My two-year-old son abuses his best friend. He regularly throws him down the stairs and bites him without remorse.
Bubba’s best friend is a terry cloth bear with a high pain tolerance. He named his six-inch companion “Buey,” most likely because it was easier to pronounce than “Bear.” If Buey could file a restraining order, it would surely be granted.
The relationship isn’t entirely rooted in domestic violence. Bubba falls asleep stroking the matted fur on Buey’s head. He brings his battered buddy everywhere. And when Buey goes missing, Bubba is brought to tears.
Little boys have a special connection to their teddy bears, blankets or bunnies that peaks at age two and a half, according to Dr. Michael Thompson, a psychologist and a leading expert on boy’s development.
His latest book, “It’s a Boy! Understanding Your Son’s Development from Birth to Age 18,” takes a few pages to explore the connection between boys and their comfort toys. It’s a relationship that in some ways is like choosing a spouse.
Grandma or mom might buy a dozen cuddly animals hoping for a love connection. Ultimately, the child chooses the comfort toy that’s right for him. Maybe it’s the spooky-looking monkey he finds buried in the toy box or the old blanket that hangs from the arm of the sofa. Regardless, once a boy falls in love, the bond is sealed, Thompson said.
“This is a child’s first loved person outside of his family,” Thompson said in an interview last week.
Girls can have similar relationships with dolls, bears and blankets, but Thompson’s book focuses on boys. He contends a boy’s connection to a comfort toy is so intense that the cuddly creature becomes a living being in the eyes of the child.
Parents can frustrate a child. Sometimes we don’t pay attention. But a bear is always there, ready to hug or have his arms ripped from the sockets. Because the child is in complete control of the relationship with his bear, he feels a bit of control over the world around him, Thompson explains in his book.
Aggressive displays with stuffed toys are healthy ways for boys to release anger. The two-year-old who spanks his teddy bear isn’t necessarily going to beat his children nor is the boy who bites his blanket going to end up a cannibal, Thompson said.
“We always hurt the ones we love,” Thompson joked.
In fact, boys lash out on their bears knowing that similar acts could hurt their parents physically and emotionally. A child’s greatest fear at this age is that he will anger his parents, and they will abandon him. But a bear isn’t going to walk away, even if he’s thrown headfirst into an oscillating fan.
The connection to a comfort toy usually fades around the age of six or eight, though many boys keep them around forever.
So while Bubba’s gently-used toys will eventually be sold in a garage sale, the battered Buey will always have a place on the shelf, knowing that he once held an even more important place in a little boy’s heart.
Image by freeparking
Howard Ludwig is a former business writer who traded his reporter’s notebook for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.