We recently took a toy Elmo out of storage for the boys. I don’t remember which Elmo it is — one that tells jokes, and sings and dances (and never shuts up). It was one of the “hottest” toys for Christmas a few years ago and Zach insisted on getting it for Mia who, at two years old, had very little interest in it. But at 5 years old, things have changed. Mia and Elmo are suddenly BFFs. Make that were. Mia and Elmo were BFFs for a few days until I dampened her imagination and crushed her spirit. *Go me!*
Short story short: The boys had ear infections last week. Wyatt had a double ear infection and was visibly in more pain, but so as not to be upstaged by his brother, Luke went on a vomiting rampage. They refused to eat and didn’t want to be held or rocked or carried. They cried constantly, day and night, and fun was had by all. The end.
So I took the singing/dancing/joking Elmo down from a high shelf in their closet in a last ditch effort to distract them and hopefully get them to stop crying for a few peaceful minutes. Mia immediately took to Elmo like he was her long lost lovey. She carried him everywhere with her for a couple days. Her love for Elmo started innocently enough, but soon she was conversing with him as though he were the real Elmo (and yes, I realize there is no “real” Elmo, per se).
“Mommy,” she said one evening as the boys were screaming and the house was a disaster and everything smelled like vomit and medicine. “Elmo isn’t answering me.” And then, “Elll-mooo? Ell-mooo? Why aren’t you talking to me?” she whined.
I thought about telling her to push his foot or his stomach or his head (all of which prompt Elmo to do something), but then I dismissed it. She knows how he works. Or does she? I mean, she’s five. Surely she knows the difference between a toy and something that is real.
“Mommmmy.” Again with the whining.
And for whatever reason, that was the moment that the stress of of the week got to me. That was the moment I chose to unleash.
“You know Elmo’s not real, right?” I hissed, mean.
“Yes,” she nodded.
It was a sad “yes”. More of a question than a definitive answer. She stared at me for a minute then as I went about doing whatever it was I was doing at the time. When I glanced at her, I saw the face of a child who’s just realized Santa Claus isn’t real.
She went back to playing with Elmo but with less enthusiasm than before. Now he lays untouched on the floor of our sunroom, where she left him that night.
As I wrote this I had an epiphany. I get it now. All of it – the obsession with Elmo, the whining, asking me why he wasn’t talking to her — It was all a bid to get my attention. Because my attention had been elsewhere for days.
Mother of the year, people. Mother. of. the. year.