I spend roughly 25% of every day pretending to be a cat. Sometimes I do it to take the edge off. Sometimes I do it to be funny. Sometimes I do it to keep from completely losing my shit. Mostly I do it to make my daughter smile.

It all started this past Halloween when we happened upon Chubbers, the neighbor’s black cat who came to the door when we shouted, “Trick or Treat”. Chubbers was a treat!  My daughter was immediately smitten. Chubbers trumped all the candy! He was slick. He was charming. He was like the George Clooney of cats.  As soon as we got home Sage raced to her room and grabbed her lanky, floppy stuffed cat (who up until this moment had always been referred to as “cat”). She held him up towards the light like Simba in the Lion King. “Name is Chubbers,” she pronounced loudly and with great authority.

From that point forward, Chubbers began slowly creeping into our lives. At first Sage was content to just tote him around. He’d come to playgroup and sing along. Then he started getting invited on our road trips and to our family gatherings “Need Chubbers” Sage would shriek as we headed towards the door, and we’d all hunt for him like you might hunt for a wild turkey if you hadn’t eaten in four months; desperate, agitated… a little crazed.

But the trips weren’t enough. Sage needed Chubbers to become more of a living, breathing part of the family. So she started shoving Chubbers right in our faces and saying, “Hi Chubbers!” She’d just repeat it over and over, “Hi Chubbers, hi Chubbers, hi Chubbers,” until my husband or I would answer for him: “Meow.”

And then she’d strike up a conversation like:

“How you doin?”

“Meow, meow,” we’d answer with a little downward inflection as if to say, “eh, I’m alright. I’ve been better but I can’t complain”

“Oh my Chubbers” She’d continue in a soft loving tone.

“Meow, meow!” we’d answer with an equally affectionate inflection.

It went on like this for a while. Sage would initiate by handing one of us the cat, we’d pick him up and animate him. “Oh Chubbers” she’d say. “Meow, Meow” we’d respond.

But then…

I started reaching for Chubbers.  It started out with a little “Meow” here and there just to improve the mood when things were looking bleak. It was just a harmless little way of distracting Sage. I really thought I had the whole thing under control. I was only using Chubbers occasionally, just when the situation called for it. Just when it was appropriate. But it wasn’t like I needed him. I could stop any time I wanted to.

But then somehow, it just began getting out of control. Whenever Sage would fall down or spill her milk or wake up crying from a nap I’d grab Chubbers. “Meow,” I’d say without her even prompting me. Some days I just kept him on me all day long, like he was part of me. I just needed to know that I could have him, that he’d be there. And he always was, he always helped…like the other day when Sage woke up at some ungodly hour and all I wanted to do was yell at her for being two and having tantrums and throwing all my stuff on the floor and forcing me to be neurotic and to do so much laundry all the time, I just held Chubbers up and yelled “MEOW, MEOW, MEOW” and all the anger disappeared.  It was amazing!

But then last week Sage and I took Chubbers to the bank so that we could teach him how to use the ATM machine.  And I was there just Meowing away, kid in one arm, stuffed cat in the other and I caught sight of myself in the glass window and suddenly I saw myself…like really, REALLY saw myself. And it was scary.

There isn’t any kind of rehab for ladies who pretend to be stuffed cats in order to make their children happy and keep themselves from exploding, but if there were I’d have myself committed.

And when I got there I’d find myself with a room full of others, just like me. There’d be the mother to the right wearing a colander on her head. There’d be the father to my left rocking a Zucchini wrapped in a swaddling blanket and sporting a miniature cowboy hat. There’d be the nanny with an Elmo doll suction cupped to her forehead. We’d all gather in one big circle. It would be a circle of support and healing. We’d rise in unison and say as one voice, “Hi my name is mom/dad/nanny…” Then we’d take a collective deep breath and continue, “It all started as a game…I only wanted to make my kid happy…”