A Dandlebear is no ordinary bear. A Dandlebear is specially made for children whose parents do not live in the same house. A Dandlebear is small and quick and can send messages without talking. A Dandlebear looks after little children.
Dandlebears live underneath bridges. Some of the bridges lead from mummy’s house to daddy’s house. Sometimes a bridge leads from daddy’s house to Nanny’s house and some other bridges lead from mummy’s house to nursery. All little children have to go over bridges and some get to like it a lot but others find it too scary and so these little children have a dandlebear to help them.
Dandlebears have long arms and big paws. This is so that you can hook them into your trousers whilst you are playing at daddy’s house. Some dandlebears go over the bridge with children and then go back to skimming stones until its time to go back over the bridge to mummy’s house. Some dandlebears stay with little children and get hooked into their trousers so that they are there when they are needed but don’t get in the way.
Dandlebears love little children and they love the bridges that little children cross too. Some Dandlebears are especially fond of growing flowers and plants on the bridges so that as little children skip over them to their mummy’s house, they can smell the flowers and hear the bees which buzz happily as they collect pollen.
One day, a little girl called Milli was getting ready to go to her daddy’s house when she felt a funny little feeling inside. She told her mummy that she did not know what this feeling was but that it had started to get bigger every time she put her coat on to go to daddy’s house. ‘Ah’ said her mummy, ‘that means its time for your Dandlebear to come.’ ‘My Dandlebear?’ said Milli in surprise, for she had never heard of a Dandlebear before. ‘Yes indeed’ said her mummy mysteriously, ‘your Dandlebear’ and without further ado, she put on her own coat and took Milli by the hand and into the lane which lead to the bridge.
The bridge was, by now, something that Milli was used to crossing. Her mummy would go half way up the little humpty back and her daddy would walk up the other way. Half way, on the top of the humpty back her parents would meet and her mummy would let go and her daddy would take hold of her hand and they would walk back down together, after waving goodbye to mummy of course.
Today though, as they walked up to the bridge, instead of it just being flowers and bees and birds singing, Milli could see a little creature was climbing up the ivy which flowed down to the river in great strands of green and gold. ‘Humpppph’ went the little creature, whose arms were as long as a monkeys and whose paws were as big as one of daddy’s gloves, ‘Huumppph’ it went again as it landed on the bridge, just in front of them, smiling in a sort of ‘pleased to meet you’ kind of a way as it brushed down its fur and blinked its huge eyes at Milli.
Milli stood and stared at the little creature, she wasn’t quite sure what it was but somehow she knew it was a kind creature and that it belonged entirely to her. “This is your Dandlebear Milli’ said her mummy, ‘your very own Dandlebear’ and as she said that, Milli felt a lovely feeling coming from the Dandlebear towards her and smiled happily. Somehow she just knew that things would be so much better now.
The Dandlebear held Milli’s hand as mummy and Milli and Dandlebear walked up the humpty backed bridge in the sunshine, the birds and the bees were all around and they were all smiling too. ‘Look’, hummed the bumblebee, ‘Milli’s Dandlebear has come with her today’ and the birds chirruped their approval as Milli and her Dandlebear strolled happily up the bridge together hand in hand.
Without knowing how they had got to the top of the humpty backed bridge, Milli suddenly found herself face to face with daddy! ‘Hello Milli’ daddy said, looking pleased, ‘I see your Dandlebear has come with you today.’ Milli was amazed to hear that daddy already knew about her Dandlebear and looked for mummy to ask her how he knew but when she looked she realised that mummy was already on the way back down the bridge waving bye bye. Milli didn’t worry though, Dandlebear was hanging on with his great big paws and smiling at her with his great big eyes and somehow Milli didn’t feel that funny little feeling anymore, she felt instead the fuzzy feeling of Dandlebears paws and the warmth of his smile. Milli put her hand in daddy’s hand, ‘come on’ she said, let’s go and do some baking’ and tucking Dandlebear into her trousers, she set off down the hill with daddy beside her whilst the birds and the bees on the bridge kept on singing and humming.
(your feedback on this would be very welcome, I am thinking about making this into a series of stories for children aged between 3-8 who are moving between homes. A Dandlebear is, of course, a transitional object, which we know for this age group, can be especially useful in helping children to manage transitions between homes. This series starts with the transition bridge but contains also stories such as Down amonst the Dandlebears, for children who are starting to resist transitions and Dandlebear doesn’t work on Fridays for children who are refusing to see a parent. I have wanted to write for children for a long time and have played about with ideas based upon my understanding of how children in different age groups experience living between two parents. I am particularly interested in the void which opens up between parents after separation in terms of how children conceptualise and manage this space and it is this which I am writing about here. I want to write not only for children but for parents to read with their children when difficulties strike. I also want to give something to parents who are on the fragile end of the child’s transitional difficulties, so that they have tools to use when things begin to become difficult. I would appreciate all of your feedback, tell me if you think it is worth writing for children in this way, if you would find it useful, what you would like more of and so on. My daughter, who is an illustrator as well as a writer, is a child who made many transitions between myself and her father over the years, I have asked her to work with me to bring these stories to life. I hope that between us we can fill up that void in children’s literature about life as a child at risk of alienation and bring something new to this field. Watch this space for more on this soon).