As my firstborn approaches his fourth birthday in a couple of weeks, I though I would share one of my favorite stories from his toddlerhood. He was about 15 months at the time I wrote this story.
Over the last couple of days Zuri has developed a deep friendship with a “dixie” plastic spoon we gave him while we were out at an ice cream shop (mamma here has her cravings…=D). For two whole days he carried that spoon everywhere he went, even to sleep. Occasionally he would put it down when he needed both hands to do something but he was very careful to note where he put it and was quick to pick it back up when he was done.
At bedtime the spoon had to tag along. Every attempt to remove the spoon from his hand while he was sleeping would wake him up and he would cry until I returned it to him. Once, during nap time, I was able to successfully take away the spoon. I assumed he would wake up and not remember it ever existed.
However, I was startled by his frantic cries when he woke up. When I walked into the room, he was standing in the crib with his little hand stretched out as he looked at me with many tears in his eyes as if he was trying to say “where is it mommy? it was right here in my hand and now it is gone!!” As soon as I returned the spoon it was as if nothing had happened.
Well, “dixie” had a small accident during the day and a piece of the handle broke off. I was concerned that he would get hurt with the sharp edges that were left so, I exchanged it for another plastic spoon I had. Although the new spoon was slightly different, it was yellow, he seemed to love it just the same.
So, after we took our new spoon friend for a short trip to and from church one morning, it was once again time to nap. We went through all the steps in our pre-nap routine (brushing teeth, changing diaper, etc…) and I put him and the spoon in the crib. He usually takes a few minutes to talk to himself, walk around the crib, and sometimes play peek-a-boo with his covers before he finally falls asleep (about 10 minutes or so).
But a few minutes after I put him in the crib, his conversations had become less lively and sounded like he was getting close to falling asleep. That is when I heard it. A subtle crack followed by one of the most terrifying cries I have ever heard. I rushed to the room as fast as I could with all kinds of terrible scenarios running through my head. I fully expected to find a puddle of blood somewhere.
When I walked into the room there he was, standing at the edge of the crib with his hand stretched out holding the handle of the spoon with no “head.” His eyes were full of desperation and horror as he beheld the handle. His pain was so intense my eyes filled with tears, it was as if I could feel it. He was screaming at the top of his lungs and his sorrow was undeniable.
I picked him up and hugged him and as soon as I did I saw the “head” of the spoon on the spot where he had been laying. As I leaned over to pick up the missing piece his cry became less piercing. I picked up the handle from his hand and tried to show him what happened. I told him I would give him another one. He continued to cry and started signing “more” in baby sign language. I took him into the kitchen and gave him one of his “safer” soft plastic spoons and took him back to the crib. The crying subsided and a few minutes later he was asleep holding his new friend.
Although I could hardly bear to see him go through all that sorrow and pain I must confess it was also hard to not laugh at the “silliness” of the situation. This was a disposable plastic spoon after all, an easily replaceable item. But to him the pain was real.
As I waited for my heart to stop racing, I thought about the events of that morning and shared the story with my husband over the phone. I remember reading something about not down playing a child’s feelings in the past. I was glad I didn’t laugh.
I hope I never play down his feelings with the thought that “he is only a child” or “he doesn’t know any better” or “this is silly.” I want him to know that he can share his feelings with me and his dad no matter how “silly” they may seem and we will try to understand. I love this little boy with all his feelings and emotions. I admire his determination and persistence. I hope to always be here to comfort him in difficult times, whether it be the “death” of a spoon, melted ice cream, or a broken heart… knowing that later we can look back and, in this case, laugh about it together.