DADDY BEAR

DADDY BEAR

From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

Daddy Bear

Just the other morning I caught myself looking at my children for the pure pleasure of it.

Phyllis Theroux

“Madison, you need to go back to bed now,” I said when she walked into the living room ten minutes after I had kissed her good night.

“But I miss Daddy.” Her heart was in her three-year-old eyes.

“Honey, I know you do. He misses you, too.”

When my husband joined the Washington State National Guard after college, I never thought that he would actually go to war. I envisioned that he would serve one weekend a month or a couple of weeks out of the summer for a forest fire or other natural disaster.

It simply never occurred to me that I would someday have a yellow “Keep Daddy Safe” magnet on the back of my van, or that he would be a daily target for rocket and mortar attacks.

“But I need my daddy. Iraq is far away.” Madison’s sweet voice brought a lump to my throat.

“I know.” I paused. “How about tomorrow we shop for a special toy that you can hold every time you miss Daddy?”

“A princess toy?”

“We’ll see. Now go back to bed, please.”

As she trudged off, my heart sank. I knew that she missed her dad very much; we all did. And Madison and Peyton were too young to understand how much their daddy missed them. How difficult it was for him to learn of their milestones and activities through e-mails and broken phone conversations, rather than witnessing them firsthand.

The following day, I took Madison and Peyton to the mall to find that special toy they could hug each time they wanted their dad. Our expedition led us to the Hallmark store where we found a stuffed teddy bear wearing an army uniform. It was soft enough to sleep with, sturdy enough to play with and cuddly enough to squeeze when we were really sad.

“Peyton, what are you going to name your bear?” I asked.

“Buzz Lightyear,” he answered.

“That sounds good, Peyton.”

“Daddy’s helping people,” Madison piped up.

“That’s right. Do you know where Daddy is, Peyton?”

“In Seattle,” he answered innocently.

“What is he doing in Seattle?”

“He’s working out.”

I laughed, wishing my husband was doing something that simple. And safe.

“Daddy’s not in Seattle, Peyton. He’s in Iraq.” Madison clutched her teddy bear to her chest.

“What are you going to name your bear, Madison?” I asked.

“Daddy Bear.” She gave her bear a kiss.

“Daddy Bear,” I repeated softly. “That’s really nice.”

From that moment on, Daddy Bear went everywhere with us. He attended my brother’s wedding in Montana, went on a camping trip and joined us on a vacation to Colorado Springs. He slept with Madison, waited in the van while she attended preschool, cheered during her soccer practices, sat quietly in the pew at church, and celebrated birthdays and holidays with us.

Daddy Bear liked to play with princess toys. He was an exceptional student while Madison played school. He was an able block-tower builder. Most importantly, Daddy Bear provided love and comfort to a young girl who didn’t understand how much she was sacrificing so that her dad could help people she didn’t know and would never meet.

“Madison and Peyton, guess who is coming home tomorrow?” I said.

“Daddy!”

“My daddy’s a hero,” Madison assured Daddy Bear.

“Like Buzz Lightyear?” Peyton asked.

“Yes, a hero just like Buzz Lightyear,” I answered, smiling.

It would be a while before Madison and Peyton would go to their dad with a scraped knee. It would also take time for him to discipline them again.

A lot had happened during the year he was in Iraq. He had experienced a war and would never quite be the same as he was before. We had experienced life without him and would never be the same as we were before. We would try to pick up from where we left off and rejoice in the fact that we were together again, and that he had come home safely.

As I walked through the living room one night, I noticed that Daddy Bear was sitting alone on the couch. I picked him up and headed toward Madison’s room. I saw my husband sitting on the bed, with Madison on his left and Peyton on his right. They pointed to the pictures of the book he was reading and laughed. He smiled and kissed each of them on their foreheads.

I turned and walked back into the living room.

“Thanks, Daddy Bear,” I said, hugging him before placing him on the couch and walking back into the bedroom to join my family.

Melissa Blanco

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