My youngest son is obsessed with Woody the Cowboy from the Toy Story series. Of course, he came to the series late—after the release of Toy Story 3. He wasn’t interested in any of the other stories for quite some time. He simply enjoyed the adventures of those loveable toys as they strive to return to their beloved Andy. Eventually, he decided that he would watch the old videos we had of the other parts of the series. He was hooked. I found an old Woody that his older brother used to play with and B. was delighted. Woody was real for him. He didn’t care that Woody was a bit worn—to B., he was perfect. He became the friend we wish all our kids had.
Woody has been around forever—at least it seems that way for me. My husband and I went to see the first movie when we were newly engaged. So, yes, it seems like forever. That was over 15 years and another lifetime ago. I still remember going to see the movie and loving the underlying message of “You’ve got a friend in me.” What’s ironic is that all Woody wanted was the life he remembered before the newest arrival. How many of us think back and wistfully recall days gone-by before the arrival of “the label” changed our worlds?
Yet, like the relationship between Woody and Buzz, we learn to embrace the change. I wouldn’t say there is exactly a “friendship” with the Big A…but there is an acceptance. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t easy and there is always something to overcome, endure or address. You learn to live with the new addition. You learn new buzz words (pardon the pun). You learn to accept that you are just a person—unlike Woody and Buzz you are real and your pain is too.
But I digress, back to B. and his ol’ pal Woody. Just like Andy, my guy takes Woody just about everywhere now. He sleeps with him, takes him in the car, plays with him outside, sits with him on the couch, and even takes him to the doctor. I made the mistake of letting him take Woody to church one time—Woody needs to worship from home from now on. He talks to Woody and Woody listens. Woody has been great speech therapy. Woody doesn’t have to worry about the laundry or making dinner for everyone. Woody doesn’t struggle to make out his words or mind that he repeats a phrase over and over and over again. Woody didn’t mind when B. painted him with sidewalk chalk paint or being dunked in the sink. Woody even goes to bed with B., getting tucked in to keep him company. Woody will be the solace when Mommy dares to go away for a couple of days beginning tomorrow. I will be with other parents of children and young adults with special needs who understand the planning and how having a pal makes it easier for the ones back home.
I am working on a Woody costume for B. for Halloween. It has conjured up so many memories since I did the same for his older brother years ago. It’s a pretty good costume as far as sensory needs go too—a soft sweatshirt dyed yellow that I will mark with a permanent marker to get the red pattern with 2 faux buttons glued on and a pair of jeans he already has broken in. I opted for some comfy brown boots instead of cowboy ones. (I really didn’t need to deal with the clomping around either.) The bandana may be tricky and I have the old cow print vest I made his brother somewhere down the basement. However, that hunt will be worth it to see it on him. I took the easy way out and bought the hat, holster and that online. Still, it will be better than the store bought version and warm enough to keep him warm through the chilly night. His treat bag is even emblazoned with characters from the movie. We’ll hit a few houses, practice repeating “trick-or-treat” and swap out the less-desirable treats for mini-Hershey bars at home. Woody will probably come with us on the adventure I’m sure.
So, thanks Woody for being such a pal to both of my children through the years, but especially to B. He needs a friend and you are that for him. No, it isn’t perfect and I really wish you were real. However, I recognize that an imaginary friend is better than no friend at all. And, it is a developmental milestone of sorts that he has achieved. B. actually tries to “play” with you Woody, which is a triumph too. And just like your song says, my son really does have a friend in you. It’s a step.
And even if B. does leave you behind one day Woody, you will be one of those bittersweet memories I will cling to through the years. Who knew a cartoon cowboy could be a hero to me as well.
“Other folks might be a little bit smarter thank I am, bigger and stronger too…Maybe, but none of them will ever love you the way I do. It’s me and you, boy. And as the years go by, our friendship will never die. You’re gonna see it’s our destiny. Boy you’ve got a friend in me. Yes, you’ve got a friend in me!”
Don’t know the song? Don’t have someone playing it constantly in your house? Here: