In which Ariel discusses how personalized dolls - sometimes referred to as deployment dolls, since they are frequently used by military families - can help your little one deal with separation anxiety.
Plushies With a Personal Touch
During a deployment finding comfort in the absence of your loved ones can seem like an impossible task. If you are lucky you may be able to hear their voice or see their face but something is missing - touch. You cannot steal kisses or snatch hugs. You and your children feel this loss keenly, like an ache. One item that helps to fill this void are stuffed animals. Think about it; it makes sense. When I want an example of our most basic nature as human beings I watch my daughter. What does she turn to first when she needs comfort and my husband and I are otherwise occupied? Her luvvie. There is a reason most children have beds overflowing with plushies and bins vomiting up soft cuddlies - when we need comfort - physical comfort is the easiest to achieve with a pleasing texture or the act of putting our arms around something warm. Deployment dolls take the classic stuffed animals and make it personal.
Deployment dolls - if you aren't familiar with them - are stuffed animals that look like your deployed partner. Some, like Hug-A-Hero Dolls from Daddy Dolls, have the exact picture sewn right into the doll. While others, like Selfies by Budsies, are a less literal interpretation. Budsies take the image you upload - be it a photograph or a picture drawn by your child and create a doll from it.
I refer to these as deployment dolls because that is what I have seen them used for primarily, but both Daddy Dolls and Budsies are not specific to military life. They can be used to address separation anxiety in all forms - demanding jobs, long-distance families, divorce, death etc. Or you can use Budsies to bring your child’s creations to life! Does your little have an imaginary friend like mine? Have them draw them so you can render them in real-life. With Budsies you can do that!
Hug-A-Hero by Daddy Dolls
Hug-A-Hero Dolls come in a few different shapes and sizes. You have one-sided dolls, two-sided dolls, and Big Daddies which come in at three feet. So if you want to recreate your partner - life-size Barbie tall - this is the option for you. What’s nice about Daddy Dolls, is that you have more options. The company also offers Headcases - pillowcases with pictures on them, or my personal favorite - the Snuggle Buddy, a mini fleece blanket. Be warned though, when I say mini it is mini. The Snuggle Buddy is meant to be a comfort blanket; it is not meant to keep you warm.
How does it work? It’s simple. All you have to do is upload an image. Choose a backside fabric if you are choosing a one-sided doll. Daddy Dolls has numerous fun prints to choose from plus camo patterns for each branch of service. Then choose a size. Voila! You are done. Keep in mind that not all images are created equal. The Photo Tips section on the Daddy Dolls website outlines exactly what works best. So you may want to start there to save yourself some headache.
If you like the look of a Hug-A-Hero doll, but can’t afford the price tag contact your FRO, FRG etc. Daddy Dolls offers a military discount that can only be obtained through official channels.
Selfies by Budsies
The Selfies by Budsies are a creative spin on the deployment doll. Instead of printing your photograph on to fabric to create the doll, the artists at Budsies create a plushie based on the image you send them. The process is similar to Daddy Dolls. You upload your image, but then Budsies asks you to describe it. By providing the designers with information on how you interpret the image they can better recreate your vision. Worried that they won’t get it right? As an add-on, you can get a sneak preview of their design for a second round of edits. My favorite add-on is a voice recorder so every time Bean squeezes her plushie she can be reassured that “Daddy loves you!”
I need to address the elephant in the room, Selfies are more expensive. This makes sense. They are taking your photograph or picture and designing it from scratch. I am not especially DIY but that seems like a more time-intensive project to me. Budsies knows that the price makes their products less accessible to some families, including military families. So they offer a military discount - 10 percent off the final cost and interest-free financing for 6 months. So if you want a Selfie but the cost is prohibitive, it may be more doable than you think.
Budsies also have a longer turnaround time. Budsies take 6-8 weeks to create and ship while Hug-A-Hero dolls have a 1-3 week turn-around. Keep this in mind when planning for deployment.
Next time my husband leaves for work, Bean will be of an age where deployment dolls may have an impact on her well-being. I will be choosing to make a Selfie because coming upon a Selfie in the middle of the night seems less creepy to me than stumbling upon my husband’s face peeking out from behind the couch cushions. But then again, I am a big scaredy cat and most things frighten me in the dark, including the dark.
If you are feeling creative give this DIY deployment doll tutorial a try. Rather then spend the money The Prickly Pilots Wife went for a more hands-on approach and made her own!
When you are in the thick of it, the ridiculous things we will do for comfort, don't seem so ridiculous anymore. I have to remind myself of this when I laugh out loud looking at the body pillow size Headcases Daddy Dolls sells. It seems so silly now, but when I am missing my husband and we still have months to go, this just might make my day. You never know.
What do you think? Which would you try - a Hug-A-Hero or a Selfie or make your own?
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Ariel and Brianna are friends who met while working in a library. Now they collaborate to develop life-enhancing book club experiences.
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