Lessons from One-Armed Baby

A lot of Moms I know have nice houses. Fancy houses. The kind where you walk into a foyer and it smells like pot-pourri and there’s this glass-fronted cabinet with all the wedding crystal and silver-framed photos of honeymoons and children, and even though you know for a fact that they have all these kids (because you’re there to pick up or drop off one or more of your own), there’s no evidence of them anywhere as far as you can see.

My house is not like that.

When you walk through my front door, you’ll probably be knocked back by the sports-smell of the half-dozen pairs of cleats stored within an arm’s reach due to lack of closet space, and, because we have no mud room, as many of my peers do, and, because of the aforementioned lack of closet space, you’ll probably trip over a backpack or two. After you regain your footing and rub your bruised elbows from the fall you took when tripping, you’ll catch a glimpse of our living room, with books strewn over every possible surface and drawings and projects too (because we have no library or craft room, either). You’ll see a small house where six people live, four of them children who, despite all our best efforts, haven’t yet mastered the idea of putting stuff away. Frankly, neither have some of the adults.

If you walk into the kitchen, about the size of a shoebox, complete with about 10 inches of usable counter space for food preparation and a dishwasher that can’t open more than 3/4 of the way because it butts into a floorboard radiator, you might see this:

This is One-Armed Baby. OAB was, I think, originally Mitzi’s doll, received as a gift probably 7 years ago. OAB’s the kind of doll that eats and poops. You know the kind? You feed it some reconstituted powder pack of fake baby food, fit her tush over a plastic potty, push down on her shoulders until all the crap comes out. Child claps! Amazing! Then Mom is left to — I kid you not — clean out the inside by repeatedly swishing it with soapy water and then letting it dry to ensure no bacteria will grow. You’re supposed to do that every time you feed the doll.

We fed her once.

Ever since that singular poopy day, OAB joined the troupe of 67 other baby dolls that inhabit our house, spending her time being dressed up and pushed around in rickety toy strollers and dragged endlessly over the hardwood floors (hence, her current One Arm status). But never has she been fed. I saw to that.

Until the other day when Ellie and Joanna figured out what she was capable of. They loaded her up with water and made her use the potty. Again and again. And again. When they grew bored, they left her on their bedroom floor, where I found her some days later. I picked her up and saw the puddle that remained where her vajajay had been sitting. I shook her. Filled up with water. To her boobies.

So I put her by the kitchen sink, hoping she’d drain. Every once in a while I squash her shoulders or pull her head up and shake her upside down, trying to get the water out.

It’s been two weeks.

If you’ve ever had a bath toy, you know what must be growing inside her right now. I fear that OAB is destined for the dump, but, having seen all three Toy Story movies, not to mention Child’s Play, I am reluctant to toss her aside.

But throw her away I will, I’m sure, and I’ve warned the girls.

Till then, OAB keeps me company while I was dishes, her one arm raised in a silent plea — Look at me! Play with me! FEED ME! I hate her and she scares me a little, but I’ve sort of become used to her presence.

It’s hard to let go, even when it’s the smallest piece of your world, even when you know you should, even when you know it’s right.

Even when it’s just a plastic one-armed baby, even when you know it’s time, it’s hard to let go.

116 thoughts on “Lessons from One-Armed Baby

  1. Back in my youth, I remember a doll (my sisters, not mine) that was unfavoured and had spent a large chunk of time abandoned in the corner of a room. If it had the ability to defecate then I’m sure it would have had more use, although in this case it would have been by me and not my sister. I’m sharing this because this doll similarly ended up having missing limbs. However this was due to a rather unappreciated prank a few years later when I was about 10. I thought it would be funny to throw the doll out a front window, directly behind my fathers car as he was reversing out. He was NOT happy.

    • Nor was the doll, I suppose! You know, dolls that are missing limbs and eyes and hair and whatnot are really just the best-loved toys in the box, right? Though, I guess tossing a doll under the grinding wheels of a car might not be the smartest thing to do, though it is very much what kids do. I wonder if OAB will suffer the same fate?

  2. My daughter begged for a doll just like that when she was 3 and against my better judgement I bought it for her. After I read the instructions and we fed the doll exactly once my daughter luckily decided that she didn’t care much for the doll and we passed it along to another little girl a few years later. I think our doll cried and moved her mouth too. It was incredibly creepy. You’ll be happy once it’s gone. I promise.

      • I know, right. There are entirely too many “toys are real” stories out there. It’s not comforting. Not comforting at all.
        Best of luck with OAB. I think, tho, pretty soon she’s going to start to smell a bit like the sports shoes by the front door and that’ll make it easier.

  3. I laughed out loud reading about OAB…I have a 7 year old boy and 3 year old daughter, and I can only imagine what they would do if they discovered that some dolls can perform such functions…I also can relate to the stacks of books everywhere, piles of paper in the other everywheres…we have stairs right near where we come into the house, and just yesterday I said something to my son about not using the stairs as his personal bookcase, and until everything is ferried up to his room, at least leaving a “passing lane” so his little sister can make it up the stairs safely! We definitely LIVE in all rooms of the house, though I wouldn’t mind having a bit more scents of popourri here and there! I look forward to checking out more of your posts…keep writing!

    • Wow, your stairs sound like mine! What is it about kids that gives them the ability to walk with wonderful disregard around all their stuff? It’s an amazing gift!

      • My son even loves to read draped across the stairs, or kneeling on them. I am in awe that no one has fallen yet! I told him the other day that instead of a bigger desk for his room, we can just get him a few carpeted stairs. :)

  4. Thanks, it seems I needed something to smile about tonight. When so much of parenting can seem permanent, difficult and significant, I’m reminded a lot of it is fleeting, silly and humorous too. :)

    • Sometimes I have to remind myself to step back and just laugh at the absurdity of it all, but when I do, it’s oh, so worth it!

  5. As a child I never had dolls that actually peed or pooped, though I do recall that my mother had to drill holes in a few since I took them in the tub with me. There was probably some pretty nasty stuff in those dollies. I bet they were moldy inside and I got too close and inhaled, and that is what destroyed my brain and brought it to be present day “Swiss Cheese Brains”.

    Yeah, no peeing or pooping dolls for my 4 year old daughter, I’m not going there. Great post!

  6. Poignant and precise! I admit to tearing up at the story of “big baby” in Toy Story 3 though if anyone who personally knows me brings this up in my presence I will vehemently deny it even if you get on the internet and pull up this reply. As a mother of two girls I also suffer from overabundantbabydollsyndrome and being a secret sentamentalist I have in fact added one or two from my childhood that I could never bring myself to part with… I dread the day that I have to make those tough calls, what to keep, what to save… oddly enough one thing I did not save from my youth was the oversized creepy stuffed clown doll that my Dad got me one year (my sister let hers go as well)… too reminiscent of Poltergeist for us I think… your writing is charming and this post made me smile … thanks.

    • OMG, Poltergeist completely ruined clowns for me. (Actually, clowns ruined clowns for me — I mean, really. There is truthfully nothing more frightening.)

      • Oh, i so no the feeling… My daughter did a whole funeral thing for goldfish. I kid you not. She has names for all of them. She included them (the fish) on the her family tree the other day! Have a great weekend, and watch that OAB with a hawk’s eye.

  7. When I was little I took a doll to the beach with me and she literally spent the better part of six months partially filled with salt water. She wasn’t a potty baby, either, so my mom had to squeeze her hard and hope that the water would leak out from her joints. It was an awful time.

    And I totally empathize with your Toy Story feels. I love the movies but I have not been able to toss out anything with a face since.

  8. Thanks for the laughs. My solution was a big plastic tub (or black bag) with all “unwanted toys” packed inside. Left long enough in the garage, they easily get mixed into other giveaways or garbage. Poof, they’re gone. (And you never hear their little screams.) Congrats on FP and keep up the very funny side of life you write about here.

    • True! After not having one for many years, I should just be happy about it instead of whining every time I can’t pull out that bottom drawer. I mean, at least I don’t have to hand wash everything!

  9. Awww change is difficult but also a very necessary part of life. When I was younger my mom would never have let me have a “baby doll” because according to her “baby doll makes little girl want to have baby” lol! I don’t think that’s very true but then of course she never had to deal with one armed dolls full of who knows what. :P Good luck on letting go of the doll! :)

  10. My daughter has overtaken our house with cheap plastic trash. We had The Great Purge Of 2012, which led to an insane number of toys and clothing being boxed and taken to the Goodwill. It helped some but the junk is creeping back in.

