Did you have a Blankie? If you didn’t, I would bet that you know someone who did. I’ll bet that you not only know someone who had one, I’ll bet you know someone who really loved their Blankie. Someone who wanted to take it everywhere. Someone who rubbed their nose with it. Smelled it. Snuck it, when they weren’t supposed to have it, like contraband. Went crazy if it was lost, forgotten, or missing. Addicted to it like it was some sort of strange Blankie crack. Blankies, it turns out, are universal in what kids, and some adults, do with them. Most people have a Blankie story. I did not have a Blankie. My little brother did. I admit. I thought his blanket obsession was dumb. I didn’t get it. Then, my son was born. Suddenly, I was all about the Blankie. I went to the mall immediately to find him a “boy” blanket. So, I found a sweet blue and white striped thermal blanket.
My son had a lot of blankets. Maybe I subconsciously favored the first blue and white striped blanket. I had friends who did everything they could to get their kids to attach to a certain blanket or security object. I did nothing to encourage my son’s attachment to a blanket. Nevertheless, it quickly became obvious my son loved the blue and white striped blanket, because he would stop fussing when it was given to him.
A toddler dragging their beloved Blankie around is really cute. I let him take it everywhere. However, after a while it wasn’t always so cute and sometimes it was downright disgusting. We had to establish a few Blankie rules:
- Blankie had to stay in his bed. He could go visit Blankie anytime he wanted, but Blankie stayed in the bed. There were times, such as when he had a friend over, (even though he was under the age of 5) that it just wasn’t a good idea if he was loving, smelling, or playing with Blankie and not the other kid.
- Blankie could come out of his bed on special occasions: birthday mornings and when we traveled. Blankie was in his lap when he was allowed to eat birthday cake for breakfast. He kept Blankie safely tucked away in his pillowcase when we went out of town.
As I watched my son grow to love his Blankie, a strange thing happened that I had not anticipated. I began to love Blankie, too. Not as security object. I loved Blankie because it comforted and made my son so happy. Everyone in our family referred to Blankie as a he! We were personifying a blanket! I didn’t mean for it to happen, but it did. His Grammy totally got it, because she too had a Blankie that she remembered very fondly and often. She would even smell Blankie!
When my son was about five or six years old, he began asking the inevitable question. “What am I going to do when I don’t have Blankie anymore? How will I get to sleep? I’ve always slept with Blankie.” I had been dreading these inevitable questions. I had been told by my mentor in graduate school, “Never buy a second blanket, let the first one deteriorate naturally.” That was all I had ever been taught about how to handle security objects.
As hard as it was not to rescue my son from his pain by running out to find a new one, I watched as Blankie started to slowly deteriorate and as my son started to grieve. Holes could no longer be sewn up by his Grammy when pieces of Blankie began falling onto the floor. A can with his name on it became the perfect place to put the pieces of Blankie as they slowly, but steadily, fell off. It was helpful to have a plan and a “special place” for the pieces; both gave him reassurance. Keeping them in a special place with his name on it also meant that we didn’t have to throw Blankie away, which also provided comfort.
Surprisingly, some parents feel compelled to “get rid” of security objects as children grow older, particularly with boys. Security objects are seen as unmasculine, weak, girly, and/or babyish. I have heard stories of “Blankie Fairies” coming to take the Blankie away to a new baby. Some children are asked to voluntarily donate their Blankie to another child or baby. Some children are belittled that they are still acting like a “baby” and should not have a Blankie, as an attempt to get them to stop caring for their security objects.
As my son got older, he would hold one last sweet little handful of Blankie each night. One morning, I walked in to wake him, and there was the last handful on the nightstand beside his bed. The sight of it made me sad. A childhood friend was gone. My son had slept without Blankie for the first time in over nine years. But, it was great, because he did it! I did not intervene. He slept without Blankie on his own timeline and his own terms. Neither his friends nor even his sister knew exactly how and when Blankie went away. His childhood grief was slow, private, painful, and dignified. It was practice. Practice for the painful things everyone is inevitably forced to grieve in life.
One day I came across a small piece of Blankie swept into a cranny in the hallway leading to my son’s bedroom. I looked at it with sadness for him and thought, “Oh, a Blankie Bit.” I sat down with tears in my eyes, and wrote Blankie’s story. Now, Blankie Bits serves as a guide for kids and their parents for how to handle security objects, particularly Blankies, as children grow. Parents often long for a handbook about how to raise children. Blankie Bits is a small handbook for how kids can learn to live with and without their Blankies.