Like many young children, my daughter has a “lovey,” that number one toy that must be with her at all times. It’s a pink blanket with the head and arms of a white rabbit, which when you think about it is kind of weird. But she loves it. She calls it Bunny and it’s been her BFF ever since I tucked it next to her at four months old. I’d hoped it would make the move from the bassinet in my room to the crib in her room easier, but the transition ended up being a total breeze. (For her. I had a really hard time with it.)
Bunny sleeps with her, eats with her and stomps in puddles with her, but despite their bond, sometimes Bunny does get left behind. Fortunately, never in a grocery cart or a restaurant booth (yet) but we do often have to go on Bunny hunts around the house. After one thirty-minute, tear-filled search at bedtime, we finally ordered a backup Bunny. As soon as I pulled it out of the box I spotted a problem.
Original Bunny has acquired a grayish tinge, despite multiple washings. Its nose is unraveling and it's covered in pills, like a cheap sweater. Backup Bunny was as pristine as freshly fallen snow. There was no way my daughter would believe Backup Bunny was hers. Right? I told my husband we couldn’t use Backup Bunny until I had somehow made it look more like Original Bunny. I didn’t want to make a bad situation worse if we ever did truly lose Original Bunny.
The first thing I did was run Backup Bunny through the wash, to take a bit of the shine off. Then I hid it in my sock drawer while I tried to figure out how to make it look authentic. But how? How do you fake 18 months of love and grimy adventures? Bury it in the back yard? Dunk it in the soot under the grill? Everything seemed too weird and gross.
I cursed my own indecision one day when Original Bunny took a mud bath and needed to be washed ASAP if it was going to be dry in time for bed. I made the grievous mistake of letting my daughter see Original Bunny actually go into the washing machine.
The tantrum was incredible. Definitely the worst to date. Based on the tears and screaming, you would have thought I had put a real live rabbit into that washing machine and was gleefully drowning it. She was not just upset, but genuinely panicked. Bunny was already wet and soapy, I couldn’t just pull it out now. At this point, I didn’t think anything could make it worse, even a wrong Bunny.
I retrieved Backup Bunny from my sock drawer, stuffed it under my shirt, then “pulled it out” of the washing machine.
“Look! Here’s Bunny! See, Bunny is okay!” (And the Oscar goes to....)
I gave her Backup Bunny and watched, frozen, to see if she would accept it. She looked at it, turned it in her hands and gave it an experimental sniff.
“Bunny!” she said. And I breathed. She ran to the couch and while she watchedTV, I watched her. Every so often she would hold Backup Bunny up and tilt her head at it with the look of someone whose coffee creamer had been replaced with half and half. A look that said “is it just me, or is something different?"
Maybe it’s because I’m prone to sentimentality or maybe it’s because I’ve read The Velveteen Rabbit too many times but I felt terrible. I’m not bothered by the little lies like “there are no more cookies” or “oops, Netflix is broken right now,” but this felt different. I’d lied to my daughter and given her this impostor. That Backup Bunny and I were a pair of frauds.
I called my mom to confess and she said, “it’s Bunny to her, that’s what’s important.” She might be right. I swapped the bunnies back while my daughter slept and she woke up none the wiser. Backup Bunny is back in the sock drawer. For now.
Despite the occasional ridiculous reason-my-kid-is-crying episode, my daughter is way more adaptable than I give her credit for--definitely more adaptable than her mama!--and there's a lesson in there for me. It's not a new lesson, but one that is having trouble sticking: Whether it's a new bed or a new Bunny, I should take a step back and give her a chance to deal with it before projecting my anxieties all over her. Borrowing trouble isn't doing either of us any favors.