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Meet Big Baby. She’s what you might expect: a baby (doll) that is big.

My 7-year-old daughter Moxie got her a few years ago and since then she has been a constant household figure.

Because Big Baby is lifelike and the size of a five-month-old, sometimes she gets mistaken for a real baby. People flash looks of horror seeing her dragged down the street. When we were camping a few weeks ago, our neighbour asked about the third child he’d seen at the campfire.

big baby

At the beginning of our week-long summer stay-cation, and after years of being known as nothing other than Big Baby, it was announced that she had a name. We were to refer to her as “Lily.” Moxie has always loved to hear the story of how she herself was going to be named Lily. When she was born she was not the least bit serene like a lily; she was loud and wanted everyone to know what she thought.

So the doll became Lily and we all adjusted to the correct name.

Lily was more demanding than Big Baby and could rarely be left alone. She was pushed around in shopping carts and went on bike rides in backpacks (with her head poking through the top to freak out onlookers). We bought her real baby diapers and I started to find her clothes in the laundry basket.

A few days later Moxie told us that Lily’s birthday was May 29th and that she would be turning two years old next year. It seemed a shame to wait, so we decided to have a party the next day to celebrate her birthday early. Rain, my scientifically-minded nine-year-old son protested: “But if her birthday is in May then we are celebrating it late, not early. That doesn’t even make any sense!” (Rain darling, not much of this makes sense. Sometimes you have to just let it ride.)

Moxie asked to bake a cake for the party. She didn’t want to follow a recipe; she just asked for the ingredients. I put out some flour, brown sugar, white sugar, chocolate chips, baking soda and an egg. We were out of butter so I gave her oily natural peanut butter and Moxie formed a thick dough.  We spread it out and baked it in a pan. I envisioned enjoying it in the backyard — maybe we’d hang streamers.

Early the next morning Moxie bounced into my room. She woke me to say, hurry, get Lily a present, her party was about to start! Oh good, a breakfast party. I grabbed a gift bag and threw in random toys and things: a marker, a ball, a book. I made a coffee and headed to the party. We sang Happy Birthday and Lily opened her presents – being sure to hug everyone to thank them. Rain gave her a stuffed animal; Moxie gave her a puzzle wrapped in tin foil. Then … dessert. Moxie broke the first candle in half trying to push it in the birthday cake. I succeeded in forcing two candles in and we sang Happy Birthday one more time. (No one finished their piece.)

With the party out of the way early, we decided to go to the beach. Lily is not beach-friendly; I convinced Moxie that she should stay home and rest. Not wanting to leave her alone, Moxie promised extra cat food to Lucy (our cat, of course) if she would watch Lily while we were away.

A few days later there was an interesting development. Moxie announced that effective immediately Lily was gone. She was now a boy and his name was Jack. Jack was a name we had considered for Rain, so at least there was some sort of pattern. But wow – gender transformation – I didn’t see that one coming.

Regardless, Rain and I  welcomed Jack into the family and now it was Jack who went everywhere with us. Jack was sensitive about his new gender and refused to even enter the girls’ washroom. This meant Moxie had to ask Rain if he would take him into the boys’ room to wash his hands after having ice cream at the park.

Sometimes Rain can be a very accommodating older brother.  He did as he was told and demonstrated that Jack’s hands were indeed wet when he returned. Thankfully despite Jack’s stubbornness in some areas, he didn’t mind wearing pink clothes. I just hoped he wouldn’t get them dirty as quickly as Lily had.

In less than 24 hours there was a second important announcement: Jack was gone and Lily had returned.

Apparently she had only been visiting her grandparents. This news was bittersweet. We would miss Jack but there seemed more than a slight possibility we would be seeing him again.

Rain barely even arched an eyebrow. We smiled and welcomed Lily home.

Erica Richmond is a single parent with a love of words and adventures. 


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