When Good Parenting Backfires

I think originally, Ladybird belonged to Sábha, but she's been Lile's for so long now, it's hard to be sure. My mum had bought matching ladybird and bumblebee soft toys to greet my girls when they
got out of hospital and I have a hazy new-mammy blur-of-a-recollection of assigning Ladybird to Sábha and Bumblebee to Lile.

But, over time, as my girls developed the ability to show preferences, Lile claimed Ladybird as her own and the matching Bumblebee was happily accepted by Sábha. Over even more time, Ladybird became Lile's absolute favourite. Among the hundreds of cats that crowded the bottom of her bed Ladybird was given pride of place on her pillow.
For a while Ladybird took a wife, a Mrs. Cat (also around since her birth), and together they had a child called 'Little White Bunny' (who came free with a magazine). This unusual threesome would go everywhere with Lile and we were always on high alert in case any one of them went missing.

Ladybird was always the main concern, however, as she was the most loved. She grew worn and unfluffy and her eyes all but disappeared beneath the matted fluff but those things were inconsequential. Love is blind and velveteen rabbits and all of that.

Twice over the years Ladybird got lost.

The first time, Lile was 3 years old and completely unable to give us any clues as to her whereabouts. We tore the house apart, consoled her at bedtime when she missed her most and after a couple of days of no luck decided the only thing for it was to get online and find her a replacement. That's when we discovered that Ladybird was, of course, a limited edition, quite rare Ladybird and wasn't that easily found.

Eventually, one turned up on ebay and we bought it for a price that was probably eye-watering to people who didn't know her worth to a certain little girl. While we awaited her arrival, we continued to console the child with bedtime stories of magical ladybirds that went on adventures and came back fluffy and shiny and looking quite new. And all the while her Daddy and I patted ourselves on the backs for being good considerate parents. Not only replacing the beloved toy but also subtly preparing her mentally to expect an un-pre-loved, un-matted, bright-eyed version of her darling.

Then, quite suddenly, as if sensing she was about to be usurped, Original Ladybird turned up (she'd been shoved behind the bookcase) and when Replacement Ladybird arrived she barely even made it out of her packaging before being hastily hidden away in a box for future just-in-cases.
All was well for a long time, until last Summer, when Ladybird went missing again.

"Lile's older now," we thought. "She's five. She's probably old enough to 'get over' something. Maybe it's a timely life lesson."

And for a while that seemed to be true. She had an army of favourites at that stage and at first Ladybird's disappearance, though she was sad about it, didn't seem to affect her that much. At least once a month, however, she asked us if we had found Ladybird yet. And we'd say no. And she suggest looking in the attic, or in the car or on the top shelf of the wardrobe. But she was nowhere to be found.

I had bad feeling. I thought that maybe Ladybird had fallen into a bag of clothes that had been sent to the charity shop. She was certainly nowhere in the house and I couldn't think where else she could be. Lile had given up dragging her around everywhere by then so she rarely left the house. That meant if she wasn't in the house she was likely gone.

I didn't tell Lile about my fears and any time she asked I dutifully searched/ re-searched her suggested spots until finally the time came when everywhere had been searched and still nothing had been found.

But by then, after almost a year of patiently waiting for her, suddenly Lile began to miss Ladybird fiercely. She was inconsolable again at bedtimes. When she was tired she'd get emotional and start listing all of the things that made her sad; losing Ladybird, Blackie (the cat) dying, her uncle dying, the fact that people had to die and that things got lost. She was distraught. She was not 'getting over' it. Quite the opposite.

So, 'Operation Replacement Ladybird' was put into action not too long ago. One afternoon, a lovely fluffy Ladybird dropped casually out of a bedsheet that was 'at the bottom of the washbasket for aaaages'

... we held our breath for a  minute while she looked the imposter up and down with a critical eye... but she bought it. She accepted that Ladybird was fluffy because of the wash. She was thrilled to have her back. She swore she'd never let her out of her sight again. There was much rejoicing.

And all was right with the world again. (Except for Sábha demanding her Bumblebee be restored to fluffiness only to be sorely disappointed that our washing machine hadn't quite the same affect on him...)

But mostly, all was right with the world... until this weekend.

I took the girls away for a few days to my parent's little place in the countryside so that Devo could paint their bedroom (more on that soon!)

While preparing the sleeping arrangements, I pulled out a mattress and there, underneath it, was a little, red, squishy thing that, on closer inspection, turned out to be none other than ORIGINAL LADYBIRD! Back from the dead.

If the girls hadn't been in the room when it happened I would have scooped her up and hidden her until I figured out what to do next. But they were and they pounced on her immediately.

When Lile, poor, confused little thing, realised who it was, she started to roar. "Which one is the real Ladybird?", "I don't like this Ladybird?" "Why are there two?" How did the other one come?"
"Why was she in the washing machine?" "What is happeniiiiing?!"

Sábha immediately started to surmise that it must have been fairies that replaced Ladybird because she was sad... but Lile was not buying that explanation at all. She was so upset only the absolute truth would do.

So I told her everything. I told her that I couldn't stand to see her so sad and missing her ladybird, that I had found another one on the internet and that I'd put her in the wash because I really wanted her to believe that it was the real ladybird. (I didn't tell her I'd bought the replacement years earlier. Nor did I try to explain why I had waited so long to give it to her this time. I don't know the answer to that one myself!)

And then she roared again because that was such a "heartbreaking, kind thing to do" which she "very appreciated" and then she cried even more because she realised that poor Ladybird had been under that bed for a "hundreds of million years" and the last time we were here she'd "jumped up and down on that mattress and must have hurt her"...

And on it went.

Wave after wave of trauma etching itself deep into her psyche. Our efforts at good parenting gone horribly wrong. No pats on the back for plans that backfire so dramatically.
At first, I was given charge of Original Ladybird but by bedtime both Ladybirds were brought to bed with her... albeit shown firmly to the bottom of the bed.

By the following night, they had made it to their now-shared place on the pillow.

I don't really know how this will play out.

Which Ladybird will win her heart. Or if it will be both. Or if it will be neither.

All I know is, Sábha is demanding I find a new fluffy Bumblebee on the internet for her... He's also limited edition and quite rare... of course.


  1. Oh this did gave me shivers. So glad you have a spare but shucks for getting caught out. Teddy is still mentioned every other day here, even though Chloe gives her cuddles she doesn't fill.the gap in her heart as much as I anticipated. Stupid teddies. Good luck finding a limited edition bumblebee...

    1. Oh Kellie, I often think of poor Kayla missing her Teddy. You went above and beyond but it's such a pity he was never found. Amazing what an effect these things can have.

  2. Beautiful story. I love the 'heart-breakingly kind thing to do', how sweet.

    1. She's a sensitive soul and finds quite a lot of things 'heartbreaking'. It's one of my favourite phrases of hers. Thanks Naomi xx

  3. I love this story, so so SO so much. And the fact that your twin now has twin teddies - beautiful.


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