Not so long ago, I found myself in the backyard having a tea party with a five year old, a baby and two teddy bears. My family gave me a lovely tea set for my last birthday, and ever since then Birdy has wanted to have a tea party in the garden. It had to be a real tea party with real tea. Even the teddy’s were poured a cup and Birdy dutifully drank it when I wasn’t looking.
Whenever children play with their teddy’s it’s amazing to see them slide in and out of fantasy and reality.
One day Birdy will tell me she’s going to marry her teddy and another day she’ll carelessly squash him and say, “He’s not real Mum!” But the wonderful thing about a teddy is that they can be real when they’re really needed. In the moment when nobody else understands them, or nobody wants to play with them, a teddy can be a child’s best friend.
When I was a kid, I had a blue furry Teddy in stripy pyjamas! He was called Peter Bear and I absolutely adored him. I always cuddled him as I fell asleep. I also remember times when Mum and Dad were really cross with me, when I would throw myself on my bed and cry my heart out, and in those moments I honestly believed that nobody really understood me except Peter Bear. Fortunately those episodes didn’t last long, but when they happened it was good to have that special Teddy to cuddle. As a child, the worst feeling of all was when everybody would laugh at you. You’d just said something perfectly serious, and then suddenly all the bigger kids or the grown-ups would be laughing at you and you had no idea why. They were teddy-bear moments.
Molly hasn’t really noticed her bear yet, but Birdy’s bear is called January and he’s very special. He’s been a great source of comfort during many hospital trips, operations and road-trips. The downside of having a special toy is that when they get left behind it can be rather problematic. There was one time January got left at pre-school on a Friday and was locked in for the whole weekend. That was a little traumatic. There was also the time we went to Bathurst for a wedding and January was left behind at home. There were quite a few tears at bedtime that night!
We recently did our shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.
For those who aren’t familiar with the concept this is where you fill a shoebox with presents for a child living in poverty. Samaritan’s Purse actually recommends that you include ‘Something to Love’ in the shoebox. A couple of years ago I had the privilege of going to PNG to deliver some of the shoeboxes to the children, some of whom were quite neglected. For those kids, having a special toy to love could be a wonderful source of comfort. Not just because of the unconditional love they get from the teddy, but also because it’s a reminder that somebody on the other side of the world actually cares about them enough to send that teddy in the first place.
When we give a Teddy to a child, we’re giving them a physical representation of love that they can feel and hold and touch, even when they may not feel loved.
In that moment of high drama, when they run to their room, slam the door and say, “Don’t come in!” the teddy in their arms will still be there for them. So even though kids today have so many fancy high-tech toys, I don’t think anything will ever replace the humble Teddy Bear. Kids in PNG and kids in Australia still all need ‘something to love’.
Did you have a favourite teddy or soft toy as a child? Have your children become attached to a particular teddy or a blanket as a comforter? I’d also love to hear from you if you have been doing the Operation Christmas Child boxes with your children.