When my children were younger I wrote a weekly column, “Modern Parenting” for The Pembroke Observer newspaper. Being a stay-at-home dad was rare in our small town in 1991; people wanted to hear about my adventures. When I started this blog I promised to republish some of those old pieces, then I got sidetracked.
Today I’m revisiting one of the articles that I think has stood the test of time. Or at least is a change of pace. I don’t intend to do much in the way of editing, but may make the odd comment in italics. This post was first published August 30, 1992.
Stuffed animals have suddenly become the rage at our place.
I remember I had a favourite teddy bear from the time I was very young, but Paul never showed much interest in any stuffed animals until a couple of months ago. And we had lots of them around. Not only was he given the usual ration of them at birth, but he also inherited some of my collection. (For some reason I bought a few stuffed animals even as a young adult, or I won them at carnivals.)
For Paul there seemed to be more attraction to smaller, less soft, creatures. Those included a plastic deer that he found on a table at his maternal grandmother’s, a brass owl that belongs to Vivian and a small white dolphin. For a while they travelled everywhere with him.
I could see some of the attraction, they each fitted into his small palm. We never said there wasn’t room for them to come with us. But they certainly weren’t cuddly.
Recently we have graduated to softer creatures, though there’s no definite favourite. There’s Puff, a dragon with built in music box from which he derives his name. Panda is just that. Oink, naturally, is a pig. And there’s Harby.
Harby is a white rabbit. When I named him he was Harvey, after the James Stewart film of the same name. He was a joke, and may be the only stuffed rabbit in Canada with his own RCMP file. At least he used to have one, I haven’t checked recently. I’m not sure how to word a Freedom of Information request from a stuffed white rabbit.
I thought at first Paul couldn’t say “Harvey.” But no, he can do it he’s just decided to change the rabbit’s name.
So why stuffed animals? I guess they’re cute and cuddly and available. Children want to show love the way their parents show love to them. Unfortunately most very young children can’t be trusted not to maul a pet (and vice versa), so a stuffed animal makes a very acceptable substitute. And it doesn’t need to have its litter box cleaned. (As someone who has cleaned out far too many litter boxes I wish we had stuck with stuffed animals.)
We made two trips to Toronto last month. Harby got to make the first trip. Oink got to come along the second time. That wasn’t Paul’s idea, he wanted all four of his “babies” to come with him. I put my foot down and told him there wasn’t enough room in the car. As far as Paul is concerned his babies are people and he wants to share his experiences with them. They do all sorts of things together, from watching television to playing golf to eating supper.
But we haven’t completely abandoned the smaller, less cuddly animals. Paul’s most recent acquisition is a small china boar, something my mother got out of a box of tea and gave to him. There is a mild discrimination here: I remember those animals in tea from when I was a kid. I never got any of them. (Until I read this piece again I had forgotten all about this.)
Paul was delighted with the boar, which fits nicely in his hand. Boar (we’re not into creative names yet) went everywhere with him for the first week. When he visited his friend Ben, Ben had to kiss Boar goodbye when Paul went home. That was actually a compromise, Ben thought Boar might want to stay. Boar had to go to church with Paul, and was clutched securely in his hand for naps or at night.
Paul’s more than three years old now, when he’s an adult he’ll be able to remember some of the things he did at this age. (I must ask if he remember Boar.) I’m sure he’ll look back with fondness at his stuffed animals. They’re a great part of childhood.