The Dandlebear Bridge

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).

 

14 Comments

  1. Hi Karen,

    Just read your first Dandlebear story , I must say it seems like a very effective way of making little ones understand the transition if you are at that point to have a working relationship with your ex , but I do however think there are much more little ones and mums and dads that are still dealing with total parental alienation and as such the little ones have no clue about their mum or dad or extended family and that they are loved and missed daily …they do not know anything about us, the languages we speak , what we like , who we are and why we are not part of their lives and I think with the great talent that you have it would be great to try and go a step back and maybe try however hard it would be to explain this to our little ones that things happen not always as we like it to, but that the other parent and family long for them daily but we are kept from them for I guess various reasons…

    I have been writing to my little men daily since 20 April last year , I started the blog a couple of months ago when it became clear they will not be allowed contact with me or my family if mum has anything to do with it , some days , yes I am angry and want to tell my side , some days I just miss them so much that it hurts , now by no means do I say my approach is right but I guess it gives me 5 min each day with my little men…and yes they might never read it or might never want to know us but as a dad it makes me feel that I do have contact with them… And telling them daily we are here for them when they are ready for it…

    Keep up the great work…

    Kind Regards,

    Phill Ferreira

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  2. I will certainly do that Phill, I am working on a story now called Dandlebear didn’t know that…which is for children who are completely rejecting and unable to see a parent. I hope that if we can get these stories together and illustrated, we might be able to put something out there that children can recognise and want to listen to or read for themselves. I will keep you updated on our progress, we will be working on this in the next few weeks. K

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  3. Karen, this is lovely, tender and insightful. It’s really excellent! Forget the Ph.D – this is what’s needed xxx

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    1. Thank you Claire, its a first go really at bringing the dandlebears to life but they seem to be waking up and getting ready to tell their stories!! As its such a joy to write for children I think it will become my time off from the Phd!! x

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  4. Read it to our children at bedtime (right age, but otherwise not the target audience) their feedback: “That was an excellent story” “That was good, but I don’t know why” “It had lots of nice adjectives” “mummy I was really worried about going to school today, but it was ok” “mummy dandlebears are not real, are they?” “Dandlebears are very furry!”

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    1. Thank you so much Kat, that feedback is so helpful straight from children themselves – am impressed with their knowledge of adjectives!! It sounds as if it prompted them to think about the bridges that they cross, going to school, coming home again. They are right, Dandlebears are indeed very furry, one of the stories that is shaping up right now is about when Dandlebears go to the Dandlebarbers!! I really appreciate you taking the time to read it to them Kat, perhaps as I write some more and we get the illustrations together you could share some more of their thoughts. xx

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      1. I think “adjectives” is new in the vocabulary so it had to be tried out. I prompted them to think about other transitions as they do not have to move between mum and dad. However, we have had issues with tummy aches before school, extra-curricular activities etc. I was pleased that it got our daughter to talk about school as I knew she was nervous this morning having fallen out with some of her friends on Friday.

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  5. Hi Karen, I think you have a great idea here. I guess you might modify the text to tailor-make it to whichever age group. I’ve just helped my little girl enter the Radio 2 500 words competition and can attest to how difficult writing for/with children can be. I think with your knowledge of family dynamics and how these can affect children and their feelings, you will go from strength to strength.

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  6. The Dandlebears are coming Hurrah Hurrah!
    The Dandlebears are coming Hurrah Hurrah!

    The Dandlebear is part of a larger family. There’s “Protective Inspector mendem” who is one of those clever people who is there for those awful moments when the “Screaming Strugglbuggies” are having a particularly bad day at the office.
    Protective Inspector mendem provides muffleberries for your hearsy wearsies and makes wonderful cosy suits from silver linings which he pulls from the sky.
    Then of course if you really want to meet someone who understands you there’s always “Twindlebar twohomes” who has ears as big as lakesides and a tiny mouth from which seeps ice cream and candy.

    I don’t know where you get the energy from; you produce such prolific work and come up with such gems! This may be aimed at children but it also benefits the adults in focusing their attention in a better direction.

    I’m still two blogs behind passing comment on the Jersey website!!

    Kind regards

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  7. Hi Karen.

    Firstly, I cannot begin to imagine how you possibly manage to keep so many balls in the air at once. If the children’s book idea does not take off you are certainly well qualified to write a best seller on time management!

    For almost 7 months contact has been resumed with my 10 year old daughter after a break and court proceedings lasting almost 2 years. I discovered your blog in the later stages of the proceedings and it has been invaluable.

    With the gaze of the court and CAFCASS averted I am wary that certain alienating behaviours are again been manifested. Your recent advice and suggested strategies for challenging alienation have, so far, been effective. I have always prided myself in being virtually 100% consistent in my approach to parenting without realising how predictable my reactions have become, and, how much easier this makes it to press the right buttons and perpetuate the cycle of alienation and demonisation. I’m reviewing and adapting whilst keeping my fingers firmly crossed. Having had lots of time to reflect, i can easily see how i have inadvertently contributed to the the process.

    Your ideas for providing alienated parents and their kids with toolkits in the form of “Dandlebear”, accompanied by sympathetic and reinforcing illustrations, is innovative and so potentially valuable. I’m sure that a couple of years ago my daughter would have openly confessed to loving the “Dandlebears”. As a cool ten-year-old, “teenager”, I think she would secretly adore them (along with her menagerie of cuddly toys). I’ll ask her to review this first story and report back to you.

    However, I feel that the gender bias in some children’s books targeted at the next age group is often extreme. It would be nice to see more story lines with a wider vista and perhaps less negatively stereotypical depictions of male behaviour. Any attempts to redress the balance and give an insight into the real feelings of loneliness, anguish, hurt and helplessness that are actually experienced in family breakdowns, particularly when alienation is a feature, cannot come a moment too soon. Any new tools to help challenge the alienation process, in a system that appears to go out of its way to assist it and ensure that it occurs, can only be a valuable asset.

    I cannot wait for future instalments. Please keep up the fantastic work. Thank you so much for all you have managed to do so far.

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  8. Great stuff. Just wondering if there will be any room in those stories for educating children about the various Dandledangers that they might have to avoid after separation, like siding with one parent, listening to biased persons, discrimination and alienation, dealing with third parties only interested in one parent? I suppose you want to focus more on therapy and the positives of two homes, but some of the greatest tales have villains after all.

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  9. I love the concept Karen, I am wondering however how the bear will reach into the sadness of my two alienated grandchildren who now only know their father as IT. Not allowed to call him Dad. I think he needs the hope and magic of your bear.
    I read your pages every day in the hope of retaining some sense of balance in all this, you seem such a kind person. I only wish our children had the benefit of someone like you to soften their lives. They are much too young at 6 and 8 to carry the burden. Good luck with this project. I will look forward to following the progress of what I am sure will become a much loved character. Best regards Glynis.

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