Nuk And The Toxic Mold Bear

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Parenting is never an easy task. Many years ago, my neighbor mentioned an adage that has stuck with me: “Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems.” Parenting is the most thankless job on the planet, but sometimes, we surprise ourselves with things that we do in the moment to keep our children from losing their minds. Parenting may be thankless, but it is also rewarding and fulfilling.

Rachel Brathman’s four-year-old daughter nearly lost her best friend Bear to toxic mold
(Photo courtesy of the Yoga Girl Podcast)

This column was borne because of something that was written by a yogi that I follow. Rachel Brathen, famously known as Yoga Girl, recently shared with her public the experience she and her family had with toxic mold in their home in Aruba. Everything they owned had to be scrapped, including clothing, furniture and well-loved items that they had gained throughout the years. The home is presently in the process of remediation, with Rachel’s husband as overseer of the process. Rachel took their 4-year old daughter to her homeland of Sweden to decompress from the overwhelming sadness they experienced as a unit.

One of the casualties of the remediation was Rachel’s daughter Lea’s beloved Bear. Bear went everywhere with Lea, was dressed in bright pop-bead jewelry, and was worn in all the right places from a lifetime of being well-loved. Bear was covered in the same toxic mold that made the family ill very often. When Rachel found out that Bear was in a bad place and would likely end up in the rubbish pile, she scoured the Internet to find an exact duplicate for Lea. Rachel told Lea that Bear was “going on a very long vacation to see the world.” This broke Lea’s heart, but she carried on like a trooper until several weeks later, when she had a complete meltdown in Sweden. Rachel, beside herself with grief and regret, offered Lea the new Bear, but Lea wanted no part of the substitute.
It was then that a miracle occurred because parental love is the strongest emotion on the planet.

Followers of Rachel’s Instagram account began to create and share “postcards from Bear.” There were hundreds, thousands of these “postcards” that were shared to Rachel’s private messages. Bear had “visited” Dubai, the UK, Canada, California and even our very own Long Beach. These kind individuals photoshopped Bear into their personal pictures and added personal messages like, “I’m having a great time, Lea, and I hope to see you soon. Xo Bear.” Rachel was overwhelmed with emotion from this tremendous show of affection for her daughter and the plight of Lea’s beloved Bear.

I offered Rachel a bit of my own experience, while I downloaded a picture of Bear to create a “postcard” from Long Island’s beautiful trails. Lea is presently learning about hiking with Mama Rachel, so it would be a more than appropriate “postcard.”
Years ago, when our daughter was younger, we offered her a pacifier nicknamed “Nuk” to soothe her while she slept. “Nuk” became our daughter’s best friend until about the age of four, when her baby teeth showed unusual wear from its constant presence in her mouth. After speaking with several “Mom friends” at Friendship Connection in Plainview, I realized the monumental task at hand. I was not going to put a hole in Nuk, nor was I going to cut it in half. I had told our daughter that “Nuk” was going on vacation and the Hicksville sanitation workers were going to save me a trip to the airport.

I was not prepared for what happened next.
Our daughter stood in the middle of the front lawn, while I offered a small white box to one of the sanitation workers. I asked him to please take “Nuk” to the airport for us, because he was going on a trip. My heart broke for the sanitation worker who took the box, because he looked confused and upset and angry at once. I was especially heartbroken as my daughter howled her grief and cried her eyes out forlornly. I felt like the world’s worst mom. I even had Nuk send a few letters to our daughter, though they were few and far between as the idea was for her to forget her dependence on the pacifier.

I can understand exactly how Rachel felt about the Bear incident.
Many years later, when our daughter was about seven, I found an identical white box in a junk drawer. Inside, I found “Nuk,” who had been resting comfortably on a soft bed of cotton. I showed him to our daughter, who stroked it lovingly and told me that it was okay to put him away for good. Honestly, I thought he was in the box that I gave to the sanitation worker.

There is a happy ending for Lea and Bear, too. Rachel’s husband called from Aruba to let her know that he had gotten an idea from the remediation crew to save the original Bear. The stuffing was removed, and Bear’s skins will be cleansed in a special solution to rid him of any traces of mold. He will then be restuffed and when Rachel’s husband Dennis arrives in Sweden in a few weeks, he will bring Lea’s beloved toy back.
Parenting, as I previously mentioned, is tough. But sometimes, we find creative ways to make a rainy day a little brighter, even when all seems lost. That makes us all superheroes, especially in the eyes of our children.

Patty Servidio is an Anton Media Group columnist.

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