Most children, at some point, become attached to some kind of a lovey. These special, chosen objects serve as emotional shields as toddlers take those first few steps towards independence. When you have a baby, everyone tries to provide that one lovey that’s going to cinch the deal – the softest blankets and biggest-eyed-stuffies on the shelves. I still remember a decomposing blanket I dragged around until my grandmother could no longer take the sight (and possibly smell) and disappeared it. I think MILK had an Incredible Hulk toy she’d throw at children who angered her. My kid, in contrast, hauls around a dead rat.
Well, it’s not actually a dead rat. I mean that would be impractical; we would constantly have to replace the rat with an identical, fresher dead rat while he slept. Like the old goldfish switcharoo every parent has in their back pocket. I imagine you only get a day (maybe two in the winter) before your dead rat gets a little gamey.
My kid’s plush rat was an impulse buy at Ikea to keep his screaming from competing with the screaming in my head. As far as I know it is the only durable thing that we have ever purchased there. He calls it “Mr. Mouse,” and there are actually several of them laying about but they are all named Mr. Mouse (kind of like all the cats named Mimi) but they do not look like mice. From any distance, the thing looks like a dead rat. Especially because my son carries Mr. Mouse around by the tip of his tail in the exact fashion of someone carrying a dead rat to a garbage can.
I wondered for a while why he became attached to such a fairly unpleasant toy. But he’s a weird kid and who am I to judge. Then on a Friday when I wasn’t working, I drove him to his preschool. On Fridays they can bring a toy to share. Resting peacefully in his lap was Mr Mouse. As we walked into the school he was greeted by his teacher.
“Oh god, Wyatt brought his dead rat again?” She sighed.
On cue a bunch of little girls shrieked and ran in circles. Wyatt ran after them swinging his rat by the tail and laughing maniacally.
It all makes sense now.