When Xavier was three months old, we couldn’t get him to sleep. Every time we put him down in his crib he would wail and scream. In a moment of desperation, we placed a little stuffed monkey next to him, just barely touching his little arm, and he slept. The next day we put him down again. Same thing, he wailed; put the monkey next to him, he slept. Thus started his special relationship with Mono.
We were strict about stuffed animals when the kids were babies. They stayed in their rooms, they didn’t come downstairs, they didn’t leave the house except for sleepovers. We didn’t want the kids to get too dependent on any certain possession. We didn’t want to get stuck in a situation where we had to turn the car around because we left a stuffy at home. Didn’t really matter though, the heart knows what it wants.
Throughout the years the relationships with the stuffies have changed, and they’ve become a part of the family. Each animal has it’s own personality, some have theme songs, all have their quirks. Mono is the leader and the dad; Burpy is a trouble maker but always has fun ideas; Brownie is the golden child; Rosalita is a girl but she can pack a punch; Swinger is fun because he’s a guy but he likes wearing girl clothes and his favorite color is pink. Moo moo is a bit of a pig (even though he’s a cow) he eats garbage and never showers.
Ed and my relationship with the stuffies have changed too. Ed has never liked the stuffed animals and finds the boys relationships with them slightly disturbing. I find that the animals act out behavior that is unacceptable to me. “Xavier, if Burpy doesn’t quiet down and change his voice, everyone will get grounded!!” We talk about when enough is enough with the animals; and when they’re too “babyish” and not “manly” at all.
But, I can see that the role playing is important to the boys development. They play out social interactions with the animals that are hard and confusing. When Clut Clut gets too rambunctious, he needs to have a “time out” to pull himself together. When Burpy is mean, the other animals don’t want to play with him. And, it becomes a lesson on how different friends (monkey, cow, bat, monster, dog) can all get along and love each other unconditionally.
As the boys get older, I see them moving away from their stuffies. The play is more grown up and a little more violent. The guys still play “school” but now, they also play “animal wars”. And, the stuffies are getting old. Mono is starting to take a back seat, looking a little matted and worn. The boys have gone to their grandparents, and forgotten their animals at home.
They’re growing up, and real relationships are starting to take the place of these make believe lives. They’ve practiced these interactions and are ready to try the real world. And when it’s not easy, and things don’t go their way, they’ll always have their guys at home who love them no matter what.