When I was a child, I had a ‘family’ of stuffed animals. When I wasn’t playing with them, I arranged them neatly on my bed. I never thought of myself as being father or brother to my stuffed animal family; I was just in charge of them. Since opening the last of her Christmas presents, Elena has enough baby dolls and stuffed animals for a sizeable family of her own. She has a different relationship with them than I did with mine–she clearly thinks of herself as their mother.
New Baby and Pink Bear are the most recent additions to the family. New Baby was a gift from Elena’s Washington grandparents and came with a collection of accessories–bed, stroller, high chair/swing, diaper bag, and more. Because the box she came in was too big for our car, Elena didn’t open the present until we returned home after Christmas. She was excited to have one more present to open, and even more excited to see what was inside. She loves the whole package, including the accessories, because she knows just how to use them to take care of New Baby.
Pink Bear came to life in the Build-a-Bear Workshop. It wasn’t technically a Christmas present; instead, Jenny had won a gift card from a blog and also found a coupon that expired at the end of the year, so we needed to go build the bear to get the best deal. Elena has enjoyed browsing the store when we’ve been at the mall before, but it was hard for her to pick only one animal to take home. She doesn’t distinguish fine gradations of preference–when we held two options in front of her, she just wanted to hug both of them. We had to rely on our intuition about what would make her happy in the long run. Between the gift card and coupon we had enough to buy the bear a vest and sunglasses, and although I’m not usually a fan of accessories, I think that these were good choices.
We can tell that Elena thinks of herself as the mommy because of the way she takes care of her babies. Before Elena goes down for a nap, she puts her dolls to bed. New Baby sleeps in her own bed, the other baby often sleeps on the ottoman, and the other toys sleep in various places. After Elena wakes up, she gets her babies up for playtime. The other day Jenny noticed that the two babies were playing in the tunnel, which must have been where Elena put them for playtime. At other times, she feeds New Baby from the bottle or gives her a pacifier.
Last night, after Elena and I showed Luke and Jessica how we do fire the cannonball, I had to do the same stunt with each and every one of her little family members. This evening we cleaned up all her toys before bed, then she laid the dolls down for ‘night-night.’ After that she was ready to head up to bed. Getting her into bed has been harder than usual for the past few weeks, so anything that smooths the process and gets her in the right mindset is a good idea. It didn’t work perfectly, because we still had some bedtime strife, but we’re hopeful that we can get back on track, with or without the help of Elena’s other ‘family.’