05/12/2014 15:31 GMT | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Should I Give My Children's Cuddly Toys To The School Christmas Fair?

Cuddly Toys drying on radiator

Have you seen Toy Story 3? In a very small nutshell, it's about a boy who grows up and grows out of his childhood toys, Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the all-too-familiar gang.

For a parent, it is utterly heartbreaking, for it reminds us about the all-too-fleeting nature of our children's childhood, and takes us back to the almost-lost-in-the-mists of time memories of our own.

It is three years since I saw it with my children, now aged 12, 10 and seven, and – I confess – I bawled my eyes out.

To be honest, I was taken aback by how emotional Toy Story 3 made me and put it down entirely to having children.

I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have had any impact before I became a dad, because cuddly toys were alien in my childhood. I don't even remember having a teddy bear.

In fact, the only ones I can recall were from the children's classic TV show Play School – Big Ted, Little Ted, Humpty, Jemima, and a scary doll called Hamble.

I think my working class mum and dad thought cuddlies were a bit sissy for their four sons and so got us Adventure Kits, Action Men, toy guns and swords for Christmas – even when we were little.

But Toy Story 3 moved me so much, I went home and hugged each and every one of my kids' cuddly toys and wondered how much longer they would hold a special place in their hearts.

In the months and years since watching Toy Story 3, I hadn't given it or its message much more than an occasional thought.

As my children grew up, and their tastes in presents grew with them (Club Penguin, Lego, Skylanders, Loom Bands, Subbutteo, iPods, Xbox, Nintendo DS et al), I hardly noticed that in their bedrooms and in their imaginations exists a family beyond me and their mum.

Amidst the chaos there are dens and homes and sanctuaries where their cuddly companions live and thrive.

There are the owls: Hoot, Oohl, Arwell, Starbright, Plop, Flitter, Flutter, Flap, Luna and Wee.

The bunnies: Jellybean, Cream, Soft, Clotted Cream and Beige.

Biscuit the dog.

The monkeys: Unkey, Button, Chocolate and Minky.

The seals: Sammy and Salty.

The sharks: Sharko and Sharkay.

The Labbits (rabbits with moustaches).

Twin tigers Kaa and Tigey.

Frosty the wolf.

Noo-noo No Brains.

Foonicorn (a spherical giraffe).

A polar bear called Polar.

Googly (a squishy, spiky blob with googly-eyes).

Leanora the lion.

And presiding over this menagerie is my wife's childhood cuddly cat, Tabitha; the eldest child's first bear, Terrod (because she couldn't pronounce Teddy Edward); and the middle child's teddy, Blue Ted.

But the undisputed King of Cuddlydom is Cuzzy.

Now let me tell you about Cuzzy.

He belongs to our youngest child – now seven years old - and is in fact called Cuski.

He (for I can't bring myself to call him 'it') is older than the boy himself, having been bought before the youngest came into the world.

Cuski is nothing more than a floppy, star-shaped rag with a tennis ball head. But he is the most important thing in my son's life. And thus, a sixth member of our family.

He has several aliases as though he were a real person, including Cuzzy, Cuska, Cuskasitasah (why? No idea!) and imaginary relatives, including Princess Cuskabella.

He has always been and continues to be the absolute centre of my youngest son's universe.

He sleeps with Cuzzy every night. In fact, he can't go to sleep without him, which has sometimes led to us turning the house upside down to find him on the rare occasions he's been misplaced (usually down the back of a radiator because 'Cuzzy likes it there – it's warm'.)

Every morning, when my son wakes up, he roots around like a blind kitten searching for a teat, until he's located Cuzzy, then inhales his scent so deeply his eyes roll back into his head.

And when he's upset, he ODs on Cuzzy aroma to calm him down.

As you can imagine, Cuzzy is filthy: a snot and drool drenched, stain-fested crusty beast of a cuddly.

On Thursday night, for example, the lad had a horrific bout of the Winter Vomiting Bug and used Cuzzy to mop up the sick from around his mouth.

But despite this, the cloth doll had to be dragged from the boy's grasp to go into the washing machine – an event he usually only 'allows' a couple of times a year, and even then he supervises the 'ordeal' like a cat watching a mouse.

He sits by the portal as Cuzzy is tossed this way and that in the tumbling foam, before retrieving him with the care of a mother carrying her newborn and taking him to the radiator in his bedroom where he is willed to dry off before re-joining my son in Cuzzy's rightful position under his nose.

It is a truly disgusting relationship, but a friendship so touching it rivals any between a boy and his dog.

The youngest's love for Cuzzy is well known and heralded in our family, but what I didn't know (Bad Dad!) is that the older two are similarly attached to their own cuddlies.

The girl is nearly 13 and has all the lip of an InBetweener so I thought she'd grown out of such childish comforts a long time ago.

And the 10-year-old is all action and adventure, spending his weekends playing his guitar and getting filthy in the mud on his bike with his mates as they play cops and robbers with walkie talkies.

Cuddlies are for softies, surely?


This is something I found out when I received an appeal from the school Parent-Teacher Association to donate any teddies and cuddly toys for tombola prizes at the Christmas Fair.

At last, I thought, a reason to get rid of the huge pile of dust-gathering allergy-inducing stuffed animals that festoon my children's bedroom floors – and for a good cause too.

But when I suggested this to the trio, they looked at me as if I'd just let rip after a Brussel sprout curry.

"WHAAAAAAAAT?" said the youngest.

"Are you being SERIOUS?" said the oldest.

And then the middle child said: "I'd rather give my bike away than Blue Ted or any of the gang."

"But you're too old for them, aren't you, no?"

"You just don't get it do you?" said the 12-year-old.

"They're not soft toys...they're FAMILY."

When I offered my apologies to the mum organising the event, she texted back: "Don't worry. My son refused, too. He was quite upset at the suggestion. Morally outraged."

I guess our kids aren't ready to consign their cuddly toys to the Toy Story 3-style Memory Lane just yet.