My son is 17 now. He’s enjoyed many toys through his childhood. He’s raced toy cars, built Lego buildings and rolled through the mud with his GI Joe whenever possible.
Yet there was a time when one of his favorite toys was a doll that he adopted from his big sister. He named the doll Sara, and she helped him through a very difficult time.
Sara entered my son’s life shortly after his first neurosurgery when he was just three years old. We were at the hospital at least four times a week. I hated this time of life. Yet this is when my little boy taught me how to face pain with patience.
He took Sara everywhere. He bundled Sara up when it was cold outside, carefully navigated her stroller up and down escalators and tucked her into a doll-size canopy bed at night.
He loved saving the day for Sara. Time and time again, he chased after her stroller to rescue her from impending doom. (Let's just ignore the fact that he was the one who pushed the stroller and caused the impending doom! She needed a hero to save her and he was going to do whatever it took to make that happen. Literally.)
When his own needs were so great, my son somehow knew caring for someone else would lessen his fear.
Maybe he observed parents caring for their young children? Maybe he wanted to imitate the love he witnessed? Maybe somehow it helped him feel less afraid when he could take care of something smaller, even more vulnerable?
All I really know is that dolls, stuffed animals and everything huggable makes us feel a lot more love.