Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - November 6, 2015

A "lovey" to love

Husband Art and I met our great-granddaughter Elizabeth for the first time on Monday. At a little more than 4 months old, she is in the stage where she wiggles, smiles and vocalizes while trying to make her body respond to her wishes. Her parents often gave her a small blanket square with a giraffe head attached when she got fussy. She zeroed in on its head with jerky arm movements while her body bobbed about as she tried to keep her head and chest vertical. Sometimes she comforted herself by sucking on her thumb and holding on to one of the two soft blankets they kept close by.

Her actions reminded me of last Friday's CBS News "On the Road" segment with Steve Hartman. Hartman told the story of McKenzy, 3, and the giraffe she calls Raffe. Her mother said Raffe has been the one constant in McKenzy's life through their many moves dictated by her father's multiple military assignments.

But Raffe was lost during the family's most recent move from Washington state to Pennsylvania. Her parents videotaped McKenzy calling out for Raffe as she searched through the packed boxes of stuffed animals and other toys at their new home.

Then, after 11 days, her parents found Raffe at the bottom of one of the last boxes. They decided to record their daughter's reaction when she was reunited with her errant giraffe. They hid Raffe in the refrigerator and told McKenzy to get a drink. She was surprised, then delighted as she pulled him from the refrigerator. Then she burst into tears. It was the first time, her mother said, that McKenzy was so happy that she cried.

Hartman's story reminded me of our daughters and their blankets. Mariya, now 29, and Katie, almost 23, were nearly inseparable from their "blankies" when they were toddlers. They used them as comfort items when they slept, but they also used them during play - as hats, capes, invisibility cloaks, wrapping paper and tablecloths. Mariya's was known as "Ba-ba" and Katie called hers "Bankie."

Katie "lost" Bankie one time when we stayed at a hotel in Kansas City. We were celebrating Christmas with Art's daughter Karen and family before we headed to Wisconsin to see Art's mom Donna. We didn't discover the blanket was missing until we were well on our way. Katie was inconsolable. We called Karen to see if she would check whether the blanket was still at the hotel. She rescued it and sent it to us. What was interesting was that while Katie was mighty happy to get it back once we returned home, she had expressed the most emotion when she merely heard it had been found. Knowing she would see it "someday" seemed more important than having it at that moment.

I think my folks were somewhat worried about the girls' attachments to their blankets and their tendency to suck their fingers when they held them close. Mom even went so far as to bleach Mariya's blanket to make certain it was clean since Mariya had a tendency to drag it on the ground behind her. Of course, that did nothing for its longevity and I was always a bit suspicious that was mom's intention.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most children select security blankets between 8 and 12 months to soothe themselves, to feel safe, to withstand fear or pain and to handle being away from their parents. Academy experts call security blankets "transitional objects" because they help children transition from dependence to independence. Transitional objects work because they are reminders of home, and they feel cuddly. Security blankets personify those things that are comforting in a child's world, but eventually children develop other stress-management techniques.

Mariya and Katie must have thought at various times that I needed soothing too, as they often shared pieces that separated from their well-used blankets with me. I kept them in my bedside dresser for a long time and I must admit they made me smile every time I looked at them.

Art recalls he had a special blanket and a teddy bear. For some reason, the former was called "Tickie" and, when bedtime arrived, Donna would say, "Time to go beddie with Tickie and teddy." Outside of that saying, Art has no recollection of the blanket. But he recalls the teddy - only because of what it wasn't. He had a book with a fuzzy bear on the cover containing the rhyme, "Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear, Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair; Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't fuzzy, was he?" The rhyme stuck with him as his teddy didn't have fur either, but a coat made of yarn ends.

Art has no idea what became of either Tickie or teddy, but the girls keep the tattered remnants of their blankets in dresser drawers to remind them of their childhood. Elizabeth is still a bit young to be attached to any one comfort item. Still, in time she may find a lovey to love just as little McKenzy and our girls did.

Left: Mariya with Art watching television while Mariya clutches her Baba; center: Katie sitting on Art's chest partly covered by her Blankie; right: Dad T.J. wiggles the giraffe as baby Elizabeth is temporarily distracted.

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