At first, they enjoyed reading about themselves in the paper. They got a kick out of seeing their names in print and discovering what aspects of their lives I found significant.
Now my daughters are in middle school. Their friends read the paper. Their friends’ families read the paper. Their teachers read the paper. And they are embarrassed by my column. They even went as far as to say that my writing is an invasion of privacy.
Evien and Maggie passed around a petition urging me to stop writing about them. They amassed four signatures, and I'm pretty sure the last one was a forgery because I've never seen the cat sign anything before.
The girls even got their mother to side with them and sign the petition. Amy agreed that our daughters are growing up and some subject matter in our home should remain off-limits. "We need to respect their privacy,” she said.
"But, but, but — the things I write about is stuff everyone experiences," I said.
My family stood firm. I caved. I vowed that I would not write about my children anymore.
Therefore, I have invented an imaginary family. From now on I will write about them.
My imaginary family consists of a 13-year-old daughter named, um, Bevien. I also have an imaginary 11-year-old daughter named, um, Magstar. My imaginary wife is named, um, Aimtag.
I know my imaginary family's names sound like household appliances, but I assure you, they are genuine imaginary people. Now all I have to do is make up an imaginary scenario and insert my imaginary family into it.
Let's see. What will it be? I know. Since we're on the subject of invading privacy, let's explore that.
Sometimes when I'm in my man cave, Bevien will knock on the door and ask, "Whatcha doin' in there, Dad?"
"I'm taking care of business," I'll say.
"No you're not. You're reading the newspaper."
"C'mon, Dad, I really gotta go!"
Quickly, I fold the paper, finish my business, wash my hands and emerge into the hallway. Bevien finishes a TV program, plays a game on her phone, fusses with her homework, then goes to the bathroom. My real daughter Evien would never invade my privacy like that, but my imaginary daughter Bevien does it all the time.
Sometimes when the kids go to bed, my wife and I retire to our bedroom and shut the door. Shortly thereafter, we hear a dainty rap on the door and Magstar's small voice says, "Mom, I can't sleep."
Bevien's been through reproductive health class, and Magstar's had "The Talk,” so they both should know why the door is shut. Nonetheless, Aimtag gets up, gives Magstar a shot of Nyquil, and puts her back to bed. Now, I don't know what book you're reading, but in my book, that's a serious invasion of privacy.
My real daughters would never crack my wife's pass code and intercept her phone messages because that would be considered a privacy violation. My imaginary kids do that constantly. In addition, Evien and Maggie would never interrupt their parents’ conversations because they're fighting over the remote, but Bevien and Magstar think it is perfectly acceptable.
On the other hand, my imaginary wife gives really great backrubs, always tells me how handsome I am, and loves it when I bring some odd-looking trinket home from the antique store and gives it a prominent place on the kitchen hutch. I love Amy, but Aimtag is giving her some true competition.
I'm going to honor my family's wishes and not write about them anymore. Not even the cat. It doesn't really matter anyway because my imaginary family will provide me with plenty of material.
— By Grant Berry, Tribune community columnist