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Object Permanence

My children don't have a toy lovey that is their main squeeze. They have different toys on different weeks---or days---that are the flavor of the moment, but no particular attachment to any one stuffed animal, doll, or blanket.

As new parents we were assured that a lovey, aka security object, was essential. We were told to introduce an object and the baby would attach. So we tried. And tried and tried.

One day in the store, Patience spied a Groovy Girl doll. She was just over 1 and she pointed excitedly, "Dat! Dat!" Surprised, and heartened that perhaps now we had finally found the lovey, I bought it for her. And for about nine months, it seemed as if we had succeeded. Patience carried that doll everywhere. Everyone seemed relieved.

Before a year was up, though, Patience was all finished with her Groovy Girl doll. She set it down, and never, ever has picked it up or shown any interest in it. The only fond recollection and sentiment for that doll is ours.

For a while, people asked about the doll, "Where is she? Has she been replaced?"

That's when I finally realized the security object is mainly for the comfort of the adults. When the child is sad, or lonely, scared, or unsure...hand over the lovey with a hug and reassuring words. We felt better leaving her at her Montessori school with her beloved doll. The teachers felt better having it there.

But, alas, no, there was no replacement. Just rotating toys of interest.

I worried a little about her inability to attach, to commit---was this indicative of a lifelong trend?

Permanence is important to me. I had little to none of it as I grew up. We moved every couple of years, had some big change regularly, and I never really learned how to hang in there for the long-haul. I had determined to provide security and permanence for my children.

When I reflected, I realized that Patience had no problem attaching. She merely knew what was important, and it wasn't an object such as a toy. She was very attached to people. And we had known about her real lovey all along: us.

Patience loves to sit by you and rub your elbow.

So we were wiser when Persistence came along. Like Patience, she is attached to people. Or more specifically, their ear lobes.

The true comfort is in knowing that we have taught our children to look to us as security objects, that they do have object permance and attachment to what really that it never really matters where we are, they are, or how permanent or impermanent life may be. They always have the best lovey: love.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert


Christine said…
Oh, Julie. You guys are awesome parents. All they need is you!

We tried the whole lovey thing, too, and realized that the attachment to these objects was fleeting. They never loved any one thing (other than a pacifier) for more than a month at a time

I, on the other hand, STILL have my lovey from when i was 1 month old. Kind of weird, I know!
Mad said…
Miss M always refused a pacifier. She would have none of it. Although I am, in truth, her lovey, she also has 2 identical Kushies Blankie toys and a stuffed elephant that she cannot function without. She wails for them whenever she feels vulneable. All the other toys have their phases of popularity, like baby daisy and Kitty 1.0. The Ellas and elephant, though, are crucial.
thailandchani said…
I've always thought it's rather sad that children would attach to objects instead of the people who surround them.

Your kids have it right.. and those who encourage the idea of security *objects* are a bit weird, imo.



Lawyer Mama said…
I don't think that children attach to objects instead of people, but rather that a lovey can serve as a substitute when their people can't be there. (Says the mom with 2 paci-to-sleep addicted toddlers.)

That being said, I absolutely loved this post. I too moved around quite a bit and I've spent my adult life wandering around as well. I want more permanence for my kids as well.
Unknown said…
I recently saw the bit from The Producers where Zero Mostel grabs Gene Wilder's "hanky" and Gene Wilder completely freaks out and you realize it is the stubby little bits of his blanky. Very funny.

I think you're right. Love is the best lovey. And isn't interesting how people have these very strong ideas about what ALL babies want/need. Pacifiers. No pacifiers. Loveys. No loveys.

I'm not really working with transitions todays. My sinuses are interfering with that part of my brain. I love the picture of the girls. So sweet. And throw in a Kliban cat? It's all good, baby.

BTW, I loved the ball game/restaurant story. Perfect. My two have rewarded interferers with the same look on multiple occasions. Sometimes I am able to shrug it off and sometimes I hate knowing the judgment that others' eyes have for me.

And Marley and I are big Jon and Kate plus 8 fans. I remember the episode you are talking about. It is pretty funny to me when he comes up with something like that. She "has" all the answers and when she has to pull up short and reevaluate, I laugh. (I've been in that position many times myself.) My favorite is when he tells her that she never says please. "The you is implied. Can't the please be implied?" "NO!" was his emphatic response. I'm amazed at their life. I'm grateful it isn't mine but I love going along for part of the ride.

Okay. I think I've zigged and zagged enough for today. Until later...
S said…
Yes. Elbows and earlobes can be very comforting.

And that photo is wonderful. So sweet.
Julie Pippert said…
Christine, not weird at all. I still have cherished childhood things. It's one reason I really bought into the whole "they need a lovey" thing. I always did!


Mad, you remind me I meant to ask in this post about other people's children's lovey...and the names for them. Ellas and elephant, so cute. I think the loveys are sweet.


Chani, I think most people use the objects more like in addition to rather than instead of...a sort of concrete reminder of safe, home, mom, dad, love, etc. However, there are definitely those who do, and I agree, that's weird...especially the degree to which it can be done nowdays. For example, props to hold up a newborn's bottle so you don't have to feed them. I understand divided attention and special need, and I'm sure there are justifiable cases, but I'm thinking of some people I've actually known rather than general hypothetical.


LM, oh of course I didn't mean instead of (see note to Chani above) (oh and reply to Christine above too). I meant I spent all this time trying to get a lovey for Patience because I really believed in it, in loveys. I finally realized one size doesn't fit all, and she had a lovey: an elbow. LOL She just happens to be one who didn't need that one precious object.

Anyway yes, I meant it as in additon to---thus the point of the object serving as reminder. Give the lovey and a reasuring hug to comfort.


Mary, hon I hear you on sinus issues. I am currently doing my best to destroy my liver in under a year taking so many medications just to function. I am so sorry to hear that you are suffering too.

The rapid air pressure changes here this time of year only add insult to injury.

Yes, I wish I had understood better just *how* individual babies are when we first became parents.

That cat is named, FTR, Fuzzy Jasper. I cannot explain it. Some I can, that I cannot. Like Hondo and Fabian, two of her favorites. Those names are from one of our favorite books of all time.

I think you are one who was raving good about that show, yes? I do need to tune in for other episodes.

I am also torn sometimes about that look. Sