William’s Doll

Baby Jason was Brylan’s baby to help him practice being a good daddy.

Brylan was always this gentle with Baby Jason. (We had a shower but no tub. Yay for the really deep sink!)

Brylan was four when he started kindergarten. He could already read and write (he had addressed the invitations to his fourth birthday party — not that I was proud of that or anything). His teacher, Mrs. Reels, was maybe 33, soft-spoken, kind, and pretty. Or maybe she was pretty because she was soft-spoken and kind. She loved the kids and offered them chances to Show and Tell about anything they chose.

Brylan chose Baby Jason for Show and Tell.

My son and I are alike in many ways, but our differences are as far apart and unlike as the North and South Poles. Or the center of the Milky Way and the Outer Spiral Arm Earth spins in.

For starters, I worked my way up from the crippling shyness that laid me low on Christmas Eve when I was 2-1/2, to the highly functioning introvert I am today, and he has always been an extrovert’s extrovert. This means his happy, people-loving self was thinking how great it was gonna be to be the center of attention, telling everybody all about Baby Jason. At the same time, my cautious, I’d-rather-be-hiding-in-a-Tibetan-cave-reading-James-Joyce-by-candlelight-than-singing-karaoke-drunk-at-a-friend’s-birthday-celebration brain only saw a dozen ways sharing Baby Jason at Show and Tell could end in life-changing humiliation.

So I said:

“That’s a great idea, honey! How about if you also read them William’s Doll?” Me, Mom the Disaster Deflector

Another chance to perform? He was all over that! (Do I know my kid or what?)

This book anointed my son with the Cool Factor usually denied boys who share their baby dolls at Show and Tell.

William’s Doll, by Charlotte Zolotow, is the story of a little boy who willingly tries every “boy’s” activity his father suggests in an attempt to divert him from his longing for a baby doll to love, and the wise grandmother who sees and loves William’s heart and knows how to help him.

Mrs. Reels had her own wisdom. Not only did she let Brylan read the story, but she prefaced his sharing by asking how many of his classmates had dolls — including “action figures” like GI Joe or He Man, Master of the Universe.

Every child in the room raised a hand.

Have you ever felt you had to save your child from a pit of quicksand only you could see? Did you consider letting them sink or survive on their own? Even for a moment?

Author: Sue Ranscht

I am a writer. Let me tell you a story...

15 thoughts on “William’s Doll”

  1. Unfortunately we made the decision to let our 14-year-old son go waterskiing with some other folks at church on a day we couldn’t go along. He could swim. He deserved a day off from helping at home. We had a horrible feeling about letting him go that day, but we couldn’t find a rational explainable reason to keep him home. Things did not go as planned, and he was not able to come home. We never saw him alive again. No one told us there would be a jet ski there, and they would let him ride it without our permission. He knew we would not have given that permission, but the other adults didn’t. He probably thought we’d never find out. His life jacket couldn’t save him from being caught in the propeller of a boat when they collided. Sometimes letting a child make a decision about whether to sink or swim on his own is not a good idea. Sometimes he sinks for good.

    Of course, Brylan wasn’t facing a possible physical life and death situation. We didn’t really think Jason was, either. Sometimes it’s really hard for a parent to know when to intervene when it will seem completely unreasonable and unfair to a child. Jason was a good kid, normally obedient. He just couldn’t resist the temptation to take the ride that ended his life. Just six weeks before he had told my husband how much he wanted to ride a jet ski while they were watching one in the water. My husband explained exactly why it would be dangerous for him. He would have no peripheral vision because of the wind. He would not be able to hear an approaching boat. If he collided the propeller would cut him in the water. As it turns out, that is exactly what happened. Riding a jet ski was his last dream to come true and it started our nightmare.

    In Brylan’s case, you made the right decision and it ended better than you’d hoped. The thing is, a parent never knows for sure what the result of a decision will be. We always have to go with what seems best at the moment. We want to protect, but not to smoother.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My heart aches over your loss. There can be no way to reconcile all the moments that led to that tragedy without trying to imagine how it might not have happened “if only”. You’re right, I hadn’t considered life-threatening choices when I asked the question. I think if I had, I wouldn’t have asked it without qualification. I apologize for my insensitivity. I am sure that if you could have known with the power of a prophet the certainty of what that day held, you would have kept Jason with you even without a rational excuse.

      I think that’s one of the hardest things about being a parent — we can’t know what the result of any decision will be. We can’t be sure that what we think is best actually is. We feel a need to maintain the illusion we can keep our children safe even after we realize we can’t. And we hope they won’t see the sham until they are parents who feel the need to maintain the illusion.

      Thank you for sharing your insight with me. You and your husband have my sincerest wishes for peaceful hearts.


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