I Think My Son’s ‘Imaginary Friend’ Wants To Hurt Me

Being a mother was all I ever wanted to be. Beginning at the age of 4 I used to stick pillows inside my blouses, trying to get that grown-up belly bump I’d seen on pregnant ladies at the grocery store or on TV. I couldn’t wait to be a mommy and have a baby all my own.

When my mom became pregnant again, I was a good girl and helped her with chores and we read books with the baby every night. I’d sit in mommy and daddy’s bed and rub mommy’s tummy while she read the stories so both the baby and I could hear. When my little brother was born I cared for him as if he were my own. I was a precocious child, always learning new things so that I could help my brother. It’s why I was the first student in my class to learn how to read, and why I learned how to cook and make my own snacks growing up. Our relationship was always much stronger than a typical sibling bond. It was special.

I went to college close to home so I could be at all my brother’s soccer games. At school, I met the love of my life and after we graduated we decided to get married and start our lives together. I was beyond thrilled, life was turning out to be everything I had ever dreamed up. Soon I would have my own little family and our own little house and everything would be perfect.

I got pregnant a year after we married — pretty much as soon as we started trying. I was so relieved but I took the ease of everything happening as a sign that this was my destiny. I was born to be a mother and the universe was conspiring to make it so. Our first was a precious girl we named Sophie. She soon became a big sister to Alana and Johnny.

My son, Johnny, is 5 now. He was an angelic baby, he got on a sleeping schedule right away and breast-feeding wasn’t as difficult as I’d read it could be. We bonded right away and I adored how much he needed me, how my whole day is scheduled around doting on his every need. He is a sweet little angel who, despite his recent temper tantrums, is so, so loving and full of potential. He’s going to be a great man someday.

The problems started a year ago at his friend’s 4th birthday. After the party he was sitting on my lap while we had some snuggles before bed. He told me about one of his friends he played with at the birthday party. The friend’s name was Daemon. That’s not a name that blends into the background. I would definitely remember if one of his school friends or one of the kids in the neighborhood was named Daemon, and they definitely would not have been invited into our house. I don’t even know any parents remotely goth enough to name their child Daemon. It just sounds vaguely…evil.

I assumed Johnny must have gotten the name wrong, or he was mispronouncing it, which he was still in a phase of doing. I even checked, there was absolutely not anyone named Daemon at the party. After a few days went on, he continued to talk about playing with his friend Daemon. He also pretended to call “Daemon” on the phone and mentioned that Daemon was joining us for meals. It was clear “Daemon” wasn’t real.

I was obviously horrified that he’d chosen this name for his imaginary friend. I immediately consulted our priest, who assured me Johnny likely just heard the name somewhere in Sunday school and took a fancy too it. I convinced Johnny that “Damie” was a good gender neutral name for his friend, and eventually I got him to use the nickname, so at least he wouldn’t be overheard talking about his friend “Daemon” at the grocery store.

The problem was, it wasn’t just Daemon’s name. His appearance coincided with some challenges in Johnny’s behavior. He was rougher with the girls, and their relationship changed. All of a sudden both his sisters seemed quieter around Johnny. If I would tell him we had to put his toys away because it was time to leave for an appointment, he’d say “well, Damie told me that we can just leave my toys out” or “Damie told me I don’t have to do what you say if I don’t want to.” He’d never spoken to me like that before. That’s when I started trying to get rid of Damie.

Other parents found out that Johnny’s imaginary friend was named Daemon and they started blaming all sorts of mean-spirited things on him. They said he was biting the other kids and telling them that their parents were going to move out in the middle of the night and leave them all alone forever. He is a sweet, shy boy who never causes problems so I know for a fact the other parents are just lying. With Sophie and Alana, we could always see what the behavior issues were. Johnny is more well-behaved than all of them. They’re a bit jealous of how emotionally mature my boy is. Johnny is just not a naughty kid. One neighbor even accused him of poisoning her cat! Obviously the police had to get involved at that point, we couldn’t have some crazy people running around town making those kind of accusations about our son. The police said there was simply no evidence that a 5-year-old could have been involved and that was that. See? Some people are just crazy and there’s no convincing them otherwise.

Things began to happen at home too. Mostly, I started to have a strange feeling that Johnny was keeping secrets from me. It’s a normal part of growing up, boys don’t continue to share everything with their mothers into adulthood. He just seemed a bit off, though, it didn’t feel like any of the other growing up changes he’d made, or a transition I was familiar with because of Sophia and Alana. He started closing the door to his room all the time, even at night when he used to insist we left it cracked so it would never get completely dark inside. In fact, Johnny didn’t seem like he was afraid of the dark at all anymore. He never reached for my hand when we walked into a room without the light on, he didn’t express any anxieties about going to school or trying something new, he seemed to have an air of confidence I’ve never seen in a small child before. But then again, I couldn’t help but be a little proud. I always knew Johnny was going to be special. He’s going to be a great man some day.

