I first heard of the word “lovey” when I was missing a lot of sleep. My son was 4 months old. He’s ok with go to bed at 7pm, but determined to wake up every day at 4am. We’ve tried everything, he just won’t go back to sleep at 9am. So I went my usual route whenever I have unsolvable problem: books. One of the books I read mentioned giving your child a lovey. As a non-native speaking person, I have to seek help from Google and dictionary to find the meaning of this newly invented word. Turned out, it can be anything like teddy bear, stuffed animals, or a security blanket.
At that point, I was still naïve in thinking that I can cultivate my son’s likes and dislikes. I’ve learned how wrong was I since then.
But I didn’t know, so I went to TJ Maxx, remembering I’ve seen some lovely blankets there. I picked a monkey. It had such a soft fabric, white small blanket, with a knitted monkey head, a bell inside to make lovely sound, and red velvet trim. That’s the type of toy I want my son to fall in love with.
Again, little did I know, my son has his own mind. The book taught me to give it to him every night, until he can’t leave it. It gives him a hint that it’s bed time, hush hush, go to sleep, please, pleeeez. I tried it for a month. It turned out, my son already decided on his lovey, it’s definitely not the monkey. In fact, the monkey annoys him so much that he’d start kicking it away as soon as I out it in his arms.
So let’s go back a bit. My mom brought some fast drying towels when I was pregnant. I started using them as burping clothes when my son arrived. It was soft, microfiber, easy to clean and easy to dry. Plus it has a pleasant yellow color. I feed my son every 3 hours with that towel on my shoulder. Apparently that did it. My son fell in love with the towel without me knowing. It represents that warm and satisfying moments when he’s well fed, rest on my shoulder, burp with satisfaction.
You’ve guessed it. My son chose a lovey that’s so common in household and public. It’s the yellow microfiber towel that every cleaning lady has. I bet you have a dozen at home, in yellow or other colors.
I wasn’t happy. Because in my imagination, my little boy would drag a teddy, or at least a stuffed animal, around the house, not a towel.
It only gets worse. When my son’s in school, he needs it to deal with the separation anxiety. And guess what, the teachers start to refer it as the “rag”. It hurts my self-esteem so much, I couldn’t even describe it with words. I already felt guilty enough for sending my son to daycare at that early an age because of my work, and now I’m accused of giving a cleaning rag to him as his one lovey?!
The embarrassment goes on and on. When we are in public, he’d point to the bypassing janitor cart because he sees his yellow towel. He’d try to fetch a dirty one from the mop bucket because “my towel” was in there.
I tried to replace it with similar ones, what an epic failure. Til today, my son is almost 3 years old, he’s still so attached to the towel. And he’s getting even more demanding. I used to be able to replace the old ones with new ones, as long as it’s the same color. Now he only wants his old towels that are no longer soft and plush. Even though I purposefully get the same size (extra plush, for my pride), he accused it as “big towel”, while his old and raggy ones are “small towels”. Reasoning doesn’t work at all for a three-ager!
Another thing is the boy syndrome – for moms. I want to think that I’m raising a true boy, a wild one who has dirt all over when he comes home, who’s not afraid of bugs or snakes, who jumps and runs all the time. Dragging a towel is not my ideal of “typical boy style”. My son recently started watching Barney. Baby Bop has a blanket just like his (only it’s a real lovey, not a towel, ugh). He’s so in love with the show now because he can relate so much with Baby Bop!
However, there are perfect scientific reasons for giving your child a lovey. Or rather, if you don’t, he or she will choose one by themselves by their first birthday. It’s often something that’s close to you, the mom, like your cloth, or like the towel I put on my shoulder that whole year. It creates an association to their dear moms. So even when moms are away, those objects give them a sense of security.
It starts when he’s tired, it helps him to go to sleep. Then he may be separated from you, it will reassure him. He’s bound to experience new environment which can be quite scary to the little mind, it’s his anchor to home and comfort.
So please don’t take away that Teddy, or Ducky, or Pinky, or Raggy. There’s nothing wrong with being weak, cautious, or scared. But we all need something to hold on to. Of course, there’s nothing better than a mommy’s hand to the little guys, but we can’t be so selfish of only offering that, can we? And honestly, the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far as a new mom, is that my son is an independent smart pants. He can and will make his own choices, even when he’s barely 4 months old. All I can do is to go along, cheer, applause, and offer my hug when there are tears involved.
Despite all my complaint. There’s one benefit about my son’s choice. At least it’s easy to find replacement (though getting him used to replacement still take time). I’ve known moms go a very long way trying to find the identical lovey. Your kid may fall in love with a random gift from a friend, or even souvenir from abroad. Those are not easy to find on Amazon. So lucky me! Life has a silver lining!
I find it easier to use reasoning when he’s 2.5. I told him that mommy’s new towel is a magic towel. All you need to do is to hold on to it with the old towel, and if keep rubbing and kissing it, it’ll eventually turned into his “small towel”.
Whenever you can, wash the old lovey and new lovey together. Abuse the new one until it looks “old”. Like everything in parenting, consistency is the key.