The first Squishmallow that Mazzy bought was over the summer. I took her to Target, which was a big deal because it was our first store outing since the pandemic started, and gave her $20 to buy whatever she wanted. She picked a Squishmallow dragon named Dane, fell in love and took him home. She placed him in prime stuffed animal positioning on her bed. For months, Mazzy was satisfied with just Dane (an aspiring engineer who loves to build robots while he snuggles, according to his tag), but then, a few weeks ago, Dane was suddenly not enough.

Shortly before Valentine’s Day, I told Mazzy that I was running to Walgreen’s for a few things. Mazzy jumped up on high alert.

“Walgreen’s?! Can I come????”

I was confused. Mazzy has never had any desire to come with me to pick up toiletries before. “Really? Why?”

“They have Squishmallows at Walgreens.”

I had no idea what a Squishmallow was (I was not aware that was the brand name for Dane the Dragon at the time), but it sounded harmless enough. Plus I liked the idea of having Mazzy’s company on what would otherwise be a pretty boring errand.

“Sure, let’s go.”

I’m not sure if we got lucky that day or Squishmallows weren’t quite as popular back in the beginning of February as they are now, but Walgreen’s was stocked full of them. We found all the limited edition Valentine’s Day Squishmallows, as well as foxes, leopards and llamacorns. After comparing all her options, Mazzy walked out with Flora, a 8″ pink fox who loves puzzles, board games, and movie nights with her family. She also knows a cool way to shuffle cards. Honestly, Flora and I sound like we would get along great.

After our purchase, Mazzy and I decided to hit a few more stores and that small errand turned into a really fun afternoon of mother daughter shopping; something we really hadn’t done before since I usually buy most things for my kids online.

That night, I posted about our Squishmallow excursion on my Instagram story and got a way bigger response than I was expecting. Apparently, everyone owns Squishmallows. Many people messaged me pictures of their large Squishmallow collections. Others shared photos of huge Squishmallows; they come in all different sizes up to 20″. That night, I realized this wasn’t just something random that Mazzy was into, Squishmallows were A THING. And not just a little kid thing. Tweens, teens and fully grown adults were into them too.

A few people even pointed me to a recent Charli D’Amelio post on Instagram, where the teen tiktok phenomenon posed surrounded by Squishmallows and suggested that the brand should sponsor her in the caption. The funniest thing about the pic was the extreme vitriol for Charli’s new obsession in the comments. People were PISSED. Not just any people— the Squishmallow community. Yes, they have a community and they are very serious about collecting Squishmallows, joining facebook groups where members report on stores that have just received a new shipment or when a new Squish becomes available. These diehard fans claimed all of Charli’s Squishmallows looked like the ones you get in mystery packs (a much easier find), and accused her of jumping on a trend as opposed to being a true collector. Many also accused her of ruining Squishmallows for everyone else, because by posting about them to her millions of followers, they were going to become even harder to get your hands on than they were already.

I laughed at the time at how ridiculous this all was, but looking back, maybe the Squishmallow community was right. Charli’s pic was indeed a tipping point and probably why we have had such a hard time finding Squishmallows since. I will even go so far as to say, it’s highly possible that Charli D’Amelio’s photo is what inspired Mazzy to start collecting.

Mazzy will tell you “no.” She will say that she is no longer a big Charli fan and that her love of Squishmallows has nothing to do with Charli. She will point to the fact that she got her first Squish over the summer (Dane the dragon), just because she thought it was cute, way before the Charli pic, which is true.

But the collecting part? The desire to spend her weekends hunting for Squishmallows? The fact that she wants very specific Squishmallows and knows which ones are rare and coveted? This might not be Charli’s fault directly, but I definitely think the obsession is tiktok related. Showing off your Squishmallow collection or taking your followers along on a Squishmallow hunt are both HUGE trends on tiktok.