I really wish the other moms in my neighborhood weren’t so cliquey. I feel terrible that Johnny must be suffering because they’re jealous that I get to stay home and devote all my attention to raising such a good boy. They’ve banned him from the children’s parties in our community. Not officially or anything, they can’t involve the school because they’d just repeat what I say, that he gets perfect marks and has never been caught misbehaving with the other boys. They’re all being very sneaky.

Cheryl across the street is claiming that she woke up and Johnny was in her room watching her sleep. She claims he had one of her kitchen knives in her hand. Another neighborhood mom, Jenny (who still goes by Jenny in their 30’s?), says that at her daughter’s birthday party Johnny lead a group of kids into the woods and “they all seemed scared” when they came back. I guess a girl mom wouldn’t understand the kind of shenanigans boys get up to. Johnny’s best friend is Josh who is in his class at school. One day Josh came home with some of his hair safety-scissored off and Johnny was blamed, even though no one saw Johnny cut any of Josh’s hair and Josh could have easily done it himself. Josh actually told his parents that Johnny didn’t do anything wrong. To be fair, technically he said Damie was the one who cut his hair, but still. It clearly was not John.

It’s not like I’m completely ignorant of what the other parents are talking about. I know “Damie” is a bad influence on my family. Johnny must have watched some TV show at a friends house that he’s not allowed to watch at home. That’s where he heard the name Daemon and got all these naughty ideas in his head. Not that he’s actually done anything wrong. All the neighborhood kids must be playing some game. I’ve even wondered if it could be some kind of mass hysteria.

Recently I’ve had my own bad experience with Damie. I was cleaning Johnny’s room and I went through one of the notebooks he has on his desk for coloring. He’s not an advanced reader yet and he pretty much can only write basic words like his name and the names of barnyard animals. At least, that’s what I thought. The notebook was filled out like a diary. There was large, but neat, crayon handwritten that must be Johnny’s. But the diary was filled out with someone’s complete thoughts, and they weren’t a 5-year-old’s. Not even one as precocious as my Johnny. On back-to-back pages I found my daughters names with a series of tallie marks under each of their names, to keep track of something. My sweet girls must be helping him with his letters. I’ve read a lot of books about raising multiple gifted children in the same family. Anyway, here’s the story they must have been working on together:

Today I left some toys in front of the stairs so that Sophie or Alana might fall down them. Or maybe Mommy or Daddy when they are running around looking at their phones. They are always looking at their phones. The only time they pay attention to me is when they are taking a photo of me to put on Mommy’s Facebook.

My heart caught in my throat as I realized what a genius my little boy was! Not only could he write but he was already experimenting with fiction! An artist!!!

Still, it’s concerning that he’s chosen to make his character dislike the mother character…

I flipped a few pages and found another entry:

I’ve got to get rid of all of them. Everyone in my family hates Daemon. Once they are gone I’ll have time to start my real projects.

I’ll admit that the first thing I felt after reading this entry was fear. I love my son more than my own life, but there was a brief moment of honesty where I let myself admit that I’ve always thought something was off about him. I talked as loud as I could to anyone who would listen that I thought the doctors were judgemental pricks. But maybe they had had a point.

And then I came to my senses. Johnny has never been anything other than an extraordinary boy. He took his first steps at just eight and a half months.

Strangely enough there was another entry about how the writer had replaced his mother’s heart medication pills with water pills. I walked to the kitchen and pulled out my heart medication pills. I’ve been taking them ever since my pregnancy with John. My blood pressure went up and it just never went back down. I have to take the medication now or I’d be at risk of stroke. I’ve been doing it for so long it’s like second nature to me now. I don’t even pay attention… but the pills in the container do look generic. I thought there used to be some kind of symbol on the top of the little white circles, but these were all just smooth and plain. I’d have to check with my next batch, but I’m sure it’s all my head. Just the other moms getting to me.

That’s Johnny now. He’s calling me from the bathroom. He knows mommy likes baths just like he does so he told me I have to take one tonight. He even brought in a radio from his dads office so I can listen to “relaxing music”. I told you he’s precocious!

I do think “Daemon” is a bit strange. I definitely don’t like that even someone imaginary seems to have replaced me as as Johnny’s favorite person and confidant. But he’d never do anything bad. Not my little Johnny. He’s going to be a great man someday. TC mark

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