Where is your Phillips head screwdriver? You’re gonna need it.
In a tragic turn of events, my 3-year-old son Max has lost his most prized red remote-control monster truck. The truck body is intact, but I am sad to report that the remote control will not operate, and as such, the truck will no longer function as anything other than a giant, plastic Hot Wheel.
Things are not going well here.
There are few things in life more jarring to a toddler than the loss of a beloved toy. And there are few things in life more jarring to a parent than having to cope with the COMPLETE FRICKING HYSTERIA that results after the loss of said beloved toy.
It’s important, as we navigate the emotional waters of loss, that we understand the stages of toddler grief so that we might better support them in their journey to healing and the resumption of post-monster truck toy engagement. And also to get them to STOP CRYING, OH MY GOD. PLEASE. STOP. CRYING.
Denial: The monster truck is not broken. This is all a cruel joke; a betrayal.
There may be some tears in this stage, but true hysteria has not yet set in. There may be varying attempts to fix the monster truck by the toddler and then further requesting assistance from an available, or, let’s be real, unavailable nearby adult. If you thought you were drinking your coffee in peace, FORGET IT. Where is your Phillips head screwdriver? You’re gonna need it.
The monster truck is life, and without it there is no life, and you would rather end your life than have it shoved in your face ONE MORE TIME. You may attempt to fix said truck. But be warned, if you fail, and you probably will, you have only prolonged the suffering of both the truck and yourself.
Anger: Depending on the emotional sophistication of the toddler in question, this stage can present itself as crying, screaming, complete lack of function, or the expressing of emotion through sobs and a river of watery snot. Usually that last one. It’s important that we temper our reactions in this stage. Sadly, screaming, “OH MY GOD SHUT UP IT’S JUST A TRUCK FOR CRAP SAKE” will not actually help us reach a resolution.
Bargaining: NEVER GIVE UP. Never say die. The toddler may express a desire to surrender another toy to spare the monster truck. For example: MOMMY HERE I don’t want this Hot Wheel anymore. TAKE IT. I just want my monster truck. Please make it work, Mommy. MAKE IT WORK RIGHT NOW.
You are not going to be able to make it work. This is your destiny.
Depression: This stage is second in difficulty only to the passion and complete and utter nonsense of the anger stage. There is rarely a sight so distressing as the sadly weeping toddler. Once the screaming has subsided and we are left to reconcile the truth — the monster truck is gone — with our wishes — the monster truck will be redeemed through a series of screwdrivers and battery replacements — the real crying begins.
Efforts towards consolation may be received, but, it is not unusual for the toddler, when presented with reality of the end of the Monster Truck Toy Dynasty, to revert to COMPLETE LUNATIC. If this happens, it’s best to step back and offer support from across the room (and out of the line of fire of any nearby, throwable toys).
Acceptance: If left to process, the toddler will eventually forget that the monster truck even exists and ask for crackers. At this time, carefully remove the monster truck and place it in an opaque container (black trash bag, preferably) and throw it in the dumpster. At night. You can’t be seen doing this. And forget about upcycling. You will only fail and the process will repeat.
And back to your coffee.
Sorry it’s cold.