America is 236 years old today. Happy birthday! But once upon a time it was only three. What was it concerned with when it was so young? Who recalls? Do you think there were there any parallels to the concerns of an actual three-year-old? Here, Kevin Temple, who is getting his PhD in Philosophy at The New School for Social Research, describes the fictitious world of his three-year-old son (almost four!), who lives in Brooklyn with his baby sister and parents.

LIAM

Liam has created at least 3 fictitious characters:

1). Franny. Franny is a boy of variable age. Sometimes he is younger than Liam, sometimes older or even much older, and occasionally he dies. Sometimes Liam tells stories about Franny doing things that Liam is learning not to do (misbehaving, etc.), allowing—it seems—Liam to observe his own behavior from the outside. Similarly, Franny sometimes does not like food that Liam has learned to like. Other times, Franny appears to be Liam imagining his better self. Franny can do things and is good at things that Liam cannot do, and takes risks Liam doesn’t take. Franny also becomes a world of discourse over which Liam alone is expert. Liam knows Franny’s motivations, likes, dislikes and exploits intimately, and he alone knows them. It must be tiring to hear other people speak as if they really know what they are talking about and never to do the same, so, with Franny, Liam can do the same. Sometimes the stories are incredibly elaborate and take 20 minutes to tell, like the one about Franny’s misbegotten motorbike trip with Pinocchio, which brings us to Pinocchio.

2). Pinocchio is Franny’s daughter, though sometimes she is older than Franny. She rarely comes up on her own, and is more of an accomplice to Franny, perhaps for Liam to work out how Franny relates to someone special. Once, for a while, after Liam got the cast off his arm, Pinocchio had a broken leg, and Franny took care of her. She needs a lot of help. Sometimes Pinocchio dies, too.

We have found that the mortality rate of Franny and Pinocchio escalates if we bring them up ourselves, if Liam has not spoken to them or about them for a while. It even seems inappropriate to talk about them when Liam has not mentioned them, as if they are mostly private, and only for us to know about when Liam chooses to tell us about them. For us to bring them up is to alienate him from them, so they die.

3). Stickyman. Stickyman has appeared more recently, and sometimes causes Liam distress in the middle of the night. When Stickyman bothers Liam, he gets up to tell us. Stickyman is bad, we agree. I once told Liam that Stickyman does not exist, but this immediately disappointed Liam, because I think it only meant he had to face Stickyman alone. So I told him: “I know how to make Stickyman go away. He is actually very thin and light, and when you sense he is coming, let him approach, and then, with your eyes closed, blow gently on him like this [blowing gently with eyes closed], and off he goes floating away. Really he is just bored. If he comes back, blow on him again, and soon he won’t bother you at all anymore.” Liam seemed delighted when I told him this, practiced the gesture and went back to bed. The next day, Liam told me that he tried it out and it worked.

There was another nighttime threat a while ago, a rat that would chew on Liam’s back while he was sleeping. But this was less a character, I think, than an explanation for discomfort from a scratch and bruise on Liam’s back that he didn’t know he had.

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Image taken from here.