When our firstborn came into this world, we were so incredibly lucky to be showered with gifts.
One of those gifts turned out to be his best friend, his comfort animal, his everything.
My son was such a good baby, only fussing out of necessity. And in those tough moments there was one thing that could always calm him, his plush “Mr. Bear” and his thumb. Looking back, we thought we were winning. Not using a pacifier was one less thing to clean and one less thing to pack in the diaper bag.
We didn’t know how easy we had it as parents; we would just lay him down in his crib and
sweetly kiss him goodnight. He would smile and slowly drift off to sleep, with his thumb in his mouth and clutching Mr. Bear tightly. It was all he needed for comfort, to know that everything was going to be okay.
I vividly remember the first time we realized how vital Mr. Bear was in our lives.
It was on a trip to California when our son was only 10 months old. And after a brief vomit incident, off Mr. Bear went into the washing machine. There was a power outage and Mr. Bear became trapped in the washing machine. It felt like an eternity with a sick child who was losing his mind over not having his comfort object!
My husband saved the day by doing some quick Internet research and then driving one hour round trip to the nearest JC Penny’s to find a second Mr. Bear. Serious dad points were awarded, and he was an instant hero when he walked in the door holding the small rattling bear. And that was how we acquired the second Mr. Bear. All was calm, all was well.
The third Mr. Bear came into our lives because we had misplaced one and the other was just gross. Knowing we would need to send one to daycare, and keep one at home, I felt why not have a third for those just in case of emergencies. And then he would always be freshly laundered and ready for snuggles.
Oh, the things I never thought I would do before becoming a mother!
Farewell Mr. Bear
Flash forward to present day, and our son is now five and will attend Kindergarten this fall.
Approaching his fifth birthday, we had dropped not-so-subtle hints that he would need to
be parting with his soft friend. All three of us began to dread this farewell. I never in a million years would have thought as a mother I would find myself emotionally struggling with letting go of a stuffed animal.
However, he was so much more than that. For my son he was comfort, solace, everything. Mr. Bear provided for my baby when I couldn’t. He was there with him at daycare when I had to be at work. He was a part of the family. The lengths we went through to always ensure our son had his safety net were probably a bit extreme to some, but for us it worked.
I have been going through extreme feelings of guilt for taking away the one toy that brings him that kind of comfort and joy. Who am I to do this to him? Then I remember that his poor thumb cannot take any more abuse, and whenever Mr. Bear was present, in his mouth that thumb went. I remember the giant blister on his thumb, and how eventually he is going to develop dental issues. And if not now, when do we detach from Mr. Bear? Those were the thoughts that have loomed in my head over the last few months.
And so, Mr. Bear simply went missing one day.
My son and his sister searched the house high and low with tenacity. They were on a mission, and weren’t going to stop until they found any one of the three Mr. Bears. They thought it was so rude of Mr. Bear to vanish without so much as a goodbye. My son said to me, “Mom make sure and look at all the white spots in the house, as Mr. Bear is white and probably just camouflaged somewhere.” My heart simply sank, as I knew he was stuffed downstairs in a trunk where my kids would never look. If he only realized that we were in this together, and that my intentions were pure.
A few nights went by, and bedtime was hard.
We comforted him with songs, extra snuggles, and even encouraged bringing a new stuffed friend to bed to fill the void. Slowly he began to miss Mr. Bear a little less, but the wound is still healing. We are all still learning to let that chapter of our lives go. He references Mr. Bear on occasion, and he still sucks his thumb, perhaps more than before.
Which leads me to wonder: did we do the right thing? Should Mr. Bear come back from “vacation?” Parenting is tough, and watching our kids transition from one stage to another can be emotional. It can be hard to let go of the remnants of babyhood as our children transition into being school kids.
As parents, we always worry if the choices we make are the right ones. At the end of the day, we are all really just doing our best. If you are debating taking away the pacifier, worn out lovey, or are even trying to help your child fall asleep on their own, know you aren’t alone. Sometimes it’s harder on us than on them to make these changes, but you are doing what you think is best for your child – and that alone should be a great comfort.