Life with a Lovey

I willed the Gods for it. I dropped coins in a fountain for it. I spent 37 hours on Pinterest making an Oprah-approved vision board for it. And then it happened.

I finally birthed a child who developed a major physical and emotional bond with a lovey.

If you’re rolling your eyes at me, look, I get it. I suppose a lovey can be viewed as a crutch. Some people may think that if a child doesn’t have an attraction to a lovey, the parents should thank their lucky stars because their child will have a head start to develop into a more independent, self-reliant adult. And maybe this is true in some cases, I don’t know. Maybe someone should tell Richard Linklater that his next long-term movie project should center around a child with a lovey to explore if he or she grows up to be one of those adults who straps a 40-year-old stuffed penguin into the passenger seat of their car. Maybe there’s already a TLC show about this (probably).

And honestly, I really can’t remember if there’s some great debate about this because I lost all my baby manuals in the Great Vasectomy Purge of ’13, but I will stand by my assertion that the lovey has the ability to save your sanity and that of your children.

My first child did not have a lovey, and it was really problematic when he could’ve used some sort of “transitional object” to soothe himself when his dad and I were absent or when our presence was simply not enough to console him. Even though he organically wasn’t attached to anything, that didn’t stop me from trying to force all kinds of lovies on him. Maybe parents aren’t supposed to do this and maybe they shouldn’t. I hope you won’t think less of me for trying to give him a “crutch”. I mean, it’s not like I was all, “Hey, son! Try holding a Solo cup of beer and this cigarette and see if it makes you feel more comfortable at school today!” I just wanted him to have something to cuddle and soothe his anxiety when I couldn’t physically help him because I was driving, he was starting school, we were sleep training, he had a babysitter, he was potty training, he developed a paralyzing fear of his grandfather, or he got vaccinations.

And at 18 months old, he finally did find an object that eventually became a lovey. It was a black miniature Chevy Tahoe that he carried in his pocket to school everyday and slept with every night. Then it turned into any Hot Wheels or Matchbox car he could find. He couldn’t bury his face in them or wipe his tears very well with them, but they worked. However, it was a long time coming.

Even car lovies could not soothe his outrage in having to take a school photo with this dumb stool.

Even car lovies could not soothe his outrage at having to take a school photo with this dumb stool.

Which is why I hoped so hard that my second child would immediately attach to something. And she did. It’s a disgusting gray rag called “Rah-Rah”. I’m pretty certain it started out as a soft pink Angel Dear lamb blankie, but it’s been run over by cars in front of Kiddie Park, among other atrocities is has suffered, and is no longer recognizable.

And because it took forever for my first child to find a lovey, I was a novice and didn’t realize you need a “pair and a spare”, or in layman’s terms, “three lovies you split up for home, car and school so that if one goes missing Armageddon will not be brought about”. We have only one Rah-Rah. We purchased a spare, but our child rejected it. The spare was too late to the game and remains fresh and pink and beautiful and therefore entirely unacceptable. Which means Rah-Rah is now the most valuable non-human item in our home.

Rah-Rah showing solidarity with Rah-Rah’s Mommy (who was rejected for overt cleanliness).

Rah-Rah is a part of our family. She smells like Wheat Thins and gets her non-existent hair and teeth brushed. She speaks Spanish and occasionally Hebrew. She probably has Irritable Bowel Syndrome, as our daughter claims Rah-Rah has a constant stomach ache. She can halt tears and screaming. She can soothe an anxious soul. She has performed miracles. The lives of our family members, preschool teachers and countless members of the public are more peaceful because of her. She is most effective when used like an ether rag. My daughter holds Rah-Rah over her nose and mouth and breathes her in and the world seems to right itself.

snuffle

I didn’t come here to start no trouble, I just came to do the Rah-Rah Snuffle (heh).

Am I worried about my daughter’s attachment? Nope. She’s a confident, smart little girl who has a nasty piece of cloth she calls her best friend. She doesn’t take it everywhere or insist on it being with her every second of the day. She cheated on it last week and slept with a can of Pringles for five days. I’m pretty sure that means she’s totally normal.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics says it is normal for a child to be attached to some sort of toy or blanket used as a transitional object. Children get easily overstimulated as they’re exploring their little worlds, and a lovey can be a familiar, dependable presence that can help them feel less overwhelmed.

