He loved him from the age he could show affection.
He’s been drooled on,chewed on , slobbered on , kissed on and cuddled until the two of them are as red as each other. He was bought as a little gift to be left in his room or even to play with when he was old enough. I placed him in his cot when he was about 5 or 6 months old. Before that , I had introduced them through play. He was bright red with big eyes his soft body was warm and inviting while my little baby really enjoyed sucking his hands.
They fell in love over the first six months of his life. For the next three years they would become inseparable.
My other boys never had a connection with such a ‘toy’ so early on in life. My last little boy insisted where he went, Elmo went too. We thought it was cute. We thought that there was no harm in letting him bring El (as we all began to call him) with us .. until we lost El over and over…
Whenever we lost El , sheer pandemonium took over ; in the middle of it all we would have the inconsolable toddler, to the left of him – trying to calm him mother -to the right the brothers; one searching high and low for Elmo, while the other laughs his ass off at us each searching because the thought of not finding him is incomprehensible.
The toddler would scream and cry so much for a MIA ( missing in action) Elmo, that once a woman asked me if perhaps she could help me and my other boys find his, (who she presumed was the boys) daddy, Elmo. He was that upset she was sure we had somehow misplaced the boy’s father. ( I still don’t know how she came to that conclusion)
I explained that Elmo was his teddy and that his daddy was the one in the bushes fighting the thorns after our most innocent looking kid in the wheelchair threw him high into the sky forcing daddy to go deep into thorn territory.
She did something I honestly probably would have done had I never had a child so connected with a teddy , she smiled, patted my toddler’s head and laughed . “ Ah now , tis only a teddy . Good luck finding it in there” she gestured toward the thorn jungle.
I smiled at her, forcing myself not to be a smart ass. We finally found Elmo when another daddy joined my husband in the search. He too knew what our evening would be like if we left empty handed. I am the first to admit , I never really understood the reason parents ‘ let’ their kids become so attached to a teddy or blanket or whatever …I always thought ‘don’t do that ‘cos if ye lose it there’ll be hell to pay‘ Somewhere along his almost four years he created a bond with Elmo. Who was I to stop that ? It was lovely to see him play with Elmo, talk to Elmo, dance with Elmo and of course sleep with Elmo. We made a rule that Elmo had to mind his bedroom after we lost him about 100 times.
At the age of 3, he understood Elmo’s job was to mind his bedroom and that Elmo would always be there waiting for him to return. It worked when he didn’t sneak Elmo out under his coat , in his bag or down the back of his pants …he was creative, if nothing else when breaking Elmo out! Yesterday Elmo was packed in his Elmo bag and bought out (unbeknownst to me ) for the day. Elmo did return with my toddler , thankfully he now knows what losing Elmo feels like (which only took about 100 panic fueled searching high and low attacks looking for the lost El) He returned excited and tired. We chatted about his day out and had our tea . Daddy put him to bed and a story was told.
I was sitting down trying to write when something red caught my eye…it was Elmo,upside down disregarded in the corner .
He looked so old, so worn and so isolated…I felt bloody sorry for Elmo, who was the centre of my toddler’s world for so long.
My toddler has never gone to bed without Elmo.
Taking Elmo , I crept up the stairs, sure I was going to have to comfort my toddler who would no doubt be looking for Elmo. There he was sprawled across his bed ,kicking his legs in the air pretending to paddle a boat.I looked at Elmo in my hand .
I couldn’t help but wonder does this mean my toddler is growing up? Is he over his ‘comforter’ stage? He’s not even four I said aloud as I opened the pointless baby gate ( he has recently figured out how to open that ..too) I gently kissed his little face.
“Look! You forgot El” I placed Elmo beside him.“Oh sure. I really need a drink before I can sleep please “ he smiled up at me.
I got him his water.“Did you not miss El?”I asked. “Am ,not really. But it’s water I asked for , it’s water I miss and need“ his response was deadpan.
I think it’s me that may have the connection with Elmo and all he represents, it’s me that’s finding it hard to see Elmo disregarded like poor ‘Woody Cowboy” & co in Toy Story three. He was his safe place. Elmo has helped him through nightmares, toilet training , going to preschool, doctors visits, hospital visits ,nights away from home…
Perhaps it’s a good thing that Elmo is slowly becoming less important.
Perhaps it is time.
Perhaps he simply forgot El…
Perhaps my little toddler doesn’t need Elmo as much as he once did…
He now talks of Lego Batman, Spiderman and his cartoon choice is changing from “Paw Patrol” * to “Garfield”. Tonight will be the real test , as I tell him a story ,give him his night time cuddle ..will he ask me to kiss El too? Perhaps,in the end it is I who will keep Elmo safe for him and tell him all about his first best buddy when he’s old enough to understand that his mammy is a sentimental old fart.
*I can’t let him forget Paw Patrol , just yet ; as I’ve paid a fortune to bring him to the live show in Dublin this coming September
This was originally published over on FamilyFriendlyHQ