Nearly 30 years ago, my dad bought me a cat. Not a real one, a stuffed one. (Well, I had a real one, too, but this story is not about that cat.) And he also got one for my sister. I’m not sure what happened to Amanda’s, but I, in my careful and particular way that existed even when I was a small child, still have said cat (named Valentine) and “she” is still in pretty good shape.
At some point in my first few years of parenting, all of the stuffed animals I owned (there were still quite a few) became the property of Benjamin, and then, later, Liam as well. Some of them have been very popular (one dog/wolf, renamed Vuh-Vuh by Benjamin, is one of his absolute favorites) while others have been pretty much ignored. Benjamin really loves some of his stuffed friends — he travels with them, carries them with him around the house and tucks them into bed at night. He’s kind of a cuddly guy, and he’s always been fond of his cuddly friends.
Not so with Liam, though. For the first two years of Liam’s life, he showed no interest whatsoever in stuffed animals. He received several as gifts, and I bought him a few and offered him several of my old ones. Benjamin even passed along a few of his favorites for Liam to love, but it never stuck. On rare occasions, Liam would pick up a stuffed dog if B was playing with one, but he was never particularly attached.
That is, until he found Valentine.
Valentine had once been discovered by Benjamin. He was quite fond of her, and she was on the list of favored stuffed friends for a while, but she never quite made it to favorite status (I don’t think she ever travelled with us, for example — not like Vuh-Vuh or Chase or Chester who, at various times, have been indispensible in B’s life). And, in recent months, he kind of forgot about her and she spent a fair bit of time in the bottom of a toy bin in his room.
But, when we moved the boys in together, we consolidated and cleaned out the toy bins. Some of the toys that had been buried in the bins resurfaced, Valentine among them. Liam found her. It was true love.
The problem is that once Liam fell in love with her, Benjamin suddenly remembered how much he liked her, too. It could have been a disaster, but they’ve done an amazing job of sharing, and Benjamin has been really understanding of the fact that 1) Liam is littler and gets more upset by not having things that he wants (at least in theory) and 2) Valentine (now called “Kitty” by both boys) is the only stuffed animal Liam has ever cared about AT ALL, so it makes it harder to deny him. Both boys have been amazing. Most of the time, Liam has custody of Kitty (who is also now a “he” . . . most of the time) with Benjamin “borrowing” him occasionally.
Still, this has gone on for months now, and neither child is really happy, so when I saw a new, cute, and very similar stuffed kitty at a Christmas market today, I bought it. I didn’t know how it would go — I was worried both would want the new one, or that both would find the new one an inferior facsimile. In what might have turned out to be an incredibly boneheaded parenting move, I showed them both the new cat, explained the situation, and told them they had to work it out for themselves.
And, they did. Now Liam has “Kitty” and Benjamin has “Jingle the Kitty” (to differentiate him from Jingle, the dog). Not a tear was shed. Both boys are happy. Peace is restored to the kingdom, and each boy has a stuffed friend to snuggle. Life is good.