Odds are your child will not end up rubbing their blanket on their face while sitting in the board room. Children naturally wean themselves from the objects as they get more confident in their environment. If keeping up after a lovey starts to become too much for you (the cleaning, the tracking, etc.), then set boundaries. Maybe the lovey is only for nighttime, or it has to stay in your child’s room, or perhaps it’s not allowed on errands or can’t go to school. Do remember it’s a source of comfort and stability for your child, so don’t, like, throw it in the trash one day or ever tease your child about it because you have decided it’s time for lovey to go. And if your child is gravitating toward a lovey well into elementary school, it’s a handy signal to take another look at any stresses your child might have and to examine why they are seeking additional comfort.

If you’re worried that your child will not or does not have an attachment to a lovey, you shouldn’t be. It will either happen or it won’t. If not, your child will figure out other ways to self-soothe. For instance, before our son discovered cars, he would rock himself back and forth on his stomach to calm down. He still does this periodically to fall asleep at night. Lovies are not the be all and end all.

If you do want to encourage your child’s attachment to a lovey, it helps to start when kids are young, around two to three months old. Find something soft that you can sleep with so that it absorbs some of your scent. Try giving it to your child during waking hours or while you feed them so they equate it with the security they feel when they’re with you. Once your child is rolling over both ways, you can designate the lovey for sleep and see how they take to it.

If your child attaches naturally to something bizarre like a plastic spoon from Dairy Queen or a pedometer from an employee health challenge, it’s okay. Trying to force a lovey on your child may not work (it didn’t with my son). Let your child gravitate naturally toward an object that represents security for them. And don’t try to change your child’s lovey to something you want that seems more socially acceptable or visually attractive. I don’t care if your child is toting around a stale tortilla with burn marks in the shape of Jesus; let it be. The heart wants what it wants.

Personally, my heart belongs to Dr. Pepper and a bag of Chili Cheese Fritos, but I no longer need them to help me fall asleep each night.

(P.S. Let’s all agree that the term “lovey” is the worst. I will pay you five dollars to come up with an alternative.Forget that. I will pay you a million dollars. )

Author’s Note:

I consulted the following sources which have really helpful additional information about lovies and transitional objects:

Healthy Children.org (from the American Academy of Pediatrics): “Transitional Objects”: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Transitional-Objects.aspx

“How to Introduce a Lovey into Your Baby’s Life”: http://emilys-little-world.blogspot.com/2011/11/how-to-introduce-lovey-into-your-babys.html

Katie Bartley, Sleep Consultant: http://katiebartley.com

“Loveys and Blankies: What’s Normal, What’s Not?”: http://babyfit.sparkpeople.com/articles.asp?id=1040

“Wacky Toddler Behavior: Stuck on Loveys”: http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/development/behavioral/lovey/

“When Your Child Doesn’t Have a Lovey”: http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/955759/raising-an-independent-baby

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17 Responses to Life with a Lovey

  1. Kira Willingham September 6, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

    My first child had 6 loveys. Yes, six. Their names were lovey dovey, fancy lovey, lovey dovey, and when my mom purchased a monogramming machine: Jake 1, Jake 2, and Jake 3. My second child has a mere one lovey with her name on it but is regularly soothed by any of her brothers loveys. Thank GAWD the daycare workers are smart enough to know if she has brought a lovey with the name Jake on it that this valuable sleeping pill should be in her hand. My poor third child doesn’t have a lovey with her name on it at all and anything that resembles a lovey (think burp cloth) automatically gets snatched from her hands and is inserted into her sisters mouth with her thumb. Yes, Maddie (middle child) is a bully. Probably bc she was knocked from baby status to middle child before she could say “baby” #thirdchildproblems…

    • Kira Willingham September 6, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

      Oh, and I apologize. The naming of the loveys has a duplicate. There is not two loveys named lovey dovey. The third ones name is hippie lovey (very ragged, smelly and always needs a bath.).

  2. Katie August 22, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    OMG – Best post ever! I was laughing from the beginning but by the time I got to the “cheating can of Pringles”, I had tears in my eyes. I think because I can relate a little too much. We have “Bear,” who smells as bad as “Rah Rah” and just because my kid likes to smell the tags on the stinky lovey, he thinks everyone else does, too. I gag. Unfortunately, I didn’t know I needed 3, so we have 1. My son might die if “Bear” ever goes missing and so will this momma! Can’t wait to read more of your posts.

  3. Jennifer @ Geek Chic Mama August 20, 2014 at 7:41 pm #

    I used to joke how awful it would be if the little one fell in love with a white blanket.

