Fear of what might get left behind

My two children, my husband and I were out at a local restaurant the other day. It wasn’t particularly eventful because our daughters are adults, so no more navigating the menu for picky eaters. We were reminded of their infant/toddler years when another family left the restaurant only to have the father rush back in. I figured he decided to use the restroom, but he left immediately with a stuffed animal in hand. “Can’t forget that or you’ll be in trouble,” my husband knowingly commented. The man replied, “I know, right?”

Yes, we have had much experience being inconvenienced by our kids leaving a favored stuffed creature at home or in a public restroom when we went on a trip, never to be seen again (the animal, not the child). When my oldest was about 4, she insisted on bringing a stuffed caterpillar into a store, though I tried to convince her it wouldn’t be a good idea. She left it in the toilet stall. I begrudgingly went back in to find it, but alas, it was gone, probably picked up by a strange child as their new favorite toy. As her mother I felt I should have kept track of it, but kids have to learn somehow, even if it’s painful for their moth… uh, them.

However, the most apocalyptic of such occurrences was with my youngest when she was just an infant, too young to be responsible for it herself. We were not a bed-sharing family, especially by the time my youngest came along, meaning she had to figure out how to self-soothe. I had purchased a plush, velvety, doll for her to cuddle, which once she glommed on, was never far from her sight and went with us everywhere.

Grandma and Grandpa lived a couple hours drive away if the ferry traffic wasn’t heavy. If it was, it could be upwards of three or four hours. Because it could be long for little ones, we always spent the night and usually a whole weekend. We drove off one weekend sans Dolly, as she came to name it once she could talk.

We were probably an hour into the drive when we or she realized it. I can’t remember who noticed first because the volcanic explosion from the backseat hit us full force. She was young enough that we thought we could pull off a substitute and stopped at a mall and bought a purple, plushy hippo. Though it wasn’t Dolly’s mint green, the fabric had the same feel. I rubbed it all over my body so it smelled like me. She screamed harder.

She wouldn’t go down that night at Grandma’s, she didn’t even want to sleep with me. She screamed all night and into the next day. I was never sorry I didn’t bed-share until that moment. When we got home, I bought another of the same doll and hid it from her in the car, only switching them around so they both had her scent.

The deceit worked like a charm until she turned 2 and figured out there were two Dollys. I did my best to explain to her why there were two and assure her childhood up until that point hadn’t been a complete lie. And why was I explaining myself to a 2 year old? From then on she had to bring both of them wherever we went. She was a little older and I did put her in charge of remembering that one thing. But from then on, Dolly was always the first thing on my packing list. Parents of young children always live in fear of what might get left behind, plushy and human.

Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. You can read more of her writing on her website livingwithgleigh.com, follow her on Facebook at “Living with Gleigh by Gretchen Leigh. Her column is always available at maplevalleyreporter.com under the Life section.