  11. When cleaning the playroom the other day, I discovered that my 8-year old son had decapitated all of his star wars action figures. I thought Darth Vadar couldn’t get any creepier…. until I saw the headless version. Made me wonder what heinous crime they had all committed to warrant getting the guillotine treatment from my son. Also made me wonder just how much therapy he was going to need when he got older….

  12. First little girl: Wassup, girl?! Check out my new Betsie Wetsie doll; it’s vintage.
    Second little girl: Betsie Wetsie? Psssh, whatevs – my doll craps all over your doll.

    Kids are so much more sophisticated than in my day…

    Incidentally, OAB bears a passing resemblance to one of the Olsen twins. You should sign her up to one of those celebrity lookalike agencies.

  13. My house, too, looks “lived in,” as I think a house should. A second lesson we should learn from OAB is toys and houses are made to be loved and used…and sometimes that means a missing arm or smelly foyer, but hey, OAB is trying to tell you it could be worse. When you look at her aren’t you thankful for your arms and bladder control? I would have a hard time letting her go too!

  14. Haha wonderful post! I have seven kids in my family and things get interesting when it comes to family! I really enjoyed this, congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Send my prayer to the one-armed baby doll ;)

  15. Oh, what a relief! I always feel bad, when we have a visitor, and the first thing she/he is going to notice, is the penetrating smell of pee, thanks to a not-yet-potty-trained puppy. And the kitchen is a mess. And the living room too…
    Thank you for OAB story, it made me laugh :)

  16. Wonderful piece, really made me smile. Reminded me of Ugly Baby who belonges to one of my best friends. She’s all grown up now but Ugly Baby still lives at her Mum’s house. I don’t think they’ll ever get rid of her but if they do she may have to come home with me!

  17. Its times like this I’m happy to have a boy lol nothing against girls of course but dolls freak me out when fully clothed and in tact let alone hanging around the place naked and dismembered. *shudder* I too feel sorry for my sons toys and often find myself automatically apologising to them if ever i throw them a little too enthusiastically back into the toybox. That doll would be the exception though, i may even have to pull the other parts off and dispose of them separately to ensure no revenge is possible ha ha

  18. Your house sounds exactly like mine!!! Even though I would love to have the picture perfect place that all the other moms do and magazines boast about I know that I never will, and I am fine with that, I would rather let my little ones remember playing and having fun than scrubbing and sitting still…

  19. Congrats on being freshly pressed! Thank you for the laughs and sharing your day to day oddities! I had a “life like” baby once as a child, I would diligently fill up its bottle every night and set it in my toy kitchen. I think I even remember melting some chocolate in its diaper….for the full effect. Wow.

    I too, admire my peers fancy houses from a distance- however I can say that we are thankful for our 800 square feet home for our family of five. My boys occupy every inch, just the way I like it!

  20. I’m surprised my Chatty Cathy Doll made it through my childhood. It might’ve been me, but I blame my brother for trying to give her a pixie haircut. At least all her extremities are still in place. She lost her underwear sometime before I turned 7 yrs old. Poor girl. She’s around here somewhere.

  21. “One Armed Baby”… am I the only one who thinks she could become a very idiosyncratic fictional character of some sort? “The Adventures Of One Armed Baby” (!) Ignore me, I just got very amused by your brilliantly entertaining post. :)

  22. I still sometimes dream of the perfect, showcase home however…. I’ve just spent the last couple of hours painting. Not house painting….art painting. If my house was precious, I wouldn’t be able to express myself but I might be able to invite people over. Be sociable. Enjoyed your post.
    We aren’t good at giving things away. We have council cleanup here where you can put things out beside the road and the council takes them away. As the truck pulled up, my 6 year old daughter cried and I retrieved the too small trike. Then she lifts the lid on the garden seat and retrieves a box of Beadoes I’d stuck out there. She’s sneaky but smart.

  23. Pingback: Lessons from One-Armed Baby « DORABELLA

  24. What an awesome story. I love it! I love that your house isn’t the wedding china in the glass cabinet house. Love it. I love the fact that you also have this one-armed baby hanging out in the kitchen keeping you company while you wash the dishes. Too funny. Could be great character for a short story or a series of them :)

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