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.
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 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.
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. )
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