Stuffed animals are the cutest…I think because they are snugly and babies are snugly. Cozy, happy emotions are tied up in both the baby and the animal. My kids have stuffed animals…we call them lovies in general. Bo and Giraffe are their names, and they hold much value to our family. If you want all of my money, then steal my kids’ lovies…I will pay ransom.
I didn’t want my kids to have such strong attachments to inanimate objects, but they do. I wrestle over my own relationship with my kids’ lovies. There are benefits and there are drawbacks which leave me uncertain to how to encourage parents of new babies on this topic. Sometimes the negatives seem to outweigh the positives.
The toting around, the keeping up with, the misplacing, the searching, the delayed bedtimes, the delayed leavings, the tears of a lovie left behind.
But yet, I’m the one who chose this route, and I would do it all over again. Why?
The sweetness, the cuddling, the thoughtfulness. The sleep.
My oldest, Nora, received her bunny, Bo, when she was 6 months old, the perfect age for forming an attachment. I wanted her to have something to sleep with because at the time I was working and traveling a lot. I needed Nora to know that when she had her lovie it was time to sleep whether we we were in the car, a hotel, or her grandparents’ house. It worked flawlessly. But then as soon as she could pull up, I would catch her sneaking into her room to rescue Bo from her crib. Sooner than I could blink Bo was her Beloved and her comfort and made every new place and every injury better.
We’ve had our scares and long searches for Nora’s lovie. The worst being Nora dropped him on a walk at a city park. His rescue happened after several calls to all places visited that day and a frantic jog along our trodden path that evening. At that point I wrote on Bo’s tag, “Very Special,” with my phone number.
It came off after about 3 washes.
(People keep telling me this clever idea that we should have two of each of their lovies. Here’s why I think this is flawed, at least for us. I would have had to know the day I gave them their lovies that strong attachments would be formed. One month of love shows on a lovie. It would only work if I exchanged the lovies every other day to let them get an equal amount of love and grossness on them. They know their lovies by appearance only, even before they smell and feel them. There’s no way I could have introduced a lovie clone and expected it to stay that way. Great in theory, just not for us.)
Nora at five years old does not have the attachment she did at 2; however, he was in tow on her first day of preschool; and he is still her favorite thing to snuggle if she’s sad; and he is still for bedtime.
Wesley’s relationship with his lovie, Giraffe, is more complex. His attachment formed at about 4 months and with that Wesley became a thumb sucker. On one outing, my sister Amy sat in the back seat of the car with him and watched him twist Giraffe around and around until he found just the right leg to grip and then suck his thumb. Then he’d drop Giraffe, cry, and start the process all over again.
When Wesley was 9 month old at his well check-up, I asked the pediatrician if I should get rid of Giraffe to make Wesley stop sucking his thumb. He said no. I asked again 3 months later; he said no. I asked again 6 months later because I knew if I was going to have to make the break some day, the sooner the better. He said, “No. We aren’t going to talk about that until he’s like 5 or 6. And then we’re just going to talk about it. That’s not saying we’re going to do anything.” He assured me (and opinions may differ) that it would do more damage to him psychologically to take his lovie away than to let him suck his thumb.
I asked the dentist, just in case he was wrong. The dentist said the same thing.
So here we are at age three with Giraffe and a thumb that make the world a more manageable place.
Here are my pros to having a lovie:
- Using them as puppets is magical. If my kids are antsy or cranky, then all I have to do is put on a Bo and Giraffe puppet show and I hear nothing but giggles.
- Calming down is made simple. Water + Lovie = Calm (usually)
- When one has wronged another, accidental or otherwise, they are taught to apologize and ask if there is anything that the wrong-doer can do, anything they can get for the one-who-was wronged. The request from the victim is most always a lovie. Now they could request something else, but it is sweet for me to observe the wrong-doer retrieve the lovie to make things right.
- Going to sleep is just a little simpler.
- New places have something familiar.
- When my kids snuggle their lovies, they also usually snuggle with me.
Here are my cons to having a lovie:
- The fear of losing them. My heart sinks any time Bo or Giraffe is misplaced, especially if it’s in a public space.
- The restrictions to other kids that Bo and Giraffe are special. We encourage sharing, but not for the lovies. However this is occasionally difficult depending on the age of the visiting friend or the dog that we are seeing.
- Staying asleep is a little harder. Wesley still wakes up and comes to get me if he can’t find Giraffe. Giraffe falls off the bed, usually the wall side, and no sleep will happen until he’s retrieved. This happens about twice a week.
- Wash day is hard. Inevitably something will happen and Nora or Wesley will want/”neeeeed” their lovie, but it is soaking wet in a wash cycle. It. Never. Fails.
- The judgment. Sometimes we moms are gracious to each other and sometimes we aren’t. And we seem to lack empathy and grace when we aren’t struggling with the same thing. I know there are parents and non-parents who think we are ridiculous for toting these stuffed animals around, for letting our child be so dependent on a lovie for comfort and sleep, for letting my kid suck his thumb.
I know there are things that can be said, but these lovies are my sanity. My kids need them, so I need them. I will pay a ransom. Name your price. My kids will just owe me in about 20 years.