One of the many things *they* tell you when you have a young child is not to encourage attachment to a comfort toy. There are several theories on why that Snuggly Puppy or Blanky Wanky shouldn’t be your child’s constant companion in the early years including:
– Encouraging them to develop emotional resilience without a crutch
– Encouraging them to learn to self-settle at bed time
– The hell on earth which ensues if Blanky Wanky gets accidentally thrown in the binny winny, or dropped on the floor at Kmart, or left behind at a friend’s house, or just, for no good reason, vanishes.
We experienced this particular kind of hell this week when Miss 4 lost her faithful friend, Smelly Bunny. It’s all OK now though (stand down the National Guard!) because Smelly Bunny turned up, but not before my husband and I debased ourselves squelching through nappy-filled rubbish bins and reaching into the darkest recesses of the crumby car seats in a desperate rescue bid.
Smelly Bunny came into our lives when Miss 4 was born. She was a generous present from a friend in England who has always been a giver of perfect gifts. Of course, back then Smelly Bunny wasn’t smelly. She was soft, and pink, and new, much like the baby girl whose birth she recognised. She stayed that way for over a year, while Miss 4 squirmed and spewed and grew from a baby into a flouncy, bouncy bundle who loves everything pink and anything cuddly. Miss 5 and Miss 4 both had dummies back then too (another thing *they* would disapprove of) and when we forced the oldest into dummy rehab, it seemed smart to make the youngest go cold turkey at the same time. For Miss 4 (who was then about 18 months), the dummy came out, the thumb went in, and Smelly Bunny was incorporated into a strange sucking, smelling, rubbing ritual that continues to this day. Whenever she is sleepy, or worried about something, Miss 4 covers most of her face with Bunny, sucks her thumb, rubs her nose, breathes in deeply and is instantly calmed.
Despite the unfortunate name, Smelly Bunny doesn’t actually smell bad but rather has a distinctly comforting aroma discernible only to Miss 4. Wash day is always a drama; the timing has to be perfect to make sure Bunny is not only dry by bed time, but ‘seasoned’ appropriately to suit Miss 4’s fussy olfactory preferences. The smell of washing powder is an absolute no-no! Over the years, despite regular washes, Smelly Bunny has become more the colour of curdled milk than her original cupcake frosting pink. I’ve cursed that rabbit so many times when the busy day is nearly done and the last thing between me and a cup of tea is locating someone’s bedtime friend. This week, however, I had to admit that it’s not just Miss 4 who’s formed an attachment.
The first night of Smelly Bunny’s absence was easily dealt with as we’d all had a busy day at a family event and getting to sleep was no struggle. Day 2 – a substitute bed buddy was found and Miss 4 was consoled with promises that Mummy would do lots of bunny-hunting the following day. By Day 5, after my husband and I had genuinely searched every nook and cranny we could think of, we were starting to fear the worst. Miss 4, who had been stoic, it must be said, totally lost it and wept in my arms saying she didn’t understand why her special friend had run away. This rite of passage had to come eventually, but I had hoped it would be her own decision; a moment of choosing to be a ‘big girl’ rather than a moment of feeling deserted by someone she loved.
I’m not alone in struggling with this journey. Smelly Bunny is made by the European toy company Kaloo, in the style known by the cutesy French word ‘doudou’ (pronounced doo-doo), meaning a comfort blanket. Kaloo revise their toy catalogue approximately annually, so the Smelly Bunny design (LiliRose 2008) is no longer available if, for example, you wanted to hunt down a replica. Those with school girl French might remember that the French word for lost is ‘perdu’ (pair-doo). So, if you happen to have lost a Kaloo doudou you can list it on a huge forum for desperate parents known as Doudou Perdu, in the hope that someone out there might be willing to offer a replacement! Scrolling through the sob stories of all those other families whose bunnies and teddies and elephants had gone to doudou heaven was up there with the best Hollywood tear jerker. Those toys are out there somewhere. With all the odd socks and the pen lids. Living it up!
So, a full week later, we had packed both girls off to school and kindy and were tinkering around the house when the Baby Boy went exploring in Miss 5’s bedroom – and led us to the scene of the crime. Our Baby Boy is 1 now, and at a stage where putting things in and out of boxes, and cupboards, and the toilet, is a total hoot. We didn’t realise he could open drawers yet though but, low and behold, he can. And he has also clearly learned to hide a floppy, smelly bunny so far at the back of a drawer that the best private detective would be hard pressed to notice.
It was my husband who emerged like a gladiator from our eldest child’s room carrying the limp rag like a precious jewel. And I actually found myself shedding a tear! Ridiculous, really, but perhaps not so surprising. I was moved knowing how excited Miss 4 would be about the reunion, but also because that grotty little rabbit is a big symbol of her childhood. As long as Smelly Bunny is on the scene, so is my baby girl. And one day, inevitably, they’ll both be gone.