Child Resiliency During COVID-19: Foster your child’s rich imaginary world with Quiet
May 1, 2020
It is May 1, 2020. Collectively we have completed almost 2 months of sheltering-in-place. California is at our first plateau but the curve has not been bent. There were too many people at the beaches on Monday especially in Orange County, and now stricter orders from Governor Newson are coming. I watched his entire news conference yesterday and he did very well. I feel confident in our state’s leadership and will heed his orders. I believe the dissenters are less than what CNN is portraying. I have become skeptical of a lot of media. Mr. Plastic Picker only trusts the New York Times now and I have agreed that the $15 we pay a month is worth it. Rather than reporting the news, some mainstream media is inflaming the population. One of my medical colleagues was asked to be interviewed on a local news show about how the healthcare industry was adjusting to the pandemic. This was supposed to be a standard “fluff” piece. He was essentially ambushed and the reporter began to try to rile him up and ask inflammatory questions. He stayed calm and answered her inflammatory questions with noninflammatory replies, and there was no news story. I will no longer patronize their network which is CBS.
But the overall sense I feel from the ones I love is of saddness. We stopped by my mom’s house yesterday to pick up food. She leaves food on the bench in front of her house, and I come in and pick it up. I dropped off a pan that she needed back. I called out to her from further than the requisite 6 feet away, and we had a quick back and forth. But I looked at her through the clear glass of the partition into her garage. I tried to make eye contact and she did not want to look at me too long. She seemed sad.
It makes sense. It has been two months without family hugs and meals and laughter. It has been two months of stress and uncertainty. And now we are starting to hear some of the news that New Yorkers are well aware. California has only had less than 3000 deaths. But my Girl Scout Co-Troop Leader’s friend’s father died of COVID-19. My medical school pediatric clerkship director’s secretary’s sibling died of COVID-19. And my father wanted to go to a funeral of a close friend who died of non-COVID-19 causes. But even with the funeral limited to 10 people, my mother and I asked him not to. He is sad and irritable because he is not allowed to say goodbye.
There has been much written about the resources available right now for mental health. I had a blogpost early on with some suggestions, but there are better ones available with an easy Ecosia searth. But I wanted to suggest something different. As you know, Dr. Plastic Picker likes to look at the world upside down. Did you notice my new blog header image? It’s the pictures of the red sandstone cliffs at the beach I clean. It’s taken from my perch on the beach, with my iPhone camera pointed up into the sky. I love that image, because that is how I try to look at the world.
I am having an easier time with this quarantine than some. Mostly it is because I still have tasks I need to do for work. Actually for work, I am busier than before because there is a lot of middle management and rearranging schedules and budget issues to deal with. I like to do those tasks when it’s normal work hours. It’s 630am and the early mornings are for myself and blogging. But I just wanted to share with you something that is very important right now for your children. Quiet.
Quiet. When things are quiet, your child has the ability to think and to imagine. Allow them quiet to form their own imaginary world. In a sense Dr. Plastic Picker and my blogging is my imaginary world. I have created this blog and my Instagram page, and I play this character on this virtual plane. When I was young, I had imaginary friends. I remember as a little child that I had an imaginary friend when we lived in Clairemont. I think I needed that friend because I was in that linguistic place between my mother tongue and English. I was born into one language and spoke that language fluently, but than just dropped into an English elementary school at 4 years of age. By about 6, I spoke English fluently and maintained my native language. But I have never really understood why I don’t remember much language or sounds from 4 until 6. Isn’t that odd? I don’t remember either language spoken but I remember images and I remember my imaginary friend.
I’m sure the world was a very noisy place at that time, Vietnamese at home and English at school. My younger sister was born and from what my parents tell me, she was very colicky and would cry nonstop. I remember an argument my parents had once and white plates being thrown and breaking. But I don’t remember any of those sounds. I remember the brown paisley pattern of my family’s living room couch and staring into the pattern at close range, and my imaginary friend would pop out of the patterns. I remember communicating with my imaginary friend but not in any auditory language, but in feelings and emotions. We moved to Chula Vista about when I turned six, and I remember communicating to my friend that I was scared about the move and that hoped she would come with me. We moved and it was a happy move. My cousins were nearby, my infant sister stopped crying as much and the elementary school had wonderful loving teachers. There was no real ESL. Suddenly I just spoke English. And when the words came and I was no longer scared of this new town, it was at that time that my imaginary friend left me. I remember feeling sad that she left, but I had playmates now that I could talk to. I remember feeling at six that I was sad that my imaginary friend was fading away. The couch with the brown paisley pattern was gone. I had taken to staring at the stucco wallpaint in my bedroom instead, and those patterns would have a humanoid form emerge. But that form and the imaginary friend faded away because I did not need her. I suddenly was able to speak two languages and found real friends.
I just read bits and parts of the above two paragraphs to Mr. Plastic Picker and he looked at me oddly. He asked me, “Are you sure you were not seeing Satan?” And then he left. He was trying to be funny. But he does not understand because he never had imaginary friends. I love my dear husband but I am able to create a rich imaginary life. That ability has enabled me to get through great difficulties. In late childhood I went through a great trauma that no child should have to go through, and I think that imaginary life helped me. I retreated into books and stories, and became a voracious reader during that trauma and those stories helped. At that age, my imaginary friend did not come back but I had the characters in the books I loved instead.
It’s funny what the quiet of the mornings bring. Now I know why I blog in the morning while the kitchen is silent and the outside is still dark. I write before everyone wanders into the kitchen for their coffee and breakfast. The children need to get up soon, and my in-laws are half way through the breakfast. This entire time, I have been typing and living in my Dr. Plastic Picker world. It is a beautiful world and it is quiet that opened up space for it to exist. I recommend cultivating a world of mental quiet which will enable your child to create their own imaginary world – whether it be through music, trash art, cooking or stories.
I will continue to cultivate the quiet in my home. Our son has delved into sketching and he has found great joy in it. Our daughter continues to make oragami and imaginative paper crafts. And I continue to blog and post on Instagram. My real life friends and patients know I am Dr. Plastic Picker. I am gratified to see through the blog analytics that there is a steady stream of readers enjoying the blog. But if sometimes you come and mention to me that you liked a blog piece and I seem a bit taken aback, just know it has nothing to do with you. It’s just that I did not realize that you had come into my imaginary world. I have created it and nurtured it, but am still very much that 4 year old who was between languages. I created it during a time of crisis, and it’s helping me process what was going on. But I am so glad you are reading and that this imaginary Dr. Plastic Picker won’t disappear because you have now witnessed it. My imaginary friend left and I had a great sense of loss when that happened. But perhaps she never left. Just like Dr. Plastic Picker now is real, and has in the real world picked up 184 bags of trash. Perhaps my imaginary friend and the little 4-year-old that dreamt her, Dr. Plastic Picker and I were all one person to begin with.