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Separation Anxiety: a real issue for toddlers

Elle girl and Elmo

Last night after a family dinner out at our favorite pre-baby restaurant, Old Chicago, we thought we would make an attempt to return to post-baby normalcy by going to a book store that we had not ventured into since before Elle-girl was born.

We never took a small baby to this particular book store because we didn’t want to be “those” parents of an obnoxiously loud toddler screaming its head off because it couldn’t get what it wanted, you know the type, the ones that people who don’t have children scoff at ?

We thought that now that our well mannered daughter was a bit older that we would try it. Not taking into consideration that it was 9 p.m. at night, and our toddler is usually curled up in her footie pajamas by this time any other night of the week.

It started off well. She seemed stunningly overwhelmed by the mass majority of her favorite thing in the whole wide world all around her, books!

She was all smiles and all whispers, just like planned!

I picked out my magazines of choice, (Sommerset Studio magazine is featuring a whole issue exclusively to blogging this month!) and introduced my child to the great play area set up in the children’s book section. I plopped down in an oversized chair, keeping one eye on the page and the other eye on my busy toddler.

When what should I hear my Elle-girl start to sing?

“La,la,la” to the tune of the opening theme song to Elmo’s World.

To those of you not in the ‘know’, that’s “ELMO!!!” In Elle-speak.

On the bottom shelf (of course) was a large supply of Sesame St. plush characters, and what should they only have one of?

Elmo.

Immediately, Elle-girl begins to gather her Sesame St. friends in her arms with the urgency of a crazed woman in a 70% off rack!

She turns back to me with the biggest smile that lifted those chubby cheeks straight up under her eyes.

And that was it. For the rest of the time we were there she never let those plush, new found friends go.

Before I proceed let me educate you on what’s about to happen.

Separation from any beloved object is a real fear for toddlers. What they call the ‘Crisis age’ for this to happen is from 12-18 months. Elle-girl is 14months.

OK, now we can move on.

I wanted to prolong this moment as long as possible. But it was getting late, and it was time for us to go home.

First my husband and I did a team huddle on how we would go about removing these stuffed animals from her happy little fingers.

We began delaying the process by showing her a few board books. With each book she would drop one of the stuffed Sesame St. pals,

Great!

As one of us would distract, the other would pick up the forgotten toy and replace it back to the shelf.

We were down to one last Muppet. Elmo. He had to go. This plush toy was 15 dollars and there was no way we were about to add to the already growing impatient little red guy collection!

We tried the book distraction…”La,la,la.” she sang

We tried the ‘Its time for Elmo to go back to Sesame St. distraction… “LA,LA,LA”

We resorted to ‘Elle-girl, its time to let Elmo go’…”LAA,LAAA,LAAAAGGGHH”

That’s what she said as we took from her only what she knew as her Elmo. She didn’t understand that this Elmo stays at the store. She didn’t understand that her Elmo, the real Elmo was safe at home on her bed. She felt in the depths of her heart that we her parents had just taken from her the one thing that she holds to her in her sleep, the one thing she feeds her breakfast cheerios to, the one thing that she loves almost as much as a 2 a.m. nursing with Momma. Wow, did we feel like the biggest Grouches on the planet!

The whole way back to our Red River home she sniffled in the back seat and sang quietly to her self “La,la,la” as she drifted into a somber sleep.

We discussed how badly we felt about doing this. But really what lessons would we be teaching her should we give in and buy this over-priced toy just to save face? What lesson in trust would we have taught her that indeed her real Elmo was at home.

I felt justified by our decision when our sleepy eyed toddler who had fallen asleep missing her Elmo met me at her door this morning with a proud grin on her face holding her Elmo under her arm.

He was safe at home.

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