Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Boy's Best Friend

When my younger son was about three, he developed a strong attachment to a particular stuffed animal, a Labrador retriever named Jenny after my sister's dog (also a lab named Jenny). He took this toy everywhere and most of the photos of this period include me holding Jen while he climbs on the jungle gym or races his older brother or plays ball or whatever. Not only was Jen his constant companion (and an essential night-time friend -- I can't count the number of hasty evening visits to friend's houses and such to retrieve her so that he could happily go to bed), but she was, in a sense, his alter ego. He often expressed his feelings via comments about the dog ("Jenny is sad we can't go to the park today") and if she was tired or hungry, I always knew that he was, too.

His preschool teachers were well aware of Jenny's importance in my son's life, since they saw her whenever they saw him, and knew how essential her presence was to nap time. They also knew that comments about Jen were often a reflection of his feelings. And while they knew that there was a real dog named Jenny, they, of course, couldn't always make the distinction between stories about the real dog and the toy dog, because they never saw the flesh-and-blood Jenny. So when my son related a story one day about how Jenny ate her own poop (truly disgusting, but not at all uncommon among labs), they were, needless to say, rather alarmed. Potty-training was a recent memory and they knew the process hadn't been especially easy for my son. When I picked him up from school that day, it was clear that they were concerned. It took a while for them to find the courage to tell me what was on their minds, but once they did, I howled with laughter -- and they did, too, once I explained the situation.

No comments: