Do your children drag around the same shabby stuffed toys for years? They’re not alone.
Written by Jeanette Schneider
Photography by Nicole Dake
If you Google the word “lovey,” you will find a plethora of sites either enabling your need to find the most perfect “comfort object” for your little one or to understand why your child has developed an almost obsessive connection to a piece of fuzz and eyeballs. The broader psychological communities respond to the inconvenience that is a ratty, possibly even stinky, spat upon, and unconditionally loved piece of cloth with boundaries and clinical speak. One moment they suggest it is an item of comfort, and in the next breath. They surround you with soft-sounding words to alleviate your concerns that your child will be 30 with a smelly bear tucked into their weekender bag.
I am no psychologist, but I am a mom and an observer of life. I can only share my own experience and the experiences of those who are close to me. My very formal, very unprofessional opinion?
Let them have their babies.
My daughter selected her lovey when she was about five months old, and it was simply in a pile of other babies I put in her crib. There was nothing special about it, but the ears were especially chewable and the body was perfect for yanking. Soon that little rabbit was a big part of the family. Liv carried Baby Rabbit with her everywhere, and shortly after she started saying “Mama” she started saying “Buh.” She taught her Buh all the new words she’d learn, and I’d hear her in her crib working out the happenings of the day. If she got in trouble for hitting the dog, Buh got in trouble for hitting another baby in her crib.
Buh went along with Liv to preschool. I realized that she definitely made an impression when teachers I did not know said, “Good morning” to both Liv and Baby Rabbit when I dropped them off. I never once discussed when we would end their relationship, and not one person ever recommended a break up. If Liv had a particularly tough day, her teacher would suggest she and Buh go snuggle on a frog pillow placed in the corner of the room for a few moments.
We bought Buhs in mass quantity and were nervous that if she found the drawer full of Buhs she’d become psychologically scarred. The day she found the stack, she squealed with delight, “Babies!”
When my husband and I went through our divorce, I heard Liv talking about how Buh had a crib at daddy’s house, too. Buh suddenly had her own babies, and Liv helped her raise them as the older, wiser maternal figure in their crib.
When I’d haphazardly notice Liv selecting other babies to sleep with, I found my chest get a little tight. I knew she would eventually grow out of Baby Rabbit, but this very specific transition made me a little sad. My baby was growing up.
I asked her about it one night. “Liv, do you still need Baby Rabbit?”
She got a very sweet and nurturing expression on her wise little face. “I love Baby Rabbit the most. I’m her mommy, but I’m a big girl. She likes to stay home some days.”
At four, Liv is her own little person and is taking steps away from the baby I still imagine her to be. She doesn’t always ask for babies to nap with, nor does she immediately grab anything in particular when she cries. I can’t help but notice, however, that no matter which babies, dolls, and fuzzy animals end up on the floor in her room, her Buh always has a spot on her bed and in her little heart.