Friday, July 9, 2010

What's Wrong with Having a MooMoo?

"Lucas, it's time to get in your PJ's," I yell from upstairs.
"MooMoo says five more minutes," he yells back.
"Tell MooMoo it's time now!"

How to describe MooMoo? In actuality, he's a stuffed animal, a cow received at my baby shower that I introduced to my infant son because it was black and white (the colours that babies can see). It was love at first sight and the two have rarely been parted. Three years later, MooMoo is greying and falling to pieces, but he has evolved into more than a physical comfort toy. He has become Lucas' alter-ego.

"Guess what, Lucas?" I say, excitedly. "You're going to the water park today!"
"MooMoo doesn't like the water park," he says matter-of-factly, and we both know MooMoo is not going to the water park, but there's no use arguing.
"Why not?"
"Because he doesn't want to get wet."
"Well, I bet MooMoo could just run around the water park instead of getting wet if he wanted," I suggest.
"Yeah, that's a good idea!" he says, willing to head off on his field trip now.

We have to stop ourselves from rolling our eyes or cracking up at MooMoo's opinions on everything. When sharing this with another mom, she asked me seriously, "What are you going to do about this?" My answer, "uh, nothing?" I mean, what's wrong with having a MooMoo? It never even occured to us to nip it in the bud, nor do I even believe it would be possible. MooMoo is as real to Lucas as we are.

I get it because I always had imaginary friends. There was Sam when I was five, Marty when I was nine, and Brian when I was twelve. Sam and I drove my older brother crazy because we spoke our own language, which mimicked our neighbour's Eastern European tongue, but my parents never fussed about him. And yes, thirty years later, I still think of him as a separate entity. Looking back, each of those friends came at times of transition: starting Kindergarten, moving to a new city and school in Grade 5, and then living with my aunt while my parents worked abroad in Grade 7. My imaginary friends were my stability in an otherwise uncertain time, when I was alone and everything was beyond my control.

My imaginary friends didn't talk back to my parents the way MooMoo sometimes does. But at age three, Lucas grapples with much more than I had to at that age. Just facing daycare each day, he has to respond to various authority figures, negotiate social situations and develop independence much earlier than many children. With busy parents, he doesn't always know who's going to be caring for him at which time, where dinner's going to be, or what he's allowed to do. I think we do a good job of creating a stable home for him, following his routine despite our busy lives, and making him the centre of our family when we are together. But for a kid who does not love transition or change, an imaginary cow-friend goes along way.

I picture MooMoo as this middle-age bachelor who is adventurous, independent, and irreverant, due to the images Lucas gives us of MooMoo's life: "MooMoo is driving a red pickup truck. Today he went to the store and buy'd some Budweiser and put it in the trunk with his spare tire." Or: "MooMoo lives in a house with two dogs and some cats and no Mommy or Daddy."

Lucas entertains his classmates, teachers and the family with the latest on MooMoo. From their point of view, it's harmless and funny. But from what I know as a writer, it's more than that. Whenever I write a character, there's a part of that character that is me. So, as Lucas creates MooMoo, I think he puts pieces of himself into this character. I think MooMoo's adventurous spirit is something that Lucas wants to have, but may be afraid of. MooMoo's comedic irreverence is everything my son wants to say but knows he'll get in trouble for. And the fact that MooMoo asserts the independence constantly is a little boy's way of staying true to himself.

So, every night as I put Lucas to bed in our lenthy drawn our routine that he has crafted and trained me in, I never forget to kiss and hug MooMoo goodnight. As I do, I whisper him a thank you for being there for Lucas in a way no one else can. 

2 comments:

Paula said...

Great blog, Liesl! My 11 year old still has a stuffed dolphin (along with a blue blanket and a pink blanket ahem...). Dolphin is pure security object now, and increasingly takes a dive under car seats and couch cushions if anyone is around (especially a boy/peer). He is the latest in a succession of gray, furry things (there was Spike the rhino, an elephant or two along the way, and probably a few more I have forgotten). My 14 year old daughter has had "pinky" the bear since toddlerhood - Pinky rarely sees the light of day anymore, and is on his 7th or so skin (my mom sews him new ones). I say these "friends" will find their place and doing something as parents to force them to find that place prematurely does everyone a disservice.

Moo.

Kathy said...

I wish I had a MooMoo when I was a child. I clung to a blanket for a long time but never had an imaginary friend to help me through. I think it's great that you're letting him be. The magic ends soon enough, I love that you're letting him hold onto MooMoo for as long as he needs to. My six year old has just outgrown his Bear and it makes me sad. I want the innocence and magic of childhood to last forever for both my kids.

Awesome post...

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