Sunday, December 7, 2014

Real and Imaginary Friends

My parents had come to visit us for two and a half weeks, and it took two days for Raphaela to truly absorb the fact that they were no longer our neighbors down the street, once again the grandparents who live on Skype or Facetime.  Raphaela and I were in the supermarket last Thursday and in the middle of the fruit aisle, she burst out crying, saying how much she missed my mother and father and asking when they would be returning from America to Jerusalem.

The only way to console her was to whip out my cell phone and on the spot arrange a video call with my father, who spoke to her and calmed her down. (Praise be the iPhone!)

On the way home Raphaela declared that from now on she would only play with family members, real or imagined.  Which leaves my brother and his family, whom we see infrequently, and her two imaginary siblings, a younger brother and an older sister.  I got the sense that since my parents had returned to the their home in Boston, Raphaela had chosen to play by herself with her imaginary brother and sister, rather than with her real classmates during the day.

Concerned, I told her that in order to be happy and have good days, we need both our real and imagined playmates, and that we should treasure the real people around us, even if they are not related by blood.  To encourage her, I told her that when I was little I had an imaginary friend who was a super hero, and while I have not abandoned her (even as a grown up), I truly enjoy the time I spend with my real-live grown up friends.  Then I  asked her to name some of the children in her Gan that she likes, and Raphaela begrudgingly filled our her list. I reminded her as well that there are people who love her everywhere in the world, even if we cannot eat Shabbat dinner with them every week.

I can only hope that the sadness and the social isolation she is imposing on herself will pass.

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