The Velveteen Rabbit was a Christmas gift. It was not like many of the other toys, it did not have wind-up parts nor did it dance or scoot quickly across a linoleum floor. It did not have long, flowing hair for little girls to comb and to fuss over. It did not send little boys’ minds into daydreams of air battle or someday driving fast cars. The Velveteen Rabbit was a soft material shell stuffed with straw. It was even made without hind legs so that it may sit upright among the other toys awaiting their turns for the affection of the child, either upon the floor or strewn together with the others upon the twin bed.
The stuffed pony was its only friend and they would lie awake at night and talk while the child lay fast asleep. During these talks, it was revealed to the rabbit that if the child loved it long enough, it too could become real. The pony knew this, and the rabbit believed it because the pony’s mane and its spots had already been loved off by the affections of the child.
One night the mother hurriedly put the child to bed and could not find the child’s usual sleeping companion, and, in a rush, substituted the Velveteen Rabbit in its stead. Soon the rabbit became the child’s new night time companion. But it was not as wonderful as the rabbit had imagined. Though loved, the rabbit endured any number of minor discomforts and mild humiliations. It was squished during the night as it was laid upon, it sometimes struggled for air underneath the pillows and it began to show the wear and tear of the burdens of love and being loved in return. But this rabbit was a fortunate rabbit because unlike so many of the other Velveteen Rabbits it was loved long enough to become real.
So many children, like Velveteen Rabbits, are brought into the world without a chance to be loved long enough to turn into what they were intended. It is not their fault. And while we adults neither deserve good nor bad things but the things that resulted from our own choices, it is the little ones, in their innocence, who deserve a chance. A chance to be cared for and loved long enough to become someone in turn who can care and provide for another.
I am not so sure that there ever was much of it, but there seems to be so little parenting going on these days. While I do not have a Doctorate to back me up, I do have the distinction of having raised two fine boys. I therefor do now declare myself to be an expert in such matters. First, when they are little, when they fall they will look at you to judge your reaction to determine how much attention they might require. When this happens keep a straight face. If the are truly hurt they will let you know. Second, let them spend as much time as possible with their cousins and grandparents (I say grandparents for selfish reasons of my own). Thirdly, encourage more than discipline, find the things that they have a knack for (grandparents are especially good for this). As they get older fitting in will become a top priority to them. Play along a little but make sure they know it’s OK to be different. Grades and character are always top priority. As a parent, especially a young parent, you will mess up. Always apologize.
Keep them busy. Paper routes, sports or just a reoccuring list of chores are good. Video games are evil time wasters. Get to know their friends and always have a good idea of where they are. Do not only say that you love them but make them feel loved every day.
As they get older, do not think that it is the school’s or church’s responsibility to educate them about drugs or birth control. Have frank, difficult ongoing discussions, with personal examples, regularly. Do not treat them like you best friend, what they need from you is something entirely different.
Well, I could go on, but that is about all I’ve got. Someday I wish that we all can exit this world like that Velveteen Rabbit, you know the one, the one that had its hide all wooled and loved off.
JOHN CLARKE is a freelance writer living in Boyd County.