My seven-year-old son Wilkin has an imaginary friend named Stanley.
It all started with his cousin, who had an imaginary friend named Stanley. His cousin's Stanley was a playmate when he needed one, as his sister is 11 years older and not always keen on playing Hotwheels. Wilkin adopted his own Stanley shortly after being introduced to Josiah's Stanley, even though Elisa has always been a close friend and they play well together. I figured Stanley was harmless, just another expression of Wilkin's desire to be just like Josiah.
However, Wilkin's Stanley has hung on over the years, and evolved over time.
Stanley began as a silent confidant and understanding friend who always shared toys and let Wilkin go first.
As Wilkin has matured and faced various challenges in schooling and in relationships, Stanley has become the friend that always lets Wilkin have his way. When Wilkin was struggling with confidence, Stanley would forget how to play games and Wilkin would always win. When Wilkin tried to sound out words, Stanley didn't even know what the letters were. When Wilkin felt he couldn't do anything right, Stanley always let him take his own turns and Wilkin would always come out on top.
Yesterday, Elisa and Wilkin were playing Connect Four. Wilkin was losing.
Wilkin challenged Stanley to a game of Connect Four. Stanley forgot the rules. Wilkin won.
Today, Elisa kicked Wilkin's tail in "thumb war."
Wilkin challenged Stanley to a thumb war. Wilkin won. "Stanley is so weak, and I am so strong," Wilkin crowed (yes, he was using his own thumb to represent Stanley's thumb).
I long for the day when Wilkin feels confident enough to challenge and, maybe even, defeat someone his own age. Until then, there's Stanley. And I'm grateful for the way he keeps letting Wilkin win ... and keeps building up his budding confidence.