He looks so innocent, doesn’t he? So sweet and cuddly. But this little guy was yesterday at the centre of the biggest inter-sibling conflict our household has ever experienced.
I should begin by saying that both children have been slightly out of sorts recently. They had a busy week last week, which left them overtired, snuffly and with night-time coughs that have been disturbing their sleep and making them fractious and sensitive. But nonetheless, yesterday’s events took me entirely by surprise.
It started harmlessly enough. The Baby has a lovely soft teddy that Father Christmas brought her, and as she was giving Bear-Bear some customary full-body cuddles, The Boy remembered that he too had a similar bear lurking somewhere, and off he went to try to find it. His first port of call was the cupboard in his sister’s room, where we keep a bag full of cuddlies that are not sufficiently loved or played-with to justify taking up bed-space.
The teddy wasn’t in there, and the soft toys were unceremoniously left lying on the floor while The Boy continued his bear hunt. And then The Baby found them. ‘Hop-hop!’ she cried, picking up the neglected white flopsy bunny in delight. ‘Ahhhh, Hop-hop!’
Now, this bunny has never been a favourite. He was given to The Boy when he was born by someone I’d never even met (a freelance writer who I’d commissioned a few times), and, lovely though he is, The Boy had never latched onto him. He’s mysteriously grubby, but I’ve no idea why, as I have no recollection of him ever being played with, cuddled or taken to bed. So, given The Boy’s long-term neglect of the bunny, I was perfectly happy for The Baby to snuggle it and drag it round by the ears – to adopt it, in fact.
Bedtime arrived, and, freshly bathed and pyjama’d, The Baby suddenly announced, ‘Hop-hop. Get Hop-hop.’ So I did, and put it in her cot for overnight.
Then The Boy appeared. ’Why’s she got my rabbit?’ he asked suspiciously.
‘Because she loves it, darling,’ I replied. ‘You never play with it, anyway. You didn’t even know it existed until you found it this morning.’
I should have stopped there. I could have just asked The Boy if The Baby could borrow Hop-hop, for one night only, but I didn’t. Silly me. ‘Do you know what, you’d be the best big brother ever if you gave her that rabbit,’ I ventured. And that’s when meltdown occurred.
Now, The Boy is not a drip. He’s sensitive and gentle, yes, but he’s not prone to tears. But his face fell and his eyes welled up. ‘But he’s one of my SPECIALS,’ he wailed, and the tears overflowed. Argh!
I spent the next half-hour trying to reason with him. ‘It’s not one of your specials. It’s just been sitting in a cupboard. Look how much your sister loves it: she’s even given it a name! Big brothers always give their little sisters the things they’ve got too old for, it’s the way the world works. If you let her have it, I’ll get you a new cuddly.’
He wouldn’t budge, and I got cross. Okay, I could see his point (sort of); the bunny is technically his. But he’s never given the thing a second look. He simply didn’t want his sister to have something that was rightfully his. And that stubborn selfishness made my blood boil.
So I gave up. ‘Fine,’ I said, snatching the bunny away from the bewildered Baby. ‘Have it. We’ll go and buy your sister a new, even nicer Hop-hop tomorrow.’
The result was predictable. ‘Actually, she can have it,’ The Boy said, hastily wiping his tear-streaked face. But this time it was my turn to dig my heels in. No way was he going to do a U-turn after all that upset, just so he could get a nice new toy. After all, his bunny was special, right? I flung it onto his bed, kissed him goodnight and shut the door.
So, this morning, off we went to the garden centre (unlikely home of some very lovely soft toys), and I instantly spotted Hop-hop Mark II, softer than soft with grey fur and long, silky ears. The Boy’s face was a picture. This rabbit was so much nicer than his. Clean, new and entirely cuddlesome. But to give him credit, although he tested the water (‘Are you really not going to buy me anything?’), The Boy was stoical in the face of his disappointment, and he agreed that when we got home, he and The Baby could put on a rabbit show together.
So, the crisis has passed for now. The Baby has a new Hop-hop, and I give it oooh, about three days before The Boy’s supposedly special bunny slides down behind his bed and is once again forgotten about. But I have a nasty feeling that the ‘What’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is mine too’ stage is only just beginning…