Disclaimer: The American Academy of Pediatrics’ safe sleep practices are always good to review. As always, every parent has to decide what they’re comfortable with regarding the care of their sleeping child.
Nine years ago, before my oldest was even born, he was gifted all manner of “loveys” from friends and family who attended my baby shower. I didn’t really understand the lovey craze at that time, as I couldn’t recall ever being particularly attached to a certain item when I was a child. Sure, I had several favorite stuffed animals and baby dolls, but this was just because I liked them, not because I needed them. One evening, when my son was around four months old and uncharacteristically squirmy and restless in his crib, I decided to see if using a lovey would help calm him down. As I held my baby, I softly dragged a lovey, a shaggy, white dog, along my son’s cheek. He was immediately pacified, and so began our journey with this lovey.
As my baby grew and was able to roll over and safely maneuver in his crib, I placed that lovey in there with him. Almost instinctively, his chubby, little fingers found the satin tag of his lovey, and every night thereafter, within moments of finding that tag, my sweet baby boy would drift off into a peaceful slumber. Even when he would wake up throughout the night, as long as he could locate his lovey, he could instantly soothe himself right back to sleep. “Puppy Lovey,” as he would affectionately become known, was not only a comfort to my son but to me as well. I was able to rest well knowing that my baby boy felt secure and comfortable alone in his crib.
Fast forward eight years. That baby boy is now in the third grade. He and that original Puppy Lovey still share a bed. Occasionally, my husband will remark to me that he can’t believe our son is still attached to Puppy Lovey. He wonders when this bedtime ritual with Puppy Lovey will come to an end. I gently remind him that it does not matter, that as long as our boy is comfortable and content, this was a good thing. It’s not like our son is dependent upon having his lovey to fall asleep. There have been countless instances when he’s fallen asleep on the couch without it and times when he’s forgotten Puppy Lovey at home while sleeping out. Not having Puppy Lovey has never caused a problem; he just settles down much more easily and quickly when he does have it.
Every time I look at my eight-year-old, I am reminded of how time flies, of how the days are long but the years are short. There will be a day when he no longer wants to sleep with Puppy Lovey snuggled up against his chest, when he decides he is too big or too cool or that it is time to put away childish things in favor of more mature interests. One day, those little fingers and their frantic, unconscious rubbing of Puppy Lovey’s tag will go still. The rustling of the tag between my boy’s fingers, a sound so faint that only a trained ear can identify it, will cease to be heard. There will come a time when my not-so-little boy encounters problems that cause him to lose sleep, problems that not even Puppy Lovey can remedy. There will be nights when my sweet baby boy cries himself to sleep over a broken heart, lonely nights where nothing can bring him comfort or peace. So, in the meantime, I’m going to appreciate Puppy Lovey in all his tattered glory. I’ll cherish him stitched and stained, his once readable tag now devoid of washing instructions after having had all its ink rubbed off. For now, even with his matted fur and bald spot on the tip of his tail, I’ll remain grateful for the serenity he brings to my not-so-little baby boy.