The speedometer was flickering between 27 and 29, it was raining and we were driving home.
The radio was murmuring quietly. I was paying attention to not putting my car into the wrong gear and discussing what food ninja turtles would best like to eat, pizza or chocolate cake. The conversation yo-yoed as it does when you are talking to a mini person with the attention span of a moth. All of a sudden my little boy sighed and said in a small voice that made my heart tremble,
‘I miss Ra-Ra.’
Ra-Ra was a dinosaur toy he was given for his second birthday, it was half the size of him with eyes that glowed red when it roared.
It roared A LOT and scared Leo at first.
Toys with sounds are on my top ten list of things that give me stress wrinkles. Ra-Ra and Leo did everything together; they watched TV, they went to the park and Ra-Ra was force fed spaghetti hoops because he was a ‘kind’ dinosaur. A few months ago when trying to figure out where the batteries lived Leo broke him.
Children’s experience of the scale of a loss may appear illogical to an adult…He lay on the floor for 45 minutes and did not sleep that night. We talked about how he felt, I encouraged him to label his emotions; his tummy was ‘angry and crying’. A child who is dealing with loss has many of the same feelings and needs that we do, but because they are a child have far fewer resources and abilities to cope with feelings than we have.
It’s up to us to provide them.
I could not fix it and Ra-Ra lived on top of the dresser waiting for the ‘dinosaur doctor’ (Attenborough?!). We moved house, the dresser shelf became empty and Ra-Ra took a one way trip to the recycling centre.
Any form of change or loss can be unsettling for young children but Leo had not mentioned him since and I thought we were safe. Rookie mistake.
‘I broke him and now I miss him.’
Acknowledging their little feelings are so important…I turned off the radio and put on my soft mummy voice, the voice that will instantly settle a little one, will reassure and comfort them, like a warm blanket in winter. Affection and security.
As a child my favourite book was the velveteen rabbit. Cliff notes version, it is written about a toy bunny that was very loved but as the boy grew up, was forgotten and thrown out. BUT because the boy had cared for him so much magic made it real. At 28 the story can still make me cry with its simple loveliness. I pondered creating a similarly fantastical response for Leo to help him manage his sadness but knew he was aware that dinosaurs were extinct…That said he saw a Jurassic park advert and informed me the world was wrong as ‘evidently’ (a 5 year old using the world evidently is terrifying) dinosaurs were real as they were on TV… children interpret things literally so he cannot grasp the idea of CGI.
I did not want to confuse him even more.
I encourage attentive and creative responses to children but as magical as a tale like the Velveteen rabbit would be, I did not want to lie to Leo. A friend offered me a beautiful alternative. Ask your child to think of the toy, or whatever it is that has been lost and ask them to talk about it. Get them to close their eyes and describe them as clearly as possible, imagine a real picture in their head. Explain that they will be in their memory, which is for ever. We also watched a video of Ra-Ra and added some happy to his sad feelings. (Not a blogger standard video but one which brought a smile to my little lads face…)
Often little ones will lose teddies and blankets which is another type of loss we have experienced. I have when Leo was tiny bought duplicates, posted lost posters and written postcards from that toy on holiday, it is up to you as a mummy or daddy. There is a lovely book called letters from Felix, again about a rabbit that gets lost and travels the world.
I always feel helpless seeing my little boy unhappy, we can’t take away the pain, but our sense of helplessness need not restrain us from reaching out.
Cuddles and a milky way also seem to help.
