Now that my kids are not babies anymore I have some time to work on their baby scrapbooks. Just yesterday I gathered some remains of “blankie” in order to tape some threads into my younger son’s book. Yes, threads. That is almost all that is left of it. What can I say about “blankie”? How can I explain my own attachment to a baby’s “transition object”?
It all started when I was pregnant with my first child. At the baby shower the best gift I received was a baby blanket. We received lots of blankets, but this one was special. It was softer than air and bluer than the sky. Made of cashmere and silk, the label commanded: “dry clean only.” Yeah, right! I somehow sensed the amount of trips to the drycleaner would diminish. In spite of that daunting label, it quickly became my favorite. The waffly texture and just the right amount of stretch made it the ideal swaddling blanket. Apparently, my child needed to be swaddled in order to fall asleep. Without restraint he would smack himself in the face startling himself awake. I wrapped him up in that blanket so tightly that my father compared it to a straight jacket. I suggested that without the swaddling I might be the one in a straight jacket. He really did need it to sleep, but, as soon as he outgrew the swaddling, he outgrew the blanket. I wistfully packed it away, figuring if I did not have another child I would save it for when my sister had one. It was just too special to cram into one of the many bags of “hand me downs” or donations that perpetually gathered in our garage.
When my second son was born roughly two and a half years later, I retrieved the blanket from the box of treasures. It turned out he slept better when swaddled as well. Eventually, he also outgrew the swaddling but not the blanket. It turned out the mere sight of it would cause him to shudder in ecstasy and fall almost immediately to sleep. It came on every long trip and was his shortcut to slumberland. While my older son had enjoyed a lengthy bedtime ritual involving many stories, my younger son was set into his crib with his blanket and that was it. “Night-night.”
One day I walked into his room to find him sitting up in his crib wearing the blanket as a poncho. He had worn a hole clean through the middle. Rather than patch it we opted to cut it into four equal pieces. One piece still accompanied us on trips, one stayed in the crib, one was saved for his baby book, and one just made the rounds. He did not always carry it around with him. It was still mostly for sleep. But “blankie” was for comfort, pure and simple.
By the time he was two and could clearly say “where blankie?” it had become his constant companion. Eventually the pieces began to shrink. In time I resorted to cutting off pieces of the piece I had saved for his scrapbook; he preferred tiny pieces that fit neatly into the palm of his hand. The luscious cornflower blue had dulled to gray and the soft texture was replaced by a rough grittiness. I had stopped washing the swatches since they just disintegrated. It did not matter. Each piece contained the essence of his babyness. He could spot them from across the room. He would urgently rub the tiny pieces on his lips and be soothed instantly.
Since he had a tendency to leave them places, I took it upon myself to keep track of them. I knew where one (or a handful) could be found at all times and I always had one on me. I remember frantically cleaning up every Monday morning before the house cleaners arrived. My primary motive was to put all of the toys away so that they could actually clean the floor. But I have to admit I was careful to gather all the blankies I could find and tuck them safely away so that they did not get sucked up in the vacuum or thrown away like trash.
One day while cleaning out the garage I came upon our hiking backpack, which had last been seen on a trip East to visit my family. Upon emptying the pockets I spotted a familiar blue material. I hesitated. My first inclination was to tuck the whole thing away. What if I ran out of scraps? They were disappearing so quickly and I was afraid for them to be all gone. I figured might need to whittle away at this one. My husband said to go ahead and give it to him. He figured this giant piece might replace the remnants and be easier to keep an eye on. I imagined my son would be thrilled. If he loved those little pieces wait till he saw this! I dug out the video camera for the sure to be memorable encounter. My son glanced up and with a look that can only be described as disdain, yelled: “Dat not blankie!” and turned and fled the room. Hunh? He ran back just as quickly with the hugest smile ever. “Here my blankie!” In his tiny fist he clutched a handful of thread. I tucked away the blanket along with the smaller pieces.
My “baby” is now five-years old. He is much more independent than his big brother. Any bump or scrape can be fixed with a quick kiss. I can’t remember the last time he asked “where my blankie?” I still have that piece for his baby book. Every time I think he is finally over it he finds another errant thread. I no longer provide the scraps as I unearth them while cleaning for the cleaning lady. I place them all in my jewelry box later to be taped into his baby book.
As I finally sit down to work on his scrapbook I have mixed feelings about him finally outgrowing it. It’s his “baby” blanket and he is far from a baby. But it represents so much more to me. It has been a huge part of my life for several years. It has been almost like an obsession for both of us.
Looking back I can see that by first enabling and then prolonging this habit I was serving my own needs as well as his if not more. True, he seemed to need it. I wanted him to need me. Therefore, by always being able to provide “blankie,” he still needed me. I do want him to grow up strong and independent. I want him to be able to soothe himself. Have I helped him to achieve this by always being the one to provide comfort? I loved being able to be the one to “save the day” by swooping in and handing him that swatch. When I was not there for bedtime my husband never looked for a blankie. Clearly, he can let it go.