Paracosm, Inc.

Playing BFG in the basement (now dry!)

We happened to catch a little bit of Studio 360 a couple of weeks ago. (Finding the balance of when to turn on NPR in the car so we can hear and discuss unexpected things in a time where bombings and violence dominate the news is a whole other tangent.  Suffice it to say that I’ve been having trouble with it lately, but I hate missing moments like these.)  The kids perked up their ears for this story about imaginary friends.  When the introduced the idea of paracosms, both my boys especially lit up.  “We have a paracosm!”

In case you don’t know, a paracosm is an imaginary world.  As it explains in the story, we don’t know a lot about kids with imaginary friends and imaginary worlds.  Do they become more creative adults?  Do they become the innovators and artists of the future?  It would seem to make sense, but we don’t actually have the answers.  I love things like this, research being done in the moment.  What does make some kids have imaginary friends?  It wouldn’t be the same as the study in the radio story, but what if we asked successful inventors and artists and designers if they had imaginary friends and paracosms as children?  Would they be more likely than a random sample of adults to say yes?

Sometimes I feel like life at the rowhouse is ruled by paracosm.  I’ve posted here about the BFG (Big Friendly Good Company) and all its various exploits.  It’s the imaginary corporation that Mushroom and BalletBoy have been collectively inventing for years.  I’ve also posted about BalletBoy’s deep fears that growing up will mean leaving their paracosm behind.

One of the things I love about having twins is exact type of interplay.  They collectively create, imagine and negotiate with more ease than many other kids.  There is a sort of magic in seeing them work out this completely nonsensical world that is so insulated that they can’t even really explain it very well to outsiders.  It spawns signs, tickets, maps, and lots of fake credit cards.  There are heroes and villains and ongoing storylines so complex I never understand them very well.  They can play it together for hours upon hours.  Speaking of studies, someone should do a study of joint twin imaginary friends and paracosms.

I wish they would write it all down, but I think every time I ask them to try, it chafes their sense of ownership.

1 thought on “Paracosm, Inc.

  1. Maybe things will be different for you than for us, but our twins were some of the most creative kids I’d ever heard of along those lines. Every toy they ever had had a name, at points probably totaling well over 100 items including dozens of stuffed animals, dozens of shells from the beach, rocks, matchbox cars, plastic animals, etc . . . All of these toys were part of the UDC, the United Districts of Columbia. The UDC was fascinating world of its own with maps, flags, a constitution, laws, political parties, presidents, other political leaders, factions, usurpations, and wars. As with your BFG, it lasted for years. Even now at 14 there is still a UDC flag up on their bedroom wall. Beyond that, they wrote novella-sized stories, made up languages, and used their stuffed animals to perform Shakespeare. They had a far more creative childhood than I did.

    What I found interesting, though, is that their vivid imaginations have largely disappeared as they’ve gone through puberty. I don’t think we drove it out of them. I think it has disappeared naturally. They are now much more analytical and almost averse to doing things that involves creative thinking rather than analytical thinking. All of this happened over the space of about three years.

    Who knows what will happen with your twins, but I would be hesitant to say that patterns that exist in childhood necessarily carry through to adulthood.

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