But through all of our mistakes and in our infinite parenting wisdom, the best thing I ever did for Graham was to purchase a back-up Barker.
And now for a brief public service announcement: I would advise all parents to take this step and ward off the nightly search and rescue effort when a stuffed animal is missing. But do be sure to purchase them at the same time and follow a rotation to create even wear on both animals. Because if you don't, your back-up who has been waiting idly for his moment in the spotlight will look shiny and new, while the well-loved friend will look worn down and deflated. Here's a visual of my poorly executed Bloose duplicate in case you need further evidence.
This is your friend.
This is your friend on love.
You may remember the co-dependent nature of my boys' relationships with their stuffed friends. Cael can't sleep without Bloose. Barker doesn't leave Graham's side. And Bloose and Barker themselves have gotten involved. A little too involved.
Cheeky Monkey" were also missing in action. As long as Barker is present, these friends are expendable. But because his right-hand dog had gone AWOL, Graham mourned for each one of them, and it broke my heart.
I pulled him out of his bed and instructed him to tear apart his toy closet in case Barker and the gang had been thrown in the stuffed animal bin with his other less-loved friends. While he sniffled and searched, I picked up some clean shirts off of the floor that Cael had crammed inside the closet rather than putting in his dresser drawer. When I opened the drawer to put them away, I saw each of Graham's bedtime pals, snuggled amongst Cael's warmer weather clothes.
As I called Graham back to his room, I felt like a rock star. Not in the wildly promiscuous/drug-induced head-shaving/two-day marriage kind of way, but more like the "I kick bottom" kind of way. And as amazing as I felt, Graham saw me in an even more glorious light. He looked up at me, eyes sparkling by the nightlight, and said, "Mama! You find mine friends!"
I tucked him under his covers and he held each one tightly and told me their story.
"Bubbut (Barker) is happy. Bear is funny. Cheety Muntey is stinky!"
We laughed together and Graham rejoiced in his friends' return. Forty-five minutes later, when it was time for Cael to go to bed, I tucked him under his covers like I'd done for Graham not long before.
"Yeah?" I whispered.
"I want to tell you about my friends like Graham did."
"Okay, but be very quiet."
"Puppy is goofy. And Bear is kind of mad. But Bloose is very, very naughty."
"Why is he naughty?"
"Because he hid Graham's friends in my dresser and told me not to say anything."
"Oh really? I think Bloose might have had some help doing that. What do you think?"
"I guess so."
"And who do you think was the helper?"
"Back-up Bloose. He's even naughtier than first Bloose."
On second thought, stick to a blanket.