Tonight, H and I stopped at a Second Cup to get expensive coffee drinks, because an occasional treat is a good thing and also because J had just announced that he needed to pee and Second Cup was close-by, and we can't abide being "those people"; you know, the ones who use an establishment's bathroom and then leave without buying anything and just really tick everyone right off. But mainly, we bought drinks because an occasional treat is a good thing. And to that end, when J spotted a special cookie that made his eyes just light up, we decided to get it for him.
A happy J skipped out of the Second Cup, cookie in hand. It was a big sugar cookie, shaped like a teddy bear and decorated with green and yellow icing, and J couldn't have been happier. It was very cute, and it looked delicious. We were sure that J would want to eat his treat right away.
J got back in the van, and H strapped him into his carseat. H then removed the cellophane wrap from the cookie and presented it to J so that J might eat his special cookie at once. And as H handed the teddy bear cookie to J, one of the bear's legs broke off. J looked kind of stunned for a moment. But we told him this wasn't a big deal; the cookie would taste the same, and J could just eat the leg first. Apparently placated, J began to eat his cookie. And we headed off for home.
As J continued to eat his cookie, he discussed the situation as he saw it. "Poor teddy bear", said J. And we explained to him that the teddy bear cookie was made to be eaten. It wanted to be eaten. This was the teddy bear cookie's sole purpose. But though J continued to munch on the cookie, he appeared somewhat upset. Periodically, J would look at his cookie with sad eyes and sigh mournfully at the poor teddy bear's plight.
J ate his cookie slowly. He ate the bear's legs, and arms, and then he started working on the bear's head. And then suddenly, he cried out "His eyes are gone!", in the same urgent tone of voice one might use to say "I backed over your brother! Call 911!" And I again told J that the teddy bear was made to be eaten, and that his eyes would surely disappear as he was eaten, and that it was all going to be okay.
To my dismay, J's big bright eyes welled up with tears, and he started to sob uncontrollably. He wouldn't eat the rest of the cookie. It was too painful for him.
He cried for the loss of his teddy bear, whose beautiful yellow and green icing was now completely gone. J wanted his teddy bear cookie to be whole, with yellow and green icing, and eyes that would last forever. He did not want to eat this special cookie. And he would not have done so had the teddy bear cookie's leg not fallen off when its package was opened. To J, this cookie was a real teddy bear, meant to be slept with, played with, and cuddled, and certainly not meant to be eaten. J was horrified that he had mistakenly eaten his new friend.
H considered going back to Second Cup to get J a new teddy bear cookie, but we realized that doing so would be problematic. J would try to sleep, cuddling his replacement cookie. And he would be upset when the cookie crumbled, or when it grew old and stale and had to be thrown in the garbage. Food is not forever. And cookies are meant to be eaten. We needed to come up with something else.
Toy stores are closed. Drug stores, however, are open. And so we stopped at one, looking for a teddy bear. Something small and inexpensive. Something inedible. Something that J could cuddle with and keep.
There were no teddy bears at the drug store. There was a large green ball with a picture of Winnie the Pooh on it, though. But J was unimpressed. A ball was not a friend. A ball was a poor substitute for a teddy bear. A ball could not take the sting off J's wounds. And as he looked at the ball, he tried to be happy. But the tears were still flowing, and they spilled over and wet his sweet little cheeks. He liked the ball, but it was just not the same.
Grocery stores are also open. And we need baby food. And so, with a basket of baby food in hand, I searched. I looked at baby toys, but there were no bears. I looked through the seasonal area, but there were no bears. Specialty items? Giftware? Greeting cards? Yeah, no. There were no bears. Ummm ... cat toys? (Don't judge me. I was desperate.) Oddly enough, there were no bears.
I had nearly given up when at last, I found them. In the back of the floral section. In an area that I think is actually reserved for employees only, but I didn't really care anymore. Balloons, frogs, dogs, unicorns ... and bears! Bears! Cute little stuffed teddy bears! They even had them in yellow and green! Perfect!!!
J sleeps now, with new bears in yellow and green. They are not meant to be eaten. They are not filled with catnip. And when he awakes, he will not be stunned and saddened by their unexpected deterioration into a pile of crumbs.
I am the mom who cannot bear to see tears in your eyes. I will do anything in my power to protect you and to make you smile. Heaven knows that there are harsh realities and disappointments to be faced in this life. You will encounter them someday. And much as it pains me to realize it, I won't always be able to make it better. But just now, you are four. You are four, and you are mine, and I can look out for you. I can't give you everything, but I can give you this. I can wipe your tears and kiss your ow-ies and offer you small tokens that bring a smile to your sweet face once more.
And at the end of the day, I promise that there will be teddy bears.
I love you, J.