Losing your monkey

When my daughter Rachel was a year old, she received a stuffed animal as a Christmas present – one of those long-legged monkeys with Velcro on the hands and feet. She had plenty of other stuffed animals, but for whatever reason she latched onto that monkey from the moment she got it.

“Monkey” became her constant companion. When we went to the doctor to get shots, it was Monkey she clung to for comfort. She dragged him everywhere – literally and figuratively. As you might imagine, Monkey got a tad gamey after awhile. I was afraid to wash him for fear he would lose his fluffiness, but after she got sick, I really didn’t have a choice. The thing was a furry petri dish of potential infection.

After the initial washing, Monkey made a trip to the washing machine on a weekly basis. My daughter was unfazed. It seemed the more matted his coat became, the more she loved him. Linus had his blue blanket. My daughter had Monkey.

Until that horrible January day a few years ago. Rachel was 3 years old. We were up at the church building putting away Christmas decorations and costumes from a Christmas program. After a few hours up at the church with nothing much to keep her entertained, Rachel became cranky and was in need of a nap. I excused myself from the rest of the work crew, drove home and prepared to put her down for a nap.

Exhausted, she lay down and through heavy lids said the word that caused a sinking feeling in my stomach:


I tried to mentally backtrack all the place we had been in the church building. Several boxes had been packed away and stored in the attic. I immediately called the church office. Everyone there was quite aware of Rachel’s attachment to Monkey. No one had seen him.

Back up to church. Several searches through countless boxes in the attic and in every room and storage closet in the building and still no sign of Monkey.

I promised my daughter that I would look again the following day. She didn’t want to go to sleep without him, but she was somewhat comforted by the hope that he would be back the following day.

When the second search produced the same results as the first, I began to panic. I’m ashamed to say that I went so far as to buy a new monkey at Rainforst Cafe in the hopes of passing it off as the original. In an attempt to age the monkey in record time, I covered it in Vaseline, rolled it in the dirt and washed it. I repeated this process four times. (Pathetic much? Yes. Yes I am.) When presented with the monkey, as I expected Rachel said, “That’s not my monkey. It’s too fluffy.”

I hung my head and accepted defeat. I told her Monkey was gone and he most likely would not be found. She cried. I cried. We mourned the passing of Monkey. The first night without him was a long one.

But guess what? The day she lost that monkey was the day she stopped sucking her fingers and the day she began to realize that she could comfort herself.

And I realized the things we sometimes desperately cling to for comfort and security only represent the strength that was within us all along.

So how about it? Are you ready to lose your monkey?

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22 Responses to “Losing your monkey”

  1. ♥ Kathy January 14, 2010 at 2:13 am #

    >My daughter had a black stuffed cat she named "kitty". Same story, she carried it everywhere. Then one day it was just gone. We back-tracked all our steps and finally came to a store that the lady said she thought she saw something in the parking lot after we left but it was gone now. Christina cried for DAYS over her kitty. We tried to replace her but it just wasn't the same. I like the way you made this into a "what about your monkey" subject…sadly, my monkey is still hanging onto me…tightly.

  2. Bridget Chumbley January 14, 2010 at 2:14 am #

    >I think every parent has attempted something like this in an effort to cause less pain for our children.

    It is funny how 'things' bring such comfort and security.

    Yes, I'm avoiding the question. Good post!

  3. Janet Oberholtzer January 14, 2010 at 7:57 am #

    >Good post – tough question!

    My answer is … Yes! Well, maybe – actually which monkey are you talking about?

  4. Candace Jean July 16 January 14, 2010 at 8:22 am #

    >What an adorable picture. You know what else is sad? A twenty-something who never experienced loss or grief as a child, and thus knows not how to cope in a healthy way. As hard as it is to watch as a parent, it's so important that kids at some point begin "losing their monkeys." It's only then that they find the strength & courage inside, and grow up learning that loss doesn't have to always mean carrying a monkey on their back for the rest of their life.

  5. Sarah Salter January 14, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    >I didn't just have ONE. I had a whole menagerie of little loved creatures that I would drag all over the place. And each night before I went to sleep, I would line them up across my bed–in their correct order–and snuggle down in the middle of them. A few got lost in time and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but then a new beloved creature would come along…

    I'm still like that, by the way. Only now, I surround myself with beloved people. And I keep them in my heart instead of in my bed. 🙂

  6. Corinne January 14, 2010 at 9:31 am #

    >Great post.. I have quite a few monkey's I haven't been willing to part with.
    And my son is a blue blankie toting three year old. I'm convinced he'll take the darn thing to college with him.

  7. HisFireFly January 14, 2010 at 9:58 am #

    >This is wonderful!

    I'm sure I have too many monkeys to count, and I keep trying to release them all.

    Thanks for this reminder.

  8. Robin Arnold January 14, 2010 at 10:04 am #

    >I wallowing in a bucket full and just beginning to admit I might stink of monkeys. Yup, I need to get on with it.