Looking back at that first Walgreen’s visit, and knowing our Squishmallow journey since, I can’t believe we only bought one. How innocent we were just a few short weeks ago! From that day forward, we never saw a store fully stocked with Squishmallows again. We have been to every Walgreens, CVS, Target and Duane Reade in walking distance. We’ve asked when these stores usually get shipments in, but the timing never seems to work out for us. Most often the shelves that contained Squishmallows just a few hours or days prior are completely empty. If there are any left, it’s usually Lucy May the llama pegacorn, which for some reason, NOBODY WANTS. Personally, I don’t get it. Lucy May, who loves roller skating and boba tea, seems just as cute as the rest of them, but for whatever reason, Mazzy doesn’t want her either.

Poor Lucy May.

Although, I’ve heard that at one point, nobody wanted Wendy the frog, a very basic looking amphibian who loves basketball and chemistry. But then someone made a tiktok about how Wendy the frog was the least wanted Squishmallow, which went viral. The Squishmallow community rallied around poor Wendy, and now the frog is the most valuable. If you are lucky, you can score a Squishmallow frog on Mercari or Poshmark for about $100.

Personally, I think buying a rare Squishmallow for a premium price is cheating and the real fun comes from the thrill of the hunt. Plus, I don’t like the idea that people are buying them out, just to upsell them. But I do appreciate a really good trade. In fact, as I write this, Mazzy is in the other room negotiating a trade with one of Harlow’s friends who she just discovered has the frog. She’s trading him for—

“What? Really? Dane????”

“Yes, Mom. The frog is really rare.”

“But Dane was your first Squishmallow!”

“It doesn’t matter, Mom. Don’t get so attached.”

Then she danced off, beyond excited about her big Squishmallow score.

Here are a few reasons why I fully support Mazzy’s Squishmallow habit:

1) I love that my 11yo is still interested in stuffed animals.

2) Squishmallows, when bought at regular retail price, which is the only price that I’ll allow, are a pretty inexpensive habit. At Walgreens, the 8″ Squishmallows are $7.99.

3) She buys them with her own money and is finally motivated to save up.

4) Harlow, for whatever reason, seems equally invested in helping Mazzy grow her collection without wanting any of her own. In fact, a mom from Harlow’s school who follows me on Instagram and knew about Mazzy’s obsession, found a big pink Squishmallow at a store in Brooklyn and brought it to school pick-up so I could give it to her. I thought Harlow might get jealous of the random gift, but instead, she was so excited to go home and surprise Mazzy with it. She knew it would make her big sister’s day.

5) It is hilarious hearing my NYC kid beg to go to big box stores like Walmart, Shop Rite and Costco. Yesterday she said to me, “Mom, what’s Kroger’s?” “It’s a supermarket, sweetie, but I’m sorry to tell you, there are none in New York.”

6) If a Squishmallow obsession is going to send Mazzy into the Squishmallow tiktok algorithm, surfacing every squishable cow and frog onto her “for you page” as opposed to whatever else kids are paying attention to on tiktok, I AM ALL FOR IT.

7) Her obsession also motivated her to purge an area of her room so she has a place to put her small but growing collection. As of today, Mazzy has 12 Squishmallows. And the neatest most organized corner of her room that I have ever seen.

8) I never took part in the whole Beanie Baby craze but I was fully invested in completing my Garbage Pail Kids card collection so this all feels wonderfully nostalgic. I like that at the heart of it, despite technology and social media and screen time, kids in every generation are somewhat the same.

9) The hunt is really fun and our whole family has gotten into it. Mazzy even got Mike to go on a Squishmallow hunt this weekend. They were supposed to just go to Costco, but ended up being gone for four hours, driving to six different stores Target, Five Below, Claire’s, and TJ Maxx. At the end of the day, they had found just one lone Mickey Mouse Squishmallow and Mazzy considered that a huge success.

Sure, we could order them online, pay a premium and make things easier for ourselves, but I like that finding them in-store is a challenge. I like that’s an offline family activity. I think they mean more to Mazzy when we find them this way and everybody loves the quality time together.

Squishmallow hunting is low stakes with a potentially big reward. For Mazzy that reward is a Squishmallow. For the rest of us, it’s just seeing our big kid get excited about something like a little kid.