Friday, 1 February 2013

R.I.P. Ralph the Jerk

Ralph the Jerk was my very first toy, given to me by my parents when I was first born.  Family legend says it was named after my father's thesis advisor ... although I've heard other stories suggesting a landlord.

Ralph was a mouse ... I think.  He was about a foot tall, with long skinny humanoid legs and arms.  He had a big round head with a round nose/mouth combination and round floppy ears.  His legs were made of thin, faded red and white checkered cloth and he appeared to be wearing overalls.

I've kept him through the years.  He was supplanted by other favourite toys as I grew up but I always kept him.  (Mainly because I have read too many stories along the lines of The Velveteen Rabbit or Toy Story about sentient toys that come to life and thus have incredible guilt about disposing of anything I've loved and played with.)

A few years ago, Alex found Ralph and took an immediate liking to him.  Ralph became one of his favourite bedtime companions.  I was nervous at first but compassion won over trepidation.  If Ralph could get a second chance at childhood love, who was I to stand in his way?

Alex has always had trouble controlling his destructive impulses.  He likes to watch little bits of things falling in front of his eyes.  (Snowy days are very popular at our house.)  He can go a long time without apparently feeling the impulse but when he does, nothing is safe.  It's not malicious.  I truly believe he doesn't understand what he's doing.  All he knows is that he has an uncontrollable urge and it needs to be fulfilled.

Unfortunately, Ralph was the available item this time.  We came in and discovered his worn out cloth and ancient stuffing were spread all over Alex's room.

This is one of those testing moments as a parent and sadly, it's one I'm used to.  It's why Alex is fairly closely supervised most of the time.  Or at least, one of the reasons.  It's hard to swallow your own emotions to give your child what he or she needs.  Having watched a couple of divorces play out, I think this is what's behind parents bad-mouthing the ex-spouse.  The parent needs an emotional release and the kids end up taking the pain.

In the end, we simply tidied up Alex's room, took away the other stuffed toys, and put him back to bed.  I think we were successful in being matter-of-fact about the whole situation.  Alex knows we're not happy when he does this but that's not enough to halt the impulse.  Yelling and screaming at him would only hurt, not help.

The next morning, Alex went to find all the other stuffed toys and then asked for Ralph.  I tried to explain to him that Ralph was broken and gone.  He asked "Mommy fix?" and I had to tell him I couldn't fix Ralph.  He left, but I'm betting I hear more requests about it.

If Ralph did have a personality, I hope it's gone to a good place.  The place where all loved toy spirits go to be played with by children who have passed.  (It's my concept of Toy Heaven.)

Enjoy your rest, Ralph.  You earned it.

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