The Velveteen Bobo

6 Feb

aah, the teddy bear dance. There’s nothing quite like that sinking feeling you get when you’ve spent a long day at the cousins’ house, you finally get the kids packed up into the car, finally finish the 30 mile drive home arriving an hour after bed time, the baby is melting down, your nerves are shot, you dash through the house and throw pajamas on the kid, whip a toothbrush across their teeth, skip the bath, skip stories, tuck them under the covers only to realize… “Wait a minute. Where’s Bobo?”

BoBo is the ragged stuffed teddy bear that your daughter has slept with every night of her life – the one that she sucks on all night so it smells like the high school boys’ locker room – the one she drags around everywhere and refuses to sleep without. Now the baby’s crying because she’s overtired and she thinks you’re trying to get her to go to sleep without Bobo. Mad-dash around the house! Where did she leave it? What drawer did she tuck it into? What tree did she leave it in? What cushion did she stuff it under? Now you and your wife are screaming at each other. “Did you look in the bathroom?!”

“Yes, I looked in the bathroom! I looked there when we first got home, and I looked there the last time you told me to look in the bathroom!”

“Don’t get mad at me, I didn’t put it there!”

“Nobody put it there! It isn’t in the freakin’ bathroom! Go look in the backyard!”

“Where in the backyard?!”

“Are you serious?!”

“It’s dark out there!”

“Get a freakin’ flashlight!”

“I would if you would put it away in the right place after you use it!”

Where’s Bobo? Where’s Bobo? You wrack your brain, trying to remember the last place you saw him. Then it hits you, and suddenly you realize the evening is about to descend from the 6th level of hell to the 7th. The last place you saw Bobo… was at the cousins’ house.

Most of us in our day had a “Bobo”, so we afford a little more tolerance to Bobo-related calamities. Everyone has a different “Bobo”, but our stories are all vaguely similar. Eventually they lose their grip on us, but our relationship with them is always very real. Some of us dragged them everywhere we went, some of us were happy just to keep them on the nightstand. Some of us finish with them early, some of us keep them around as long as we can. (For my part, I brought my “Daddy Bear” with me to college – not because I needed him for security. I thought that if a hot chick happened to walk by my dorm room when the door was open, she might notice Daddy Bear sitting there and think I was a sensitive guy.)

When my daughter was born, among the mountains of gifts she accumulated were two identical pink, stuffed bears, one of which became her Bobo. To this day she sleeps every night with him smashed up against her face, sucking his little bow tie. You can imagine how yucky Bobo gets over time, so every once in a while we have to throw him in the washer/drier. The first time we did this and presented her with the warm, dry, fresh-smelling Bobo she burst into tears saying “But I want him yucky!”  When the potential for thermo-nuclear Armageddon became clear should Bobo ever be lost, we made a point of setting aside the identical twin he arrived with just in case a replacement was ever needed.

Which one would you stuff in your mouth?

Like twins separated at birth and reunited decades later, looking at them it is clear that they have led very different lives. One is bright, pink and robust, as if it was always well-nourished, was legacied into an Ivy League school, spent a year abroad in Europe after college, interned for a congressman for a few years, and is now an upwardly-mobile, young executive in a Wall Street investment firm. The other is dim, gray and emaciated, as if it bounced from foster home to foster home, dropped out of high school, hitchhiked up and down California coast for years, and is teetering on the edge of falling back into a full-fledged methamphetamine habit. If you looked at them now it would never even cross your mind that they were actually identical twins. If Bobo was ever lost, there’s no way “backup-Bobo” could fill the role. If that day comes, we’re all done for.

My son’s “Bobo” turned out a little different. He’s got “Jellycat”, which is actually the name of the company that made the thing. They make all sorts of animals, from aardvarks to zebras, each with a “Jellycat” tag, much like the Beanie Babies of yester-year. Where my daughter only really needs Bobo to sleep, my son drags Jellycat around with him everywhere. We have a strict rule that Jellycat never goes outside the car if he leaves the house, but otherwise wherever my son goes Jellycat goes too. In fact, looking at my little tussled, blonde haired, rough and tumble, highly imaginative moppet of a son dragging around a mangy, well-loved, striped, stuffed cat around wherever he goes, it conjures up images of another well known character from American literature. Additionally, instead of sucking on the stuffed animal itself, my son sucks on his finger while holding the animal. After countless hours of finger sucking amassed over crucial developmental years, my son’s upper dental arch is pretty jacked-up. Thankfully I refer enough business to our local orthodontist that I don’t think we’ll have a problem getting him treated.

The comparrison will only get better as he gets older.

On the subject of transitional objects, if you’re ever looking for bedtime storybooks for the young person in your life, I strongly suggest the Knuffle Bunny series by Mo Willems. Based in large part on the author’s daughter, they tell the story of Trixie and her Knuffle Bunny (Kuh-nuffle? Nuffle?) as Trixie grows up. There are three books in the series, and in them we see Trixie (and Knuffle Bunny) grow from toddler, to school girl, to big girl. They’re hilarious in a way that most parents totally understand, they’re masterfully illustrated, and if it was possible for a picture book to have comedic timing, these would be the gold standard. If you’ve got your own “Trixie” at home, who seems to be growing up faster than you’re comfortable, the third book in particular will be particularly poignant. I defy you to read it without getting choked-up.


