I’ve never written on one of these parenting advice forums before. Fortunately, I’ve never needed to. Jeremy is such a sweet boy, but I fear that I’m in a little over my head when it comes to his new special friend. I know imaginary friends are relatively normal for four year olds, especially those going through transitional periods. And yes, it has been a bit of a transition, moving from Pittsburgh to New York because of Tom’s work, but I didn’t expect Jeremy to develop such a unique new friend.
Tom and I laughed at first. Jeremy would be upstairs playing with his new best friend, Inside Voices with Duran Whitlock. He’d spend hours sitting quietly, wearing headphones that weren’t plugged into anything. Occasionally he would laugh, but mostly he was just sitting there, zoning out. It was cute. He’d tell us about how Duran Whitlock is a Santa Fe-based comedian who voiced Cecil the Cow on the short-lived Cartoon Network series Little Pie and The Comanche Adventures. Jeremy would bounce up and down and tell us about how each week on the podcast, Duran would interview a different voice actor about the joys and struggles of their craft. It’s adorable to watch the way Jeremy flaps his arms and spins around as he talks about how the voice actors would reconcile the international acclaim for the characters they create with their own crippling personal anonymity.
But with every childhood phase comes its drawbacks. I feel as though other children have a difficult time relating to Jeremy. He’ll walk up to the other kids on the playground and tell them what Duran thinks of the standup crowds in Santa Fe, or how Duran’s overbearing wife Aquarius tries to convince him to go to law school because she doesn’t approve of his voice acting, and the children don’t seem to understand. If we’re lucky, the children just walk away. But sometimes, they tease him and call him names like “Poopcast” and “Very Confusing Boy.” I think this is a direct result of the time Jeremy spends with his imaginary friend/podcast.
You never want to see your children upset. Jeremy wouldn’t stop crying when IVwDW was acquired by the Eardrum Podcast Network. He was inconsolable, and wouldn’t eat for a day. He kept saying that the podcast wouldn’t be the same now that they had to do mid-episode advertisements for Stamps.com. It was the first time in my life that I didn’t know how to comfort my own son. Tom is a little better with this. He explained to Jeremy that the short break for a Stamps.com ad was good for Duran and his guest, because it would give them a chance to pivot the interview if they did not like where it was going. This seemed to calm Jeremy down. I’m so lucky to have married a man who listens to You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes.
I’m worried about what this phase will mean for Jeremy’s future. Yesterday I asked him what he wants to be when he grows up, and he told me about his hero. He wants to be just like Steven, Duran’s podcast producer, a 23-year-old post-bacc student at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design. I asked if he’d rather be an astronaut, or a race car driver, or anything else more exciting, and he said that none of those careers lead to free IVwDW merch.
Jeremy’s pre-school teacher has also noticed the changes in him since he became a Durango (that’s what Duran calls the fans of his podcast). Every Tuesday at 11 am, Jeremy tells Miss Evelyn that he needs to go to the bathroom. He always brings his headphones with him. She thinks that his headphones are a comfort object for him, like Linus Van Pelt and his blanket. I know better. Tuesday at 11 am is when that week’s episode is released on the Eardrum Podcast Network. Every Durango knows that.
My only hope for Jeremy is that this is a phase in his life that will help him grow and make friends in the future. I must stay optimistic, and I know it could be worse. One of the kids in his class has an imaginary friend who’s an imaginary Twitter feed. What a strange kid.