Mikey has always had a rich imagination. Perhaps it's a hallmark of an only child, or maybe it's just Mikey, but he's perfectly happy to play by himself. As his vocabulary increases, Joe and I have become privy to the worlds being constructed in our boy's mind. They are vivid and exciting and silly, comprised of all the miscellaneous bits of information that enter his understanding each day. For me, it's a joy and a privilege to join Mikey in imaginaryland for a few hours each day.
About a month ago, I left town for a few days. The boys celebrated my absence with pizza, beer (for Joe), and a DVD set of the Superman movies. By the time I returned, Superman had Mikey's imagination in a ferocious grip. Mikey insists on being called Superman. If he had his way (he often doesn't) he would wear his Superman shirt and cape every day. He carries his new Superman doll, calls his play tent the Fortress of Solitude, and asks to watch Superman at every opportunity. He has memorized lines from the movies (current favorites: "That's my beat, Chief!" and "Bye bye, baby!") and runs through the house pretending to push down walls and rescue people from the crashed helicopter.
Joe and I haven't seen any reason to stop this behavior. It's harmless, creative fun. He wants to be called Superman? Fine, we'll call him Superman. Wants us to tie a blanket around his shoulders cape-style? Groovy. And last Sunday, when he decided that Joe and I would henceforth be known as Batman and Wonder Woman... well, I've always wanted that invisible jet.
It's just a phase, right?
Mikey attends a private Montessori school, where he has thrived since day one. Today, the lead guide in his school pulled Joe aside for a chat when he arrived to pick up our son. On his way home, Joe called me to share. Audibly shaken, Joe described how the (well-meaning, I'm sure) guide told him she believes Mikey may be showing signs of an identity disorder and that this Superman fixation must be stopped, lest it result in permanent damage to his identity. She asked if there has been some major change or event in our home that may have resulted in Mikey's identity confusion. Basically, she scared the shit out of him by convincing him that our preschooler has had some sort of psychotic break.
Through the red haze of my anger, I think I understand what's at the crux of this. Mikey asks people to call him Superman, and twenty other kids get jealous and decide they want to be superheroes, too. I completely understand how that would be disruptive to the school, and I would have no problem at all with her asking us to keep the Superman game at home. But I am livid at the mere suggestion that this fantasy behavior indicates some sort of urgent psychological crisis. I can't help but think that it would be far more damaging to a creative child to tell him to stop imagining, stop pretending.
So now I'm asking. Parents? Teachers? Opinionated people? Am I overreacting here, or did this guide step over the line?