Knuffle Bunny

Knuffle Bunny, Too

Knuffle Bunny, Free

Now that we’re mere weeks away from the third installment of our own little story, I have to wonder what transitional object will work its way into his life. As much fun as it is getting to know a new child, it isn’t just the child that you have to get to know. As every parent who has children with transitional objects knows, the Bobo’s and Jellycats are every bit as much a part of the family as the children are themselves.

-Dork Dad

P.S. In the comment section below please feel free to share your own Bobo/Jellycat/Knuffle Bunny stories. We’ve all got them, and each one is as ridiculous as the last.

9 Responses to “The Velveteen Bobo”

  1. Kjysten February 6, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    For us it was bears. Our oldest wanted a BIG bear when she was two, so I made her one almost as big as she was. Theodore Edward (Ted E – how’s that for imagination?) is with her still. At 45 years old, she still has to have Mom make him occasional new “coats.” The coats come with an obligatory “heart transplant” which contains stuffing from the very first bear.

    The second daughter reached a little farther. She was presented with a small Winnie the Pooh bear when she was a year old. “Beyah” became a favorite quickly. When he was lost, panic ensued. I phoned my husband and said, “Help! The Beyah is gone. Stop by Sears and buy another on your way home.” Crisis averted ’til several months later when the critter came up missing again. More tears – another frantic phone call.

    And then a third loss. Were we falling into a pattern here?

    Then one day the daughter came up missing. As I frantically searched the old three story home we lived in, I heard small coos from a seldom used closet where we stored unused items. I opened the door, moved past the stacked draped and curtain rods and….there in a little alcove, protected from prying parental eyes was the missing daughter AND all three bears!

    Her reasoning? “Beyah was lonely all by himse’f. Now he gots a fambily!” How can you argue with that?

  2. Rob February 6, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    While I had a stack of toys as a kid, including stuffed animales, I never, ever carried one around or slept with one in the bed, ever. As far as I can remember/rationalise my parents simply never thought that it was a a bit silly/unnecessary and such, I never grew through these early years with a “need” to be holding onto some special “friend”. I’m not saying that makes me “better”, but I guess it meant my parents never had to pander to me obsessing over losing it, or needing to ween me off it when I started to become age-inappropriate to be still clinging to one.

    • dorkdad February 6, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

      Well that explains a whole lot about you, doesn’t it Rob. (c;

  3. Melissa February 7, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    For us, it’s about 15 different animals that all must be present and random times in random places. We cannot misplace a single one, or watchthefout. I feel for you guys for that night!

  4. Alan T. Kercinik February 10, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    1) I love that the bear is named after Mr. Burns’ teddy bear.
    2) My bear was Ralph, a Gund bear I took to college. I hadn’t named him before I went away and got so sick of girls saying how cute he was that I named him Ralph almost out of spite. It was the first non-cute name that sprung to mind.
    3) My oldest has a few items he wants before bed. The latest are those tiny little figures that come in those activity books with the playmats. Holy God, they are IMPOSSIBLE to find lying around the house,

    • dorkdad February 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

      (posted from my iPhone, I’ll fix the link later)

  5. Sam Lupica April 26, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

    Just ran into your blog – and signed up so i dont miss a single dorkdaddy thought – i already see you are going to challenge my existence as the father of two girls – one four and one 16 months (definitely building the hovercraft with both in a few years!! cant wait!!)

    As for BoBo – i totally relate – We are going to do a bunch of travelling this summer and we were talking about what happens if Dolly disappears? Or we lose her or who knows what?

    So as a lover of all that is ebay I quickly went scouring for an exact replica. I found several that were all gently used. It didn’t feel right buying something that was a hand me down from someone elses family. I suppose I could have handled it if it was a niece or nephew but a random stranger?? Not for my little girl!

    After a little more searching I found the exact replica! It could be mine for just $25 (plus shipping and handling)!! In a state of triumph I announced to my wife that I could buy it for only $25… to which she announced over my dead body! There was no way she was cool being up charged for some random doll that was sold at WalMart two years ago for a 1/4th of the price.

    So like any good Dad I went into problem solving mode. I emailed the seller and asked if she would be willing to accept $15 and could she throw in shipping for free… Within 24 hours i received a hardy yes only further proving my wifes point that it was not worth much.

    That evening at the dinner table I could hardly wait to tell my wife about the great news that at that very moment there was a brand new back up “Dolly” on its way to our home! Expecting great fanfare I proudly announced that I had been able to buy the replica Dolly for just $15 on EBay! As my wife stared at me with the blank stare of ‘You did what’ I realized that this great purchase was not being met with the equally great reception I expected. So thinking she had not heard me because I was talking too fast I repeated that I had purchased Dolly for only $15 and paid no shipping and handling!

    Needless to say my wife still thought I paid too much and it was not until Dolly arrived that she started to agree that it was probably an ok purchase at that price.

    No. 2 on the other hand hates the thing.

    We have tried to introduce New Dolly to her in hopes that if anything happened to the real thing the transition would be seamless. This is a laughable concept to get across to a 16 month old.

    When we hand it to her she literally will smell it, feel it, realize it is not the real thing and hand it back! Even throwing it in her crib so she can grow accustomed to it has not worked. Her answer to this is once we lay her down to sleep and walk out of the room you can hear her throw the New Dolly over the side of the crib.

    Buy hey at least I got the Dolly for $15…


  1. Wasted Opportunity « - November 5, 2012

    […] was enough. With little resistance both Episode IV and V were nestled under the covers, Jellycat and Bobo tucked under their arms, with the lights out. I quietly closed Episode IV’s door just as […]

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