I had a relatively hard time getting each of my three children to sleep. I followed much of the advice found within “Good Night, Sleep Tight” by Kim West, also known as “The Sleep Lady.” One recommendation she had was to introduce a transitional object – or a “lovey.” This lovey helps a baby or toddler soothe themselves in stressful moments. It’s something for them to cling to when they’re faced with something new or scary.
My eldest never had a lovey. So far, my youngest hasn’t either. But my middle child – our daughter – has an intense relationship with her self-chosen lovey that’s really beautiful to witness. I wasn’t necessarily a believer in the whole lovey thing. I also sort of just saw it as a cute childhood experience or something to try to help her sleep through the night. It wasn’t until recently that I truly fell in love with the lovey myself.
I remember the day Hannah discovered her lovey. We had taken the kids – then 7 and 3 – to Toys R Us “just because.” Our son beelined for the Legos and made his choice within minutes. Meanwhile, our daughter anguished over her decision as we roamed aisle by aisle for a solid thirty minutes. She ended up not finding something she wanted, so we reluctantly headed to the checkout to join my husband and son. It was at that point that she saw her: a small black dog made by FAO Schwartz. She squealed with delight, firmly placed the dog in the crook of her elbow, and this little dog has been a part of our family ever since.
Hannah named her treasure “Mommy Doggie.” Mommy Doggie sleeps with Hannah nightly. She goes on all trips and outings. Sometimes she hangs in the car while we do our thing (school, the beach, a birthday party, etc.), but she’s always waiting for Hannah when we return. Mommy Doggie now has an impressive collection of her own outfits and jewelry. She’s survived the washer and dryer countless times. Her neck is so thin from being firmly lodged in Hannah’s elbow crook, I worry her head will fall off. She’s had tea parties, birthday parties of her own, time-outs, sleepovers, and oodles and oodles of cuddles. She’s even been in our most recent family portrait with grandma and grandpa (“She’s part of this family, too, Mom!”). I’m hard pressed to find a single picture of Hannah in the last two years without Mommy Doggie in it!
I appreciate how quiet Mommy Doggie is and like the fact that she’s small enough to be stashed in my purse if needed. I’ve hated her for losing herself at grandma’s house and once even the grocery store and the late-night drives we’ve had to make to find her. I’ve growled at being late for work because we couldn’t possibly leave the house until we found Mommy Doggie to come along. However, everything changed when I completely fell in love with her. I now value Mommy Doggie nearly as much as my daughter does.
My daughter broke her nose just before Christmas (picture each hand on different arms of two couches and my daughter using the strength of her arms to lift herself and swing. Now picture her losing balance and landing just right). She had a deviated septum and a vein that filled to roughly the size of a small cherry tomato which blocked her entire nostril. Her cartilage was dying; if we didn’t fix things quickly enough, we ran the risk of her entire nose collapsing. She ended up having to have an emergency surgery two days after Christmas.
As I talked to my daughter about her upcoming surgery, anesthetics, and what to expect, she asked if either of us (her father or I) would be there. I assured her that we’d be there the whole time, but she responded with, “Will you be there to hold me while I sleep and the doctor fixes my nose?” I explained that no, I wouldn’t and couldn’t be, but I would be there the very minute she woke up. She then asked if Mommy Doggie would be. I assured her that Mommy Doggie would and watched as her face relaxed and some of the fear disappeared.
The day of the big surgery, Hannah played games with Mommy Doggie and sang songs, as usual. When the hospital staff came to wheel her down the hallway – away from us and off to the unknown – I was completely relieved that Hannah had Mommy Doggie in the secure place within her tiny arm. I felt incredibly grateful that Hannah had someone so loving; something so secure and comforting. I felt complete gratitude for an inanimate object. It sounds silly now, but at that moment, I truly loved that lovey.
After she was wheeled away and we went to the waiting area, all of the stress and worry came out. I’d held it in for nearly a week and finally released everything through tears. I no longer had to be strong for my daughter; outside of her presence, I could finally express just how worried and stressed I was. Neil, whom I’ll never forget, sitting at the information desk noticed my anguish and came out with a small yellow duck for me to hold. This wasn’t for my daughter (she’d received two already!) but one for me. Neil recognized that I’d needed a lovey, too, to help me with this scary experience.
Once I was allowed in to recovery to sit with Hannah as the effects of the anesthesia wore off, I placed a kiss on her small forehead, glad that the worst was behind us. I then placed a kiss on Mommy Doggie’s forehead as well, grateful for her help in that difficult day.
While I’d never personally had a lovey myself, I can’t speak enough about how incredibly helpful they can be. I’m waiting to see if our youngest finds a lovey of his own. If he does, I think I better buy two.
Did you have a lovey as a child? Do your own children have a lovey? Has there been a time when you’ve truly loved and appreciated that inanimate object, or is it just me? I’d love to hear from you!