Lies we tell children

My 9 year old has had her favorite bear since she was 3 when she picked him out of a line up of no-two-alike stuffed toys at a good toy store. He has no name beyond “Beary” and he’s really sort of a bastard. For the first few years of his life, he was just a snuggly and polite bedtime companion. Somewhere along the line though, he began to kick and bite other stuffed animals that want some of Ms9’s attention at bedtime, steal food and generally engage in rock star bad behavior — room-trashing and staying up late. On the one hand, hilarity. Beary is way more fun than any other imaginary friend and we all totally play along. On the other hand, Jesus, kid — you invented this bear as your ideal companion — what sort of jerk are you going to bring home in your teens/twenties?

Right. Then, one day, on our way out of the DC, Ms9 left him at a TSA checkpoint we wouldn’t be revisiting for 2 weeks. To say the tears were torrential would not begin to cover it. And they weren’t just Ms9s.

All the gears started firing at once — Is this a life lesson that beloved things disappear and she has to take responsibility? I dropped that idea like I’d picked up a turd. She’s a KID. She forgets things. If it was anyone’s fault it was mine because I *knew* that bear should have been tucked in her carry on and I’d said so, but not insisted on it 20 minutes before he got lost. Ok, so we don’t guilt her. Do we offer her a new bear? Mmmmm…. “just buy a new one” doesn’t work either. He was way more than a thing. I floated a trial balloon.

“Hey, you know … if the TSA doesn’t have Beary, we’re going to have to go find him in a toy store, you know that right?”
“Yea… he’ll have found a new body and be busy harassing all the other stuffed animals. You know what a jerk he can be when you leave him alone.”
“But we can’t go looking for him there until we’re sure we can’t get him back from the TSA. Don’t worry. He’s just gone off to have adventures. He’s probably partying with all the other lost bears down in TSA and breaking up the joint. It’ll be ok.”

Grandmotherly intervention failed to retrieve Beary from TSA hell while we were gone. We got home and I put off dealing with it. I considered acquiring a bear for her vs letting her choose one herself. I dithered. I hoped she’d forgotten, but once we’d been home a week, the tears showed up again. Things being all back to normal just made it more obvious he was missing. No more dither. Something had to be done.

I ran to the local toy store, which is actually in 2 separate store fronts. The older kids toy store had loads of stuffed animals, but not a single upright brown bear. Crouching bears, foxes, dogs… upright monsters, rabbits, etc. No bears. The infants toy section, however, was where I found them. At least 6 different variations on a proper bear. All brown. All soft. All running about the right size.

A few days ago, after camp: “Hey! Drop your pack and come with me. There’s a riot down at the toy store. Come with me! We have to break it up!”
“The bears found out there’s a 9 year old in need of a new bear and they ALL want to come here. If you don’t go find Beary, they can’t close the store tonight.”
“Well wait until we get there and it’ll make sense. All the little brown bears are in the baby section! They don’t want to go home with a baby to get drooled all over and peed on. They want to skip to the cool 9 year old — so you have to find Beary tonight. He’s going to be there!”
The store was set to close at 6pm. We got there at 5:58. It took about 3 seconds to pick the one most like Beary. She knows it’s not really the same bear. She knows we bought a new one. But she also knows he drove Catty (her sister’s stuffed animal and a loaner) out of her bed that very night. Demanded a place at the table and stole her watermelon while her back was turned. She wants to sew him pajamas and hear all about his time at the TSA — which this bear of course has never seen.

I for one, am pleased.

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