Here's Fuss with Coodgie Woodgie, the lord of his Cozy Friends.
This cheap stuffed tiger is currently his favorite being in the universe bar none, and why not? What living creature comprehends the encrypted amusement park of a toddler's mind?
Such a prodigy of insight requires a Cozy Friend.
Coodgie Woodgie was born of the thrift store.
Fuss enjoys checking out the toys while I root for books, leaving them behind when it's time to go.
But on this particular visit when check out time came he arrived at the register with a plush tiger tucked under one arm.
"Dada, look what I found!"
I was unimpressed.
Dingy, with a satin heart bearing a trite embroidered slogan hanging from one paw, trailing threads where it had previously been attached to the other paw. The sort of thing a lame boyfriend picks up at the supermarket on the way home after being reminded it's Valentines day.
I eyed his find skeptically. Fuss has no shortage of stuffed animals- 'Cozy Friends' in the Fuss vernacular- and this one was dingy and slapdash.
"No, Fuss, not today. We can come back and see him next time."
"NO DADA he'll be GONE!", enveloping the tiger in a two armed stranglehold.
For me a big part of successful parenting is catching myself acting out old family scripts.
When your childhood was one of privation & danger presided over by an outmatched single mother at the head of a cavalcade of bad decisions, the world's most depressing majorette, following old templates isn't an option. Kids are highly permeable, and are for the most part stuck with the weird crap adults impose on them- I'm intent on protecting Fuss from as much of my mom's legacy as possible. My own screw ups will doubtless provide a lifetime of therapy fodder, no need to heap an extra helping of generational failure on top.
In this instance, I caught myself as his insistence began to harden my resolve to say 'no'.
"Why?" I asked myself. "Why shouldn't he get the tiger?"
Who cares if he already has a bunch of stuffed animals? And who cares its components and construction don't measure up to his Steiff lamb, or even his flock of Angry Birds? Not Fuss.
And how much would it cost anyway, a buck or two?
My resistance wasn't coming from a Dada space, but from somewhere old and cold and sour.
"Okay Fuss, we'll get him."
The price tag ended up being seventy five cents, plus tax.
I left the change in their donation vase.
On the drive home Fuss was ecstatic in his car seat, sitting his new tiger on his lap and having what was by all evidence a joyous reunion with a lifelong friend.
"Does your tiger have a name?" I asked.
"Uh...dada, his name's Coodgie Woodgie."
Over the next week or so they were inseparable. I was wise enough to film his introduction to the rest of the Cozy Friends, which was exactly as delightful as you imagine. Whenever we had an issue with him we'd bring in Coodgie Woodgie as a mediator...and it worked! Coodgie Woodgie made the first few trips to preschool with him, coaxed him into his pyjamas, convinced him it was time to read books before bed, talked him out of meltdowns.
I took an x-acto to the dangling satin heart with its saccharine script, excising it like a wart. Coogie's back split open at the seam during an epic wrestling match on the bed and he now bears heroic Frankenstein-esque stitchwork all down his rear. The Wife subsequently ran him through the washing machine and restored his fur to its original state, which if not quite luxuriant was still a major improvement.
Even now, months later, he is a boon companion...as you can see.
Fuss got a new best friend, and I dug one more chunk of windsheild glass from the car wreck of my childhood out of my skull.
Definitely the best seventy five cents I've ever spent.