For her first birthday, S was given a “My first Steiff” teddy bear by Big S.
Shortly after her birthday, she started nursery and they suggested I should bring in a transitional object from home – something for her to cuddle and be reminded of home. The Steiff teddy fit the bill, so I put a name tag in his ear, and we named him Ted. He went to nursery with her every day, and S cuddled him when she had a nap or was feeling sad.
Quite often, Ted would stay in S’s nursery bag when she came home; she didn’t ask for him at bed time, and didn’t particularly miss him on the occasions he was accidentally left at nursery.
Then, she got poorly. And she was teething. And she stopped breastfeeding. And suddenly, she needed Ted at bed time. Still though, she cuddled him only at nap time at nursery, and bed time at home. Occasionally, if she was ill, she would cuddle him at other points during the day.
This was until we moved house last month.
On our days off, Ted used to stay in bed, waiting for bed time. Now, he comes downstairs with us and spends all day in the living room. Whenever there is a tumble or fall, whenever S is upset or fed up or over-tired or… anything at all, she cuddles Ted.
I know a lot of children have a comforter of some description, and they carry them around with them all the time. I know it’s normal behaviour, and we’ve just moved house and are still settling into our new place… but it bothers me. S never needed anything to comfort her before; if she was upset, she cuddled me for a while, and she was fine. Now, it seems that a cuddle from mummy is not enough.
Yes, I am aware that this post makes it seem like I am jealous of a cuddly toy. It’s not that I’m jealous of Ted… more that I’m worried about what this signifies. To me it feels like a developmental step backwards, to become so dependent on a comforter when she never needed one before. I feel like I’m failing at parenting her, if she needs a teddy to help her through the day, when she wasn’t bothered before.
S and I spent the first year of her life so close; she was either in the sling or in my bed a lot of the time. When she went to nursery we continued to use the sling and were still very close. When she moved rooms at nursery, she did it without the slightest problem, and settled in perfectly.
I know a house move is a big thing; arguably the biggest thing to have happened in her short life. I know it will take her a while to fully settle here. I think this is me feeling guilty, because I’ve been so busy since the move.
Since we moved, everything has been up in the air; she’s changed her longer days at nursery, and because of changes in my work I’ve been preoccupied with trying to keep up with things. Her toys are not yet properly unpacked and she doesn’t know where everything is. I don’t yet know where everything is. Nothing has a proper home yet. I’m moody and stressed; I snap at her and tell her to stop jumping on things or pulling my arm or climbing on me.
At night, when she ends up asleep in my bed, she makes her way right across the bed until she is touching me. Sometimes she wakes enough to call, “mummy?” and when I respond, she goes back to sleep – but in the day, she needs Ted around.
I’m hopeful this is short term; I’m hopeful Ted will soon be left in bed as she makes her way downstairs, eager to start her day. Right now though, I feel like a bad mother. I feel like moving house is not a good enough excuse for our connection to have been quite this lost. I feel like I need to do better. I can half-arse my work, my meetings, this blog, whatever. I can’t half-arse the parenting. And so, right now I am worrying about a cuddly toy.
Update: be careful what you wish for!