When my daughter Caroline was about 2 or so, she decided overnight that she had a new favorite lovey. One would expect from a prissy little thing like Caroline that she would form an attachment to a baby doll or one of her princesses, but this was no ordinary affection.
Caroline fell in love with Red Ball. At this point you are likely giving my daughter the benefit of the doubt. You may be imagining a squishy soft red ball with a cute face, but alas, you are wrong. The #1 object of her affection for was a hard, hollow cheapy ball that came from a random kid game.
Red Ball, as it was ever so imaginatively named, became a fixture in Caroline’s tightly gripped hands. Red Ball travelled up and down the east coast, prominently displayed in family photos. She would shove this not-so-extraordinary wad of plastic into the surprised faces of family, friends and strangers, awaiting a glowing compliment regarding its beauty, and would keep it there until the praise was satisfactory enough by her high standards.
My mom and dad whispered to my husband and me the fears that were in everyone’s mind:
How long can their beloved toddler granddaughter keep up with this blasted toy?
The answer? Much, much longer than you would expect.
Red Ball survived through a plunge off a boat dock into layers upon layers of rocks at a friend’s lake house. (You know, the kind of rocks that basically keep a person’s yard from falling into a lake.) My hubby and his best pal left an inconsolable little girl and spent the better part of an hour scanning through these rocks in upper 90 degree heat last summer – to no avail.
But this was a job that only a Determined Mama could do. After about 10 minutes of desperate searching, the angels sang and a ray of light appeared from heaven right onto Red Ball. I shoved my skinny arm about a foot between these rocks and retrieved one bloodied arm and the god forsaken ball.
After I saved the day and delivered Red Ball back to the loving arms of its mother, I admonished her for ignoring my request to leave the ball safely at home and swore to NEVER search for Red Ball in that way (a dirty lie, but she didn’t know that).
Red Ball cheated death that day, but then mysteriously vanished a couple of months later, never to be seen again.
That was November of last year and a nostalgic Caroline STILL talks mournfully about Red Ball’s disappearance.
OK, let’s address the Elephant in the Room. In some cases, strange attachments such as this one are a hallmark of autism. Believe me, this crossed my mind more than a few times. In the case of Caroline, this diagnosis does not apply.
And then there’s my son, Will. A dear family friend bestowed upon him a couple of days ago a fun little toy with a face and crazy hair that operates like a top with a ripcord. Will took to this toy immediately and dubbed him “Crack.” He carries Crack around like it’s his baby (“Crack Baby?”), cooing at it, brushing its hair and cuddling with it in bed.
So what is up with this?
Professor Bruce Hood of the University of Bristol performed a study on these sorts of attachments. He gathered together a group of 22 youngsters aged 3 to 6 who each brought an “attachment object.” https://www.theguardian.com/science/2007/mar/09/psychology.uknews
Professor Hood showed the children his “copying machine,” which allegedly churns out an exact duplicate of any item that is placed inside it. He goes on to demonstrate how his magic machine works and attempted to gain the trust of these typically gullible tykes by using some blocks and hocus-pocus. Prof. Hood tells the little ones a whopper. If they put their own lovies in his machine, it will duplicate them. Then they can choose between the original lovey and the “new one” (actually, the same).
Within this group of kids, 4 of them stubbornly refused to release their special item to the well-meaning charlatan. Of the remaining 18 children who handed over their lovies, 13 of them insisted on taking home their original toy.
Professor Hood’s conclusion?
Children largely believe that in addition to the physical attributes of their lovies, there is an “essence” to them which cannot be duplicated. He states, “We anthropomorphize objects, look at them almost as if they have feelings. The children know these objects are not alive but they believe in them as if they are.”
Even though I may never fully relate to the depth of affection my children have for Dearly Departed Red Ball and Crack Baby, I will remember Professor Hood’s explanation of these bizarre attachments and treat them with reverence.
What kinds of peculiar items have your children fallen in love with? Or did you yourself have an odd attachment?