The following was originally published in “The Good Life Men’s Magazine”
Every kid has their favorite toy. Be it a blankie, a binkie, a stuffed animal or, in my case, your right thumb, these favorite items get imprinted early in life and often grow into an extra appendage that dangles squarely out the front of said kid’s mouth. That’s where you’d find my thumb most hours of the day, and where you’ll find Macklin’s go-to stink bomb of a favorite, as well.
Before Mack was born, his mama and I (ok, mostly mama) researched, hunted and shopped for different options we thought he might like. In hindsight, it was a total guessing game, and we were probably a bit arrogant in thinking we could predict what this tiny stranger would eventually latch onto. But we were first time parents, so of course we thought we knew everything!
Would it be the small, stuffed moose or the plush teddy bear that he would choose to snuggle all night? Perhaps the soft, heirloom blanket we got at a shower? Or that other blanket? Or this other one? Or maybe that one? We got a lot of blankets. Apparently people were worried that even after welcoming a baby into our home I’d still be too cheap to turn up the heat. They weren’t entirely wrong.
But it didn’t take long before Mack asserted his proclivity for the finer things in life by claiming a Pottery Barn Bear Thumbie gifted by his God Mother as his transition object — something kids bring everywhere that provides comfort and stability, much like grown-ups clutching our smartphones wherever we go. Brown Bear is there any time of day for Macklin, even when mom and dad aren’t. Even when we are, that smelly, well-worn square of brown fleece with a head no longer even resembling that of a bear isn’t far out of reach.
Macklin can fall asleep in any new place as long as he’s got Brown Bear (aka Brownie, Brown B, Brommer, Browns or Mr. Browns) there to chew on. Brownie has logged some serious road trip miles with us, including a few frequent flyer miles. Despite multiple flights, Mack has only cried on an airplane once, and it lasted for less than 30 seconds over some dropped goldfish crackers, because Brown Bear was there to soak up his tears… and drool.
After taking an extended gap-year with me to find ourselves (turns out we were just over at the nearby park), he transitioned with minimal fuss to daycare because Brown Bear accompanied him to his new class. New babysitter? No big deal. He’s got Brown Bear. Vaccinations? Flu shots? Dentist visits? The end of Game of Thrones? Mr. Browns is always there to soothe.
In fact, Brommer is so good at soothing, he’s been forced to multiply. Early on, we made the choice to wean Mack off his pacifier. It worked great. He got over the nuk in less than a week. Why? Because the soft head of Mr. Browns was right there, ready to take up the cause. So we now own multiple Brown Bears purely for the sake of frequent washings. I asked him about it recently, trying to understand how we could possibly help break this habit. Mack’s response: “Brown Bear likes it. It tickles him and he laughs.” Well than, as long as it’s good for Brown Bear… and certainly good for Mack’s future orthodontist.
I don’t feel any competition for Mack’s affection towards Brown Bear. With each bump, scrape or perceived injustice, Macklin will still cry for mom or dad (whichever of us is not currently available, of course). He will be quickly scooped into a hug and this is where he will ask for Brown Bear, our closer. Mom and dad provide the initial comfort and safety, and Brown Bear is the icing on the cake to finish the job. And sometimes a cartoon band aid, preferably PJ Masks if you have them.
Macklin turns four this summer, which feels impossible, as I still vividly remember bringing his pudgy infant self home from the hospital not too long ago. At this rate, I’m already mentally planning to sneak a Brown Bear into his luggage when he leaves for college, tech school or whatever path lies ahead in the future. Maybe another gap year… this time without dear ol’ dad. Regardless, I’m glad we have extras, because I’m going to need one, too, when the time comes.