Willy Wonka knew what he was talking about. Imagination is important for children’s growth. As we’re constantly told, we need to feed their imagination as much as their stomachs. Imagination and play are the cornerstones of childhood development. There is a toy producer called Imaginarium which makes a lot of money producing expensive ‘imagination’ toys – strikingly realistic, negating the need to imagine too much. Just joking – their toys are fab.
Children often have imaginary friends – although they seem to forget them as they grow up. I don’t remember having one, but I do remember bawling when Bing Bong said his last goodbye. Like it was yesterday. Because it was. Sixth time in a year. Still bawling.
My eldest doesn’t have an imaginary friend but an imaginary hometown: Neverland. A world hard to pinpoint on our map but somewhere near Greenland, somewhere near Antartica, depending on the day. Population 703 billion. Main economy: aeroplane and sportscar manufacturing. Home to Atta: manufacturer of said aeroplanes and sports cars with a profitable side business in bus and train production. Next time you hear a rumble in the sky (a pretty big rumble, mind!), look up and you may see one of Atta’s triple-decker jumbo jet behemoths roaring along, making one of their 1 hour London to San Francisco flights. Incidentally, Atta is the name of the greatest football team on the planet – you may or may not have seen their dismantling of Manchester United last weekend – 171-38 – one of those rare 209 goal thrillers.
The country is the epitome of a flourishing capitalist success story. Money doesn’t just talk here, it screams. We sometimes walk down a Dublin street and spot a BMW or Audi whizzing past:
Son: “Look, Daddy, an Audi!”
Me: (not wanting to draw attention to such empty materialistic possessions) “Oh … yeah.”
Son: “Are they expensive?”
Me: “Yes, very. (mumbling) Some would say ‘too’!”
Son: “Do you like Audis?”
Me: “(‘NO!’) They`re okay. How about you?”
Son”They’re okay. But not as good as Attas. Only poor people drive Audis in Neverland!”
My god! Where did he get these materialistic obsessions?! He lives in ‘Bianca’ – a small seaside town outside of the capital (I’m assuming his relocation from the big city is due to the unimaginable air pollution) in a house, “a little bit smaller than the GPO .. just a little bit!”. Living the Neverland dream. Wanting for nothing.
“Ah it’s a bit of fun! You should encourage his imagination!” And I do. But there’s also his Neverland family. His Neverland mum, his Neverland brothers and sisters, and … gulp! … his Neverland dad.
I hate this guy! He’s a cross between Brad Pitt , Lionel Messi, Bill Gates and the Dalai Lama. Captain of Atta FC and responsible for putting 46 goals past David de Gea, incredibly handsome, rich, successful and generous – a real eye-opener to what my little Young Conservative in the making currently aspires to. It’s sickening! I try to hold back the bitter, petty recriminations – “well if he’s so good, why don’t you spend the weekend with him instead of leeching off me!?” – and try to remember that I’m being jealous of an imaginary person. I’m a father now. I have to be a better man.
Me: “He sounds like a really nice man, your Neverland dad!”
Son: “Yes, he is. And he’s really cool. And good at football and he has 10 BMWs!”
Me: “We should all have dinner together!”
Son: “Yeah, that would be so fun!”
Me: “He can pay”.