Jane Bradley: Lost toy? Oh dear, never mind

Is a child losing a favourite toy really national news?
Is a child losing a favourite toy really national news?
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When I was seven, my teddy disappeared. He wasn’t anything special, a smallish, mid-brown, soft bodied, run-of-the-mill sort of bear, but I’d had him since I was born and I loved him.

Teddy’s demise came when we were at a service station somewhere in middle England, on our way to catch a ferry to France. We think he must have slipped out of the car when we opened the back door, never to be seen again.

Losing a loved special toy might upset a child, but not for long, they get over it.

Losing a loved special toy might upset a child, but not for long, they get over it.

That Christmas, I was given a new teddy. He was much grander than the last one: a proper, grown up, mohair-bodied bear probably costing a lot more than my old favourite. I still have him at home, but he never quite captured my heart like Teddy did.

Similarly, my daughter lost her precious Mr Monkey when she was around a year old, having dropped him on to the floor of an Edinburgh restaurant, which unfortunately, closed for major refurbishment the next day, no doubt sweeping poor old Mr Monkey up into a skip along with piles of rubble.

I am telling you all of this because I want you to understand that I am not heartless – that I do empathise with the sadness when a youngster loses a precious toy. For some children, it is undoubtedly distressing.

It is, however, in all honesty, probably more distressing for their parents, who, with a feeling of dread, can see their already precarious bedtime routines lost along with the toy.

In the 1980s, when my teddy made his bid for freedom, my family was sympathetic, but did not treat it like a humanitarian disaster. My parents did not immediately rush out to get me an identical replacement, they did not hold a memorial service for my lost friend. Somehow, I survived.

As a parent myself, I briefly considered trying to replace Mr Monkey, then figured that at the grand old age of one, my daughter probably had the memory span of an average goldfish and would soon form an attachment to another of her dozens of soft toys. I was right.

Yet now, a lost toy regularly becomes national news. Facebook and Twitter are awash with “please share” requests, accompanied by sad emoticon faces, with the tragic tale that some child or other lost its chewed up duck outside Milngavie Tesco or in the freezer aisle at North Berwick Aldi and is desperate to be reunited.

This is bad enough within the confines of “Mummy blogs” and personal Facebook accounts, but it is when this kind of nonsense seeps into real life that it becomes ridiculous.

Earlier this week, the news-consuming public was distracted from stories of freezing refugees and lunatic American presidents with the “heartwarming” tale that a child had been reunited with a toy she had dropped outside the gates of Westminster – following a lengthy and presumably fairly time-consuming crusade by SNP MP Kirsty Blackman.

Ms Blackman, on finding the sad-looking bunny in July, kept it on her desk and launched a social media campaign to find its owner. She tweeted photographs of the bunny as it accompanied her on her Parliamentary business, including at Prime Minister’s Questions, during David Cameron’s statement on the Chilcot Report and enjoying a cup of coffee “in between sittings of the finance bill committee”.

She even drafted an Early Day Motion stating that the House of Commons was “saddened” by its plight – although, thankfully, for the sanctity of democracy in this country, this was never submitted.

Finally, after all other avenues of self promotion had been exhausted, she took to parenting site Mumsnet to highlight its plight, where it was eventually noticed by a Mumsnet user who said she believed it might belong to her daughter.

The pair were reunited six months after the child lost the bunny, with mother-of-two Ms Blackman gushing it was “absolutely amazing” that she had been able to help. The mother of the child who owned the lost bunny, however, has remained pretty much silent on the matter, perhaps demonstrating how non-plussed she is by the whole thing.

This is lunacy. It is a lost toy. Stick a single post on Mumsnet, if you really, really must. But do not, when holding down a responsible job as a politician, waste time and energy on something that everyone except you, and your publicity team, has forgotten about.

Ms Blackman presumably thought that taking on such a quest made her look cutesy, accessible. Not your run of the mill politician. But in an age when politics has gone for most people from a mild irritation to something which affects the fundamental fabric of our lives, this kind of nonsense is – like most of Donald Trump’s actions – simply not appropriate.

This is not, by any means, the first time a lost toy has made the headlines. Two years ago, national newspapers covered the story of 18-month-old Jackie Jacoby-Danesh, whose Christmas was “saved” when a car parking attendant found a toy she had lost a month earlier, while last year, Great Western Railway launched a campaign to find the owners of more than 40 toys in its lost property, reuniting two with their owners, who had in all likelihood, long forgotten about them.

For children, left to their own devices, do forget.

In the Blackman case, if the little girl has managed to go for six months without its favourite toy, it will probably not, in reality, be that thrilled to get it back now. It will, at best, be hugged excitedly for a few minutes and then consigned to the toy box until the youngster’s parents have a clear out in a year’s time.

We are over-infantilising even infants. We are perpetuating the snowflake generation.

Let the snowflakes learn that if a toy gets lost, it is not the end of the world, that life goes on.

And if they are not allowed to learn that lesson as children, adulthood is going to be an unwelcome shock.