This is SUCH an important post for all parents to read! It’s so important to acknowledge our children’s feelings, and not downplay their very real emotions. My heart kind of hurts for your sweet little Leo as, in his mind, Ra Ra was his friend. You handled the situation so perfectly-thanks for this awesome advice and beautiful story! <3
[…] we will be trying this over the next week. I also found @parentingjungle and her about helping her little man get over the loss of his toy really moving. But the Top Pudding for has to be @drmummykins with her amusing yet highly […]
Ah that is so sad about RaRa poor Leo. You are a great Mum spending time talking and reminding him of how much he loved RaRa. We nearly lost Pie’s red dog (skankiest red Jelly Cat dog ever) my husband had to dash into a packed Lichfield Cathedral and speak to a load of people but luckily he found him. Even in the 10 minutes he was gone Pie was inconsolable. These little people take things so to heart #PuddingLove
Oh bless 🙁 why is they love the scariest/ugliest/cruddiest toys that best?…Says the woman that still has her old mangey one eyed teddy…..xx
Aww, I want to give you both a big hug right now. I haven’t had to deal with this part of parenting yet, although maybe I have. The loss of me when I leave the room to go upstairs and he bursts into tears, when he bangs on his cot because he wants MumMum. I pick him up and give him big squishy cuddles. One day my cuddles will be words but for now cuddles will do. #triballove
Cuddles and comfort are everything! Even when they have words cuddles are still just as important!xx
Your writing is beautiful Jade, and the idea of teaching them to remember is lovely. So heartbreaking – poor Ra-Ra. (Also, ninja turtles enjoy pizza more…) Lucy xx #TribalLove
Your writing is so beautiful Jade, and that is a lovely idea. It’s totally heartbreaking – poor Ra-Ra. (Also, ninja turtles enjoy pizza more…) Lucy xx #TribalLove
Haha Lucy I am glad you are up on your turtle food, can come play here any day! Thank you for such a kind and lovely comment xx
Thank you, I needed he reminder to help my son deal with the loss of our dog. While it has been 9 months he still brings her up daily, but I forget that he deals with loss differently and at his own pace.
Oh bless him m son was so upset by the cat dying for two minutes then completely moved on…they have there own little ways and times…x
I really loved reading this Jade – as always you write so beautifully I am moved to tears. You’re so thoughtful and caring with Leo. It’s so interesting for me to read as we have all this to come but as E is obsessed (and I mean obsessed!) with tins of all shapes and sizes, I was thinking a memory tin would be a great idea for her. xx #triballove
Hey lovely lady, thank you so much, it really means so much having such a lovely comment. Hehe I love that she likes tins..I used to collect them so maybe we could share 😉 a memory tin would be so special for both of you xxx
This is just so heart warming. I love the way you have tried to help Leo feel less sad about loosing Ra Ra and the video of him is amazingly cute. Love the bit where he tries to feed him some sandwich 🙂 Both my kids have lovies that if lost would break their little hearts but for that reason I have two of each ? Ps: Ra Ra was actually quite scary… X #triballove
Thank you darling, I love the word lovies! Two of each, haha supermum! Rara was scary he used to sleep with him..I was like, you would not prefer something more cuddly?!xx
A lovely post. We havent yet got to that stage of losing a toy- I’m sure it will happen. It means so much to them at age.
I still have my teddies from a child on the attic I cannot part with them! I was just so struck by how out of nowhere he was affected by missing and sadness, made me want to cry!xxx
Aw what a lovely post and video! He fed him spaghetti hoops, so adorable. I think we tend to forget that children aren’t able to cope with their own emotions and as you’ve mentioned it’s important to give them the tools to do this. I think letting your son remember and talk about RaRa is so great, I’ll have to remember this for when Bear is older. : ) #triballove
Its a terrible quality video I know but it just made me smile..Hehe just never buy bear a noisy dinosaur!!!xxx
Aww Jade you handled this beautifully and this is loss to a child on a scale which is huge to them – we mustn’t undermine that – we must be empathic. Your friend’s advice was perfect – memories will be forever – beautiful – made me feel tearful – love my memory bank xxx
Hey beautiful, I should start handing out wine for the fastest to respond to a post. Thank you for such a wonderful considered comment as usual! xxx
Great post. Very helpful!! Holly lost mousey about a year ago….. trying to find a new mousey wasn’t easy when mother care rudely discontinued that line!
Noooo Ebay?!?! Hope a mousey replacement was found!xxxx