    My daughter had a sock bunny that I made so when her "Bunny" went missing, I just made another. Three years later, in a move, packing a large lidded pot, I found her original bunny inside. Two things, I should clean more and look inside pots, and, she knew where it was all along, "it's a secret," she said. She was faking the drama of missing the bunny.

  9. Maureen January 14, 2010 at 11:07 am #

    >We could riff on the "monkey on my back" question all day.

    Thanks for a good read.

  10. Ginny (MAD21) January 14, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    >What a great post! Funny how we all have a story of a beloved animal. Mine was actually a Cookie Monster that was left in a hotel room when I was 8.

    My youngest has her 'Teddy.' Teddy has a charm on her with her name and our phone number. Just in case.

    I love your remark though, about how the experience showed her she could comfort herself. That the strength was there the whole time.

    It's hard to remember that sometimes.

  11. Marni January 14, 2010 at 11:50 am #

    >Lindsay had "Ellie". A smallish stuffed pink elephant. He's in my cedar chest now. Peyton has "Heart Lankie". He's smallish quilt that goes everywhere (but school) with her. She even took him into surgery with her a few years ago 😉

    We lost Ellie once. I cried as hard as Lindsay did. Thankfully he was found, but in the time it took, I watched her grow up. It was interesting to see her find a way to cope without him. As for Peyton…that baby learned grief and loss waaaay to young in life, but again, she learned some amazing coping skills. Her maturity about loss staggers me sometimes.

    Thanks for this post. And Rachel was a doll in that picture. As my sweet Nanny used to say, "I could just eat her up!". Those of you reading this, we're Southern, not cannibals. Don't panic.

    love ya girl!


  12. Lyla Lindquist January 14, 2010 at 1:41 pm #

    >I love my monkey(s) and hold them tight. Time to let go, eh?

    Wonderful post.

    (For my son, it was Pooh. We had a spare in the closet and we rotated them so they would stink equally. True Pooh and Pseudo Pooh. Both eventually wandered never to be found.)

  13. Jewda January 14, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    >That's a great thought.

    By the way, Jakob has a giraffe that he's latched onto, but he's only 4 months old, so I think I'll let him be a baby for a bit longer.

  14. katdish January 14, 2010 at 2:32 pm #

    >Wow, Jeff. I can't believe he's 4 months old already!

  15. jasonS January 14, 2010 at 2:43 pm #

    >Great post and I think "Lose the monkey" should be your new catchphrase. If "git-r-done" can become wildly popular, I say "why not!" 🙂

  16. Bridget Chumbley January 14, 2010 at 2:46 pm #

    >Okay after reading all of the comments, I find it really funny that so many kids call their 'monkeys' the same thing.

    My son had a little blue 'creature' he named "Blue Guy" and my daughter had a Cat named "Kitty" and a hippo named, "Hippo Bippo"…

    It looks like mine aren't the only ones… LOL

  17. katdish January 14, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    >Well, as long as we're talking about stuffed animals, a few years ago I went to the Exponential Conference in Orlando. My kids stayed home with my mom. On the last day, we all went to Disney World. My daughter was very disappointed that she would not be going. I asked her what she wanted from Disney. She said she wanted a hard panda. So I'm thinking, "What the heck is a hard panda?" Apparently, in the realm of stuffed animals, the ones that are on the furry side do not qualify. And yes, I was able to find a hard panda in Chinatown. And yes, I know. That's what she said…

  18. BunBun January 14, 2010 at 3:36 pm #

    >I hope you are ONLY advocating the elimination of monkeys in one's life, and not bunnies. I have grown quite fond of Helen. I just love the way her mouth hangs open while she sleeps, and then it starts to thunder from her nose.
    You wouldn't want me to miss all this bliss, would you?

  19. Shark Bait January 14, 2010 at 4:00 pm #

    >I would just like to interrupt at this point to say that stuffed animals are people too.

  20. BeckeyZ January 14, 2010 at 4:35 pm #

    >You inspired me!!! I linked back over to your post today.

    Thanks – oh, and btw…I had a yellow blanket with a satin trim. I would wrap part of the trim around my fingers on my left hand and smell it while I sucked my right thumb (or so I'm told, I don't recall any of this strange behavior)…my mom finally cut a corner of the blanket off and tossed it when I wasn't looking one day. I still have that corner, somewhere.

  21. ~*Michelle*~ January 14, 2010 at 4:47 pm #

    >I am white knuckling, probably suffocating, one particular monkey right now…

    …and although I know that little by little, our patient Father is prying my fingers slowly and loosening my grip. I know He knows that I don't need this monkey…but He loves me enough to let me get this last bit of comfort right now.

  22. vanityofvanities January 14, 2010 at 11:05 pm #

    >Linus had a blankie, and I had a Linus! A tiny, baby Linus with his eyes closed and his thumb in his mouth. Got him when I was one, as well, and he never left my side. (Except when my mom had to wash him. He was a mess.)

    As for my current monkey/Linus, NO. I'm still as stubborn as ever. (But, you knew that already.)

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