November 21, 2010

Doudou Disaster

Last week could have ended up in a disaster.  

On Monday, I took Malo to the doctor to check his then two-week old ear infection. 

The appointment was at 6pm, by which time I am usually still at work.
I had a 5.00pm meeting which started late. It has begun to rain in the afternoon and I was cycling.
When I got to daycare, the Chariot, which we leave outside the building during the day, looked more like a sinking boat than a child carrier, filled as it was with water.
Then, when we arrived in front of the doctor's building, I had to struggle trying to simultaneously hold my son, try to protect him from the rain, lock the bike, close the Chariot's cover, all under the judging eyes of an old lady sheltered under her umbrella and clearly not impressed by my riding my baby around in torrential rain.
In a nutshell, all the conditions were not met to get to the appointment all cool and relax.

Considering things had not gone too smoothly until then, the doctor's appointment went surprisingly well. Not that Malo's ear was getting much better, but at least, he was really well behaved in spite of the late hour. 

45 minutes later, we were all ready to go.

Then the fateful realisation struck: WE-DID-NOT-HAVE-MALO'S-DOUDOU-ANYMORE.

Now, in case you are 1. not French, 2. not a parent yet, 3. lucky parents, like mine were, of a child without a doudou, you'll be forgiven for not knowing what a doudou is, or how important it is. To sum it up, a doudou is quite simply, for many children, most likely the third most important thing on the world after his mum and dad. And sometimes, you would be forgiven for thinking it is the most important thing in his life. He sleeps with it, needs it when he is sad, to day care, to go for a walk, and, in Malo's case, even tries to convince me I should let him take it in the bathtub. 

Malo did not have a doudou until, aged 4 months, he started going to daycare once a week, so that I could  have a bit of free time to (relunctantly) look for a job.  In daycare, the ladies looking after him suggested I gave him something that would remind him of me, ideally that would smell of me. I briefly thought about an old running shoe, realised it was not that practical, so settled on a Provence-style, rawsberry-red cotton scarf, that seemed bright enough for a small baby to be interested in it.

That worked beyond any hopes, Malo was carrying his doudou everywhere, and the only trouble was that, once in a while, I had to find a trick to separate him from his doudou so that I could wash it  dry it with a hairdryer so that it would dry faster, spray a bit of perfume on my neck, the scarf around the neck, and  give it back to Malo before he realised part of him had been stolen.

Now that Malo is in daycare 50 hours a week as a result of me working  full time, the doudou has become more important than ever. He has it to fall asleep, when he's sad, when he's tired. He even crawls around with it, and I strongly suspect the daycare manager seriously considers downsizing the cleaning staff since Malo is mopping the floor with his doudou 10 hours a day.

Now that the context is set, you can easily imagine me, standing in pouring rain with my one year old son under my arm, realising disaster had just struck and the doudou was gone.

After a last look in the surgery, the hall and outside the building, I frantically loaded Malo in the Chariot, sprinted back to daycare thinking that maybe a miracle had happened and I would find the doudou in the hall or where I park the Chariot.  No such luck.

Then Martin rang on my mobile. "I LOST THE DOUDOU", I cried in lieu of hello.

And this there was nothing else to do, I cycled back home, tears running down my cheeks. 

Things carried on going wrong. Malo was tired and crying, and did not understand why we were not giving him the only thing which soothes him straight away. Then it was story time before going to bed. Except Malo's favourite story is that of a little bear who has lost his doudou (a red one too, would you believe the coincidence?). The story ends up with the bear's cat finding the doudou and the little bear being very happy, but since Malo always needs to have his own doudou in his hand when we read the story, doing this tonight was not an option. Hell, even whispering the word "doudou" was not something we envisaged doing that evening.

It is not that we had not thought this may happen one day. We even tried to prepare ourselves, putting aside some scarves which, altough not identical to Malo's, may do the job. As tonight was clearly the night to resort to Plan B, I gave him that other scarf, a brown one, thinking that, with dim light, that may just work. It did not, and although he did end up falling asleep, it took much longer than the (admittedly quite short) 3 minutes it usually takes.