    Lo and behold, not only is the one white blanket we got at his baby shower his must-have for sleep, it turns out it’s freakishly expensive and would set me back $70+ to get a backup! He changed rooms at daycare today and I once again found myself apologizing to the caregivers and promising that “it’s not dirty, it’s just always stained”.

    • Ashley
      Ashley August 22, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

      Exactly like Rah-Rah. “It’s clean, I promise!”

  4. Gleemonex August 20, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

    Love this! My kids don’t really have loveys — or, they do, but it changes every day. 🙂 My sister, OTOH, had a small green plastic Kermit the Frog when she was about two, and ALL OF OUR LIVES were dedicated to the care and preservation of that dang thing. WOE BETIDE anyone within screamin’ range if “Kermie” went missing … and it was so *small.* It went missing a lot. Things got better when her affections transferred to a little stuffed lion …

    • Ashley
      Ashley August 22, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

      Mine always briefly attach to whatever teeny-tiny prizes come in goodie bags from parties and around bedtime there’s always some mad dash to find whatever item has gone missing (most likely because I threw it in the trash).

  5. Anna August 20, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    We are in the same boat! My older child, a boy wouldn’t attach to anything. He wanted us to lay down with him until at least 3.5 years old. When my daughter was about 4 months old we got her a stuffed lamb for Easter. It never occurred to me that Lambie would be her best friend. If I had thought it through I would have bought two or three. Or at least picked a stuffed animal that was washable. We wash lambie anyway. She has a favorite blanket, and accepts substitute blankies. There was one awful day at preschool when she saw an identical Lamb in another student’s backpack. She was SURE that it was hers. (It was all raggedy and nubby, too, bud didn’t have the custom hair bow around its neck.) I had to bodily restrain her and drag her to the car where she screamed hysterically until we got home to see her Lambie. And secretly I thought about stealing it. Or at least offering $100 to take it off their hands.

    • Ashley
      Ashley August 22, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

      We had the same issue with another child in a class who had an identical Rah-Rah. I thought we were going to have to sniff test (one of the great things I dread in life is having to sniff other lovies) but it turns out the other mom had the great idea to monogram hers.

  6. Beth August 20, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    This is our story! My middle son has a lovey named Lovey (I know), that used to be a brown velvet baby jacket he found in a box of outgrown clothes I was putting away. It’s been with him since he was one year old. It’s threadbare now, and irreplaceable. He does the “ether rag” thing too.

    • Ashley
      Ashley August 20, 2014 at 10:09 am #

      Ooh, brown velvet! Sounds fancy! I image a lot of kids would pick velvet for a lovey because of the texture. Rah-Rah feels like an old balled up washrag, and I imagine worn down velvet would have to feel better!

  7. Deb L August 20, 2014 at 8:56 am #

    My older son would literally throw everything out of his crib except for his pacifier when he was little. I offered every version of a lovey I could find with no luck. Eventually he settled on a stuffed puppy that he still has to have when he sleeps. His name, ironically, is ‘Real Puppy’.

    • Ashley
      Ashley August 20, 2014 at 9:49 am #

      Almost better than what kids choose to adopt as a lovey is the name it’s given. I can’t wait to get Real Puppy and Rah-Rah together someday!

  8. candice
    candice August 20, 2014 at 8:49 am #

    Love this. My triplets all have “night nights”. The two that are identical became attached to the same night night at a few months old so we had to cut it in half and share (ghetto style night nights). Every time I pick one up to put it in their beds I always smell it because even if it smells like Whataburger ketchup it still makes my heart ship a beat with crazy love…for my kids, not the ketchup, that’s a whole other addiction.

    You are hilarious, excellent job on the blog

    • Ashley
      Ashley August 20, 2014 at 9:48 am #

      I wonder how many folks with multiples have had to cut lovies into portions? Too funny. I would consider taking on a lovey if it smelled like Fancy Ketchup, no doubt.

  9. Ashley
    Ashley August 20, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    Ha- “Not Winston”! I love it. Some kids (like ours) clearly make it known that there is one “correct” lovey and a definite spare!

  10. Melissa D August 20, 2014 at 7:53 am #

    This is our story! My daughter has a bear that used to be pink and fluffy, but now is dingy and almost flat. Her bear is called Winston and his back-up is known as “Not Winston.” He has been everywhere with us, including Disneyland, the Omaha Zoo, and HEB. Early childhood is filled with so many transitions, I’m glad she has a constant friend!