Although she is well aware that exterior exits are out of bounds, Jet begins fiddling with the deadbolt on the front door. “I’ve got to leave now,” she informs me.
“What? What do you mean you’ve got to leave? Are you trying to open that door?”
“My sister is coming to pick me up. She went to my house and got my things and she’s picking me up in her car.”
Jet’s imaginary sister is a chameleon of many talents. Today her name sounds something like Maisey, but that’s variable too. Jet continues to work at the deadbolt while she explains that her sister plans to drive them her to her workplace. As far as I know, this is the first time that Jet’s imaginary sister has enticed her to do something she shouldn’t. “Jet, you know you are not allowed to go outside by yourself.”
“My sister said I could.”
“Your sister has to follow the same rules you do. She isn’t allowed to go outside by herself either!”
Jet looks me straight in the eye and says, “My sister is a grown-up. She said I can open the door and she said I can cross the street by myself.”
“If Maisey is your sister, then I’m her Grandma too, and she has to listen to her Grandma just like you do.”
“She doesn’t live with me. She has her own house and she is a GROWN-UP.” Clearly Jet believes that this explains everything.
“I don’t care how old she is or where she lives, or what she tells you to do. At Grandma’s house I am in charge. You have to mind what I say and Maisey does too.”
“No she doesn’t. She’s a GROWN-UP. She drives a car!”
As I ponder Jet’s statements, I realize that I am running my hands through my hair. I don’t have any idea how to handle this. “I’d like to have a few words with Maisey,” I mutter to myself before deciding that maybe I should. “Call her up,” I tell Jet, “I’d like to speak to your sister.”
“I’m not allowed to use your phone.”
This is true. Jet is not allowed to touch my phone and so far Maisey has apparently not suggested otherwise. “What’s her number?”
“Does your phone have a U on it?”
I check the screen. “Yes.”
“Her number starts with a U.”
I pretend to call Maisey and hold the phone to Jet’s ear. “Talk to her. Tell her to come over here right now so I can make sure she understands that she isn’t allowed to get you in trouble by telling you to do things you are not allowed to do.”
“She doesn’t talk.”
I put the phone to my ear. “Maisey, I need to tell you something. When Jet is at my house you BOTH need to mind me. I don’t care how old you are or where you live. Jet will get in BIG trouble if she goes in the street by herself or goes outside without me. You can’t tell her it’s okay to do things she isn’t allowed to do. Do you understand me?
“What did she say?” Jet asks.
“She understands me. What about you? Do you understand me? Should you go outside or cross the street by yourself?”
“No, I’ll wait for you. But my sister is coming to take me to her work. She’s going to let me drive her car. You can sit in the back.”
I want to call for a lifeline, but the child is looking at me expectantly.
“Is this a pretend car?”
“No, it’s a big car. She’s going to park it in the garage where Papa parks. We can go out to the garage and get in it.”
“I’m afraid you aren’t old enough to drive the car, Jet. You know this. Maisey can’t let you do things you aren’t allowed to do.”
“But she’s a grown-up, Grandma.”
“Look at me, Jet. Let me be absolutely clear. It doesn’t matter what your sister says. When you are here, at Grandma’s house, I get to decide what you are allowed to do and not allowed to do. That’s my job. That’s the way it is.”
“Well… that’s okay. She can drive and you can sit in the back with me.”
The clock struck noon before Jet could hustle me off to the garage. “Did you hear the clock? It’s time for lunch! Let’s go!” I say. Thankfully, Jet loves lunch.
As she eats, I consult the Internet for advice. According to Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., on Psychology Today’s web post of January 31 2013: “It’s okay to lay down the law if the imaginary friend’s demands or “behaviors” become too disruptive. Without harshly challenging the existence of the friend, you can say things like, “I don’t care who made this mess. You need to wipe it up” or “Aunt Carol is coming in the car with us, so Mr. Murf will have to find somewhere else to sit today.”
Miss Maisey had better not press her luck!