair. I AM SO COOL WITH ALL OF THIS.
Is my desperation showing? The truth is… I AM cool with it. I DO know all of these wonderful things the internet has to say about children with imaginary friends. But. I am also very aware of the fact that Delilah is, in some ways, a stand in for a sibling, which is something Margot will never have. And while I am over here being SO COOL WITH IT… it breaks my heart a little bit at the same time. We have chosen this life for our child. We have made all of these decisions about what her life will look like and so many of the choices we have made for her put her on the fringes of society. And then! We decided that she would be the only one! This lone weirdo with no siblings to lean on when life as a weirdo gets… weird. No one to lean on, that is, except for her imaginary friend who is a dead person.
Which is why doing this, this blogging thing, is kind of important. We have been very fortunate to find a family of unschoolers who we love in our neighborhood. But, it’s hard even to be just two families of weirdos. I want to find a global community of weirdos to learn with and share experiences with. I hope that putting ourselves out there like this helps us find that community. So that, hopefully, when Margot really needs someone to lean on, she has choices beyond me and a dead girl.