Therefore, we were slightly relieved when our second son, wasn't really that into a particular toy and never really got attached to a fictional character. On the downside buying birthday and Christmas presents for him was a real chore. We would desperately grasp at an idea, knowing full well it wouldn't really be right. If he showed a faint interest in something one week, we would buy all the merchandise for it and by the time his birthday came, you could guarantee he was over it.
However,this year we hit the present jackpot, Just as he started watching "Octonauts" We ordered him this...
It was a huge success, beyond our parenting dreams. In fact, aftrer opening it first he refused to open any other Christmas presents. i admit it was a bit uncomfortable to watch the in laws looking wistfully at their discarded, still wrapped presents he had barely glanced at, but still, triumph was ours... We had cracked it. We were present buying geniuses!
He played with it all day.
And when he couldn't play with it (when he was eating Christmas dinner, in the bath and sleeping) he tightly clutched the two little plastic figures, which had come with it, as if he was guarding the secret to eternal happiness.
And that's where they stayed, Captain Barnacles and Kwazii, in his little fists. They went everywhere with him. He LOVED a toy! Well, two. He loved two little toys!
Then the holidays ended and real life began again. It was with a lump of dread I thought about Kwazii and Barnacles coming on the school run with us, it was with sweaty palms I thought of them joining us at playgroup and with a sharp breath I considered whether they would float or sink in the swimming baths.
But fortunately, our middlest son was not quite as absent-minded as his brother. He would safely put them in the buggy when he wanted to slide down the fireman's pole at the park (a two handed job). He would never leave a venue without checking they were on his person. On exited the car he would say "Kwazii? Yes. Captain Barnables? Yes. Let's go"
How refreshing this was. What a clever little poppet.
But then we had a real test: playgroup. When playgroup morning arrived Middlest son bounded into the church hall. Kwazii in one fist, Barnacles in the other and the other children fell silent. He eyed their salivating mouths as they clasped sight of the NEW TOYS. In a flash he had scampered up to me "Mama! In your bag!" he said placing them safely into my hand bag and returning to the pit to fight over a broken train set and a battered pushchair with his contemporaries.
The rest of the day we were busy. We went food shopping, to the library, nursery and had a play date. It wasn't until he was in the bath he turned to The FH and said "Where's Captain Barnables? Where's Kwazii?"
The FH turned to me, suddenly aware he hadn't seen them in his clenched fists all evening.
"It's OK I've got them" I said smugly tottering down the stairs.
My heart actually stopped when my fumbling hand could only find one plastic figure in my bag. One cat shaped figure.
Barnacles had gone.
I'd lost him.
I returned to the bathroom. Handed Middlest Kwazii, avoided eye contact and turned on my heel. "Where's Captain Barnables?" said a little voice behind me. I caught The FH's eyes, searched for some words, failed to find any, and tried not to cry."
The FH stepped in "he's on on a mission."
But try as we might we couldn't palm him off. We could tell him he was hiding, he was on an adventure, he was saving a star fish from a near fatal sea-cliff fall. But Middlest Son only repeated "Where is Captain Barnables?"
It was the last thing he said at night.
And the first thing he said when he woke up.
And every time I looked into his little sad eyes a little piece of me died.
And every time he went looking for him The FH turned to me and shook his head. Because I obviously needed help feeling guilty. I clearly wasn't managing to feel the guilt by myself. I must have looked far too happy.. Even though I was fucking suffocating in the guilt!
So then next morning I logged onto amazon and ordered a replacement. Delivery said "3- 5 days". 3-5 Days! We couldn't continue like this for 5 days. In 5 days this guilt would have eaten away like a ravenous carnivore. In 5 days I would be nothing more than a pile of bones and flesh and guilt slobber! This was clearly the emergency moment when I paid for an express delivery. This warranted the extra cost right? Wrong, At the checkout I discovered the express charge was more than the toy itself. Fuck it... we would wait 5 days.
Two days passed and Middlest Son was a shadow of him former self, clutching desperately to Kwazii, reluctant to let him out of his sight for a second; I, especially, was not allowed to touch him.
We unearthed an old Captain Barnacles that had belonged to his brother. He was wearing a red diving suit, instead of the official blue Octonaut costume and only had one arm, but we thought it would help. It didn't. He threw it away in disgust. And who could blame him? It wasn't Captain Barnables, Barnables wore blue and had two arms. This was an Octonaut impostor!
So he continued to cling onto Kwazii. I had to persuade the nursery staff to let him break the unwritten rule of "no toys from home" on the grounds he was being clingy after the holidays. Thank god they agreed. I couldn't tell them there was no way on this earth he was going to hand over that toy over to me, his mother, The Loser of Favourite Toys.
Then finally, one afternoon, when he was at nursery, the postman delivered a brown parcel which was branded with those lovely shiny black letters Amazon. Gushing many thank yous to a bewildered postman was the only way of stopping myself offering to bear his unborn children as a way of showing my appreciation.
I spent the next hour extracting Captain B from its child proof packaging and then hopped, skipped and smiled my way to the school. I was giddy. This was going to be better than Christmas.
A solemn looking nursery teacher opened the door and my giddy smile slid off my face. This look was usually saved for telling a parent their child was either covered in poo or had had a scrap with another kid and come off worse. Either way I was sure I could cheer him up with Barnacles.
"He's a bit upset..." She began, looking at the floor.
"...We're not sure how..." she continued, taking a deep breath
"...But in the last 10 minutes..." she paused and then blurted out.
"He's lost his little toy Kwazii. And we can't find him anywhere."
Middlest son appeared in the doorway silently sobbing.
"It's OK darling" I said brandishing Captain Barnacles in his face. "Look who Mama found"
He paused took hold of Barnacles, checked he was wearing blue and had two good arms, took a deep breath and said... "But Where's Kwazii?" and burst into tears.