To say I was not productive at work the next day would be an understatement. I was feeling miserable, plus had a lot on my plate.  Like try to reach the other doctor from the surgery since I thought maybe some kid patients of hers may have seen and taken the doudou. Or prepare signs that I wanted to pin on the trees in front of the doctor's office and in the hall, asking anybody would would have information about the doudou to call me (yes, I was that desperate, which is why being ridiculous was not something I cared about anylonger). Gave up my lunchbreak run to instead rush to the doctor's and placard my little signs.  Giving up a run. Now, if you had not realised how bad the situation was, that should give it away, shouldn't it?

Now, if you are not a parent, the chance is you are by now finding the whole story beyong ridiculous, and feel you now need to stop reading and have a good laugh at me. Hell, maybe I would have done just that has I read the story from someone else, pre-Malo.  On second thoughts, I wouldn't, but that only because you're talking to someone who, well into her 30s, cried when she saw a lion driven around in a cage by some circus staff.

Problem is, now, I am a mum, and I tell you there was not much I would not have done that day to make sure I would not see this sad look in my baby's eyes. 

Early afternoon, I could not help calling daycare to check on Malo and how he managed without the doudou. OK, said the lady, but he clearly felt something was off, and he had refused to nap, throwing the erastz of a doudou at the bottom of the bed. Not exactly what I wanted to hear. 

Next step was to try and find a new scarf which looked like the lost one. Not an easy task, since I had been enough of a fool to give my son a scarf from a brand which has known better days and is now only sold in a few shops in Provence, and of a pattern which they have stopped producing years ago. Well done, me.

After a day feeling like the most useless and miserable mum earth has ever produced, I got home, still wondering how to deal with Malo and his loss.

Then I realised I had a message on my mobile phone. I checked the caller: it was the doctor. I checked the message: SHE HAD FOUND THE DOUDOU! We would not be able to get it before the following morning, but now, we knew we would manage another night.

We now have the doudou back. My mum has managed, through a friend who works at the firm producing the scarves, to get the exact same one (that was the last one:  I cannot believe my luck!), so we have a spare one (although I'd better keep it around my neck night and day if I want it to feel the same as the old one - good thing we're getting into Winter).

Malo has also developped a fondness for another scarf of mine, of the same pattern but bright yellow this time, so I have hopes that, if we were to lose both the old and the new red scarves, we may be able to survive with the yellow one.

And now, if the Company producing these scarves does not have anything against child labour, they may  want to consider using Malo as their new top model...  They could pay him in scarves: if he carries on being a scarf addict until he's in his 20s, that may prove a good deal for me.


PiccolaPineCone said...

Oh SO not ridiculous at all. I could have WRITTEN that post except in our case it is a nounou not a doudou - maybe that is a difference between French and Quebecois??
We are fortunate in that the only nounou to which la cocotte has become really attacked is a pacifier a.k.a. the NUK which SHE calls nounou (her only word so far). We are fortunate because we have about 10 of them and they are all acceptable nounous. But god help us if we are ever without a nounou as I was today in a crowded mall caught in the frenzy of the-day-after-the-santa-parade Christmas shopping. Anyway I am so happy that malo has his doudou back. No little cocotte should be without their doudoud or their nounou.
Thanks for sharing!

Angela and David said...

This story is really sweet. He's lucky to have you as a mom. We are lucky in that Zach doesn't have a doudou. He has a blanket he likes to sleep with but he's been without it a few times and all went well.

Mapp said...

@PPC: what's funny is that there is an English mother at daycare who often comes to pick her daughter up at the same time I come to get Malo, and she speaks English with her... except for the word "doudou"! I could not think of a perfect English equivalent. But then, I was not that interested in doudous during the 10 years I spent in London! I am open to suggestions though!

@Angela : I am not so convinced he is lucky to have me as a mum, but I sure am so, SO lucky to have him as my baby boy!

topo said...

Hilarious Map! I can totally picture you printing up neon signs with LOST: DOUDOU on them, and half of Annency looking for a red cat! :) Oh... and now I'm thinking about investing in multiples of my bandanas as well, with the feeling that this day is not so far away for me.