I’ve broken the cardinal rule of parenting. I’ve purchased a talking toy. Worse, I purchased a doll that’s motion activated, thus making the “Chucky” parallels even more dramatic. Why did I do this, you ask? Well, mostly it’s because I’m a huge sucker, unable to resist my daughter’s charms. Of course, like most things, there’s an element of guilt involved as well, although not mine for a change.

Generally, it’s been my observation that Tabitha’s always getting the short end of the stick. With her and her brother only 14 months apart and Adam being the more intense personality of the two of them, her needs always end up taking a back seat to his. Even as a newborn, I was constantly forced to rip my nipple from her mouth, tossing her into the sofa cushions to save her brother from his toddler self. Even now, Tabitha’s needs, opinions, ideas and preferences almost always take second place to those of her brother. It’s a fault of ours as parents that we’ve allowed this to happen. With Adam being the more difficult of the two, it’s always easier to explain things to Tabitha than it is to convince him to cooperate.

The other night was no different. While preoccupied with lecturing her brother on his lack of listening skills, Dick was fastening her into her car seat when his general inability to multi-task surfaced, leading to an uspeakable oversight on his part. Hearing a thudding noise a few minutes into our trip home, we didn’t think much of it until Tabitha cried out for her baby. With horror, Dick looked over at me and instantly we realized that he’d put Tabitha’s cherished baby on the roof of the minivan (along with the baby’s beloved blanket) and drove off, baby and blanket presumably flying off into a muddy grave somewhere along our route home. Frantically re-tracing our route as darkness loomed, it became apparent that Tabitha’s baby was gone and we’d have to explain one of life’s harsh truths to our little girl: sometimes you just leave your baby on the roof of the car…

As the reality of her loss sunk in, Tabitha’s eyes welled up with giant tears, which spilled down into glossy streams on her rosy cheeks. To her credit, she cried for only a few moments, when, in an exceptional display of fortitude, she redirected her grief into problem solving.

“We have to go look for my baby”, she said with determination.

“Well, we’ve been doing that, sweetheart, and we can’t find her. I’m afraid your baby is gone.”

“I lost my baby at the store?”, she asked, bewildered about where it had all gone so tragically wrong.

I could see the guilt already creeping into her mind. I knew where she was going with that line of thought and, as a fellow female, I felt compelled to nip the negative spiral in the bud.

“No. YOU didn’t do anything wrong! You are a wonderful mother. Daddy made a mistake and lost your baby, but you didn’t do anything wrong!”

Dick shot me a look – the look that says “I think you’re taking this a little too far” and then rolled his eyes.

“We’ll go back to the store later and you can pick out a new baby. How would that be?”, he offered.

“Yes”, she said, apparently resigning herself to the loss of her only child.

Over the next few days, I watched as she played with her stuffed animals trying to shove their floppy, Styrofoam bean-filled bodies into her baby’s empty stroller. Awkwardly, her stuffed animals would slump forward and tumble out of the stroller, unable to maintain a snuggled position. Bottle feedings were no better with the large, floppy teddy bear being too unwieldy for her cuddle and rock in her arms.

The final straw came for me when, yesterday, she pointed at the last place she’d seen her baby – the Target parking lot – as she said wistfully, “That’s where I lost my baby…”

I couldn’t stand it. Here she was, not even 3 years old yet, and already taking responsibility for someone else’s mistakes! In her, I could see all my own neuroses taking form. Marching into Target with her, I vowed that not only would she have a new baby, I’d make sure she always knew that she was a wonderful, caring, and responsible person. No one’s putting this baby in a corner!

Walking down the doll aisle, naturally Tabitha’s eyes glazed over at the sight of all the beautiful babies lining the shelves. Initially, she reached for a doll similar to the missing baby. But as we walked past another shelf, a motion-activated baby let out a little cooing sound, grabbing her attention.

“Mama”, the baby said, followed by soft giggling and subtle movements of its head and arms.

Tabitha practically threw the inanimate baby she’d been holding into the shelf, reaching up for the animatronic baby whilst standing on tippy toes. Throwing her arms around the baby, Tabitha shrieked with delight, “I want this talking baby!”

Desperately, I tried to persuade her that the talking baby wasn’t as cuddly, sweet, or needy as the other babies. A baby who talks that much probably isn’t a very good listener, and we all know what that’s like (Adam). To bolster my spoiled brat argument, I pointed out that this talking baby came with tons of accessories including a comb, a binky, a bottle, and some toys. Clearly, this baby already has a good life here at Target. But the other quiet babies, without all those fancy accessories and forced to live in plain pink, unbranded boxes, were in need of a good home and a devoted mother like her. Briefly, she looked conflicted and confused – after all, when had I EVER characterized having more accessories as a bad thing? But the lure of the talking baby was too great. Gazing into her baby’s blinking, rolling eyes Tabitha remained undeterred, “I want THIS baby.”

As we carried the scary talking baby around the store, I began strategizing ways of switching her out for one of the plain, non-speaking babies. But it was hard to get Tabitha’s attention, even to distract her, given that she was so, completely enraptured in conversation with her new baby.

“Baby want a binky?”, she asked her new infant.

“Oooo. Mama.”, the baby replied blinking and rolling it’s soulless eyes like a drugged mental patient.

But when she held the baby up to me and said, “See mommy, I have a good baby and I’m a mommy, too – just like you!” I knew what I was going to do. I was going to buy that creepy talking baby and try like hell to justify my decision to Dick.

Driving home I had the entire talking baby conversation with Dick in my head. I knew he’d bring up that we’d made a pact long ago; no talking toys – period. He’d bring up that we’d both honored that agreement until now and that the benefit of this decision was that we had a much quieter household with toys that support our children’s budding imaginations, allowing them to put words into the mouths of their toys, rather than some corporate entity.

I agree with Dick on all these points and I do, generally, go out of my way to get the children toys that are unbranded, lacking in a need for batteries, and requiring more of their imaginations. But this was different. Call me overly dramatic, but I can see my girl’s future ahead of her and it involves a ton of guilt and self-esteem issues. Being female, very tall for her age, intelligent, and wearing her heart on her sleeve as she does, she’s going to know all too soon what it means to feel awkward and inadequate. In this rather innocent mistake – losing her baby – I could see the seeds of all her future torment being planted and I felt compelled to stop it. Besides, Tabitha should be rewarded for her years of patience, her generosity of spirit, and her loss should be salved with a spooky talking baby, if that’s what helps her move on.

In the end, I explained all of these points to Dick who looked on sympathetically. But much like the talking baby, I don’t think he’s buying it.

Spread the Love:
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis