I get sent some weird things in the post - I'm a journalist, so it's a hazard / perk of the job, depending on your viewpoint - but last week something particularly quirky arrived on my doormat, entirely unannounced.
Have you ever heard of a Sorgenfresser Worry Eater? Neither had I, till one landed on my desk. (£19.99 from Firebox)
Here's what the accompanying blurb said:
We all have worries, but they're often difficult to express so we bottle them up inside. Enter the cuddlesome Sorgenfresser Worry Eaters. These friendly little critters survive on a nourishing diet of your fears and doubts and they have a truly insatiable appetite, so there's no need to hold back. Just write or draw your anxieties onto pieces of paper and feed them into the gaping mouth of your favourite wide-eyed Sorgenfresser, then zip it shut and let them feast. Safely sealed away things will start to feel much easier, and with a little help from family and friends these problems can be solved. Don't let your fears eat you up, let these plush little guys gobble up all of your worries instead.
I shared a pic on Facebook of my new office companion and was instantly inundated with comments from friends who reckoned they could definitely do with the services of a worry eater. And somehow in the conversation that followed, mine got nicknamed Fergal Doofusmayer - which, I have to admit, only endeared him to me all the more.
But the rest of the Playpennies team aren't completely convinced. At least one of the gang here reckons the whole concept of a Worry Eater is a little troublesome. She concedes that she probably talks "too much" about anything and everything with her kids, but insists that she prefers the idea of talking worries over with little ones, rather than 'pretending' to let a stuffed toy eat them.
I might have shared that view, had I not discovered that Fergal was missing when I went to bed that night. It turns out that one of my kids, who has been going through a spate of suffering from nightmares, had adopted Fergal Doofusmayer as his own. He and Fergal hit it off instantly, and my kid utterly adored the idea of writing down his worries before bed. I'd even go so far as to say that he slept easier, having had the chance to off-load in a new way before falling asleep.
It's amazing really - there's only so much talking you can do with a kid about something as abstract as nightmares. We've spoken to the GP, we're happy that there aren't any serious underlying issues going unaddressed, and we know that my son will probably grow out of the nightmare stage. So in the meantime, letting him cuddle up with a cute and quirky worry eater at bedtime, knowing that it's offering him a degree of reassurance that nothing and no-one else has been able to, is pretty awesome, in my book.
Since that first night I haven't been able to wrestle Fergal off my kid either, such is his attachment to him. In fact, I've had to accept that I'll just have to continue dealing with my own worries by eating far too much chocolate.
Oh, and if you REALLY love this and want a Sorgenfresser Worry Eater of your very own, Firebox does a gigantic one for £249, would you believe. Trouble is, if there's one thing likely to keep me awake with worry at night, I think it might be the knowledge that there's a huge one of those lurking at the foot of my bed.
Still, we'd love to hear what you think of Fergal Doofusmayer - have you got one, or do you think your child could benefit from having his or her own Sorgenfresser Worry Eater? Or if you have some other clever or quirky way of helping your kids cope with worries and anxieties, we'd love to hear all about it.