One night, my 3-year-old son fell out of bed and split open his lip. His bed was a bloody mess.|
We got him patched up, but his lip still was bleeding and it wasn't a spot that could handle a bandage. I didn't want to change sheets at midnight only to have them bloody again by morning; he, rightfully, didn't want to sleep in the wet mess. So I flipped the pillow and pulled up the sheet until the mess magically "disappeared." Everyone was happy - until he went to settle into bed with his beloved, and now bloody, blanky.
"Wash it, Momma."
He has never willingly given up his Blank to be washed. (And yes, as any parent whose child has had a lovey knows, the Blank deserves its status as a proper noun. It is that important in our lives, an entity around which life revolves.)
"I can't wash it, Bud. If I wash it, you won't have it to sleep with."
"But I need it."
"Then, you've got it."
"But it's bloody."
This went on for a bit. He knew what his choices were, he really didn't want to sleep with blood, but he couldn't give up the Blank. It was midnight; I wanted to lie down and I am not heartless. I cuddled with him and the nasty, stinky blanky until he went to sleep.
And that's the thing about loveys: They're great until they aren't. They can help a child feel secure and be a tool for them to rely on while they learn to calm themselves. But at some point, like any external crutch being used by anyone, they are fallible. They break. They get dirty. They get lost. And then you, the parent, is left with a child in a tizzy because a.) something bad already happened and b.) the center of the known world is gone. It's all very dramatic and not fun.
Not every child has a lovey, but many do. Experts call them "transitional objects," and the American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents that having a particular attachment to a toy or blanket is normal. My boys and most of the other kids I've known have picked their lovey in late babyhood, between 6 and 9 months. Toys and blankets are common--both of my boys have blankies, but I've known kids to carry around towels or insist on a particular hat.
Pediatricians say parents shouldn't worry about weaning toddlers off transitional objects. Typically, these loveys will find themselves left in a corner as the child grows more active and comfortable in the world. Conveniently, this usually happens around the time a child is ready to start school, where loveys are discouraged.
Still, that leaves several years where a child's good mood is dependent on something easily lost or broken. How do you stave off disaster?
Many parents of children attached to pacifiers will begin the weaning process by limiting their use to the crib. I don't want to get rid of my sons' blankets, but I just couldn't step on spitty satin blanket backing any longer, plus, I wanted to get my 3-year-old slowly adjusted to the idea of leaving his Blank at home everyday while he ventured to school. So, in our house, once a child turns 3, the blanket becomes a Bedroom-only Blank. The boys are free to go to their rooms and hang out with the Blank as much as they want, but the blanket doesn't leave the bedroom. (We make special exceptions for long car-rides and injuries.) This has the added bonus of allowing the parent, when a child is throwing a tantrum, to deal with the behavior by simply saying, "I think you need some blanky time." The child doesn't feel like he's being punished, exactly, because he gets his comfort item, but it's also clear that he can't behave like a brat and get to hang out with the family.
And that's the beauty of a lovey: They teach a child to trust in and take care of himself.