The other day, I was talking with a fellow mom about how it’s so easy to overdramatize “toddler world.” Maybe it’s because toddlers can so easily go to pieces over the smallest things, so as parents we try to manuever their schedule to eliminate or ease any possible over-drama. (You know…the crying over not getting to sit in the right chair at dinner, the absolute need to hold a toy this very second…)
About a year ago, my son decided that out of all his stuffed animals, he was going to choose a 12-inch dolphin as his comfort object. The dolphin, affectionately called, “Dolph,” was an absolute necessity for sleep. Whenever my husband and I left for an overnight trip, the first thing we’d say to each other in the car was, “Did you pack Dolph?” We didn’t want to find out what would happen if Dolph wasn’t present at bedtime.
I often wondered what would happen if, somehow, Dolph was misplaced, ripped, or lost. How would my son react? Would he ever sleep again? So, I did what any overprotective, overly prepared parent would do. I bought a few extra dolphins. But the problem was, by the time I thought of this idea, my son had already rubbed off all of the writing on the tag, so I had no idea where Dolph came from and where I could get another one. I ordered a couple on Amazon, hoping they would be the same, but as you can tell from the photo here, they weren’t even close. (Actual Dolph is in the middle of “way too big dolphin,” and “way too small dolphin.”)
I put these extra dolphins in my son’s room, but he wanted nothing to do with them. I tried to find more dolphins that would match my son’s special toy, but I couldn’t find anything that matched perfectly. So, I just hoped that my son would outgrow Dolph before the precious animal broke or fell apart.
The other day, the little tag on Dolph fell off right before bedtime. And the tag was my son’s thing; he loved to hold that dolphin by his little tag. I immediately started to panic, but I waited to see my son’s reaction, holding my breath that it wasn’t going to be as bad as I predicted.
“Mommy?” he looked up at me. “Dolph. Tag.”
“Right.” I tried to stay as calm as possible. “Dolph’s tag fell off. But he’s still Dolph. Do you want to take him to bed with you?”
My son shook his head. “Dolph. Broken. It’s okay,” he replied and threw his precious love on the floor.
And that was that. Dolph still lives in my son’s room, and every so often, my son picks him or asks for him. But once he remembers the little tag is gone, he discards him. He hasn’t shed one tear. He hasn’t acted upset one time. For a brief moment, I thought about sewing the tag back on, but then after watching my son’s completely non-dramatic reaction, decided against it.
Toddlers are amazing sometimes. We think we can predict their behaviors, and then, when we least expect it, they surprise us. Sometimes in the most mature ways.
Does/did your child have a comfort object? How did he give it up? Did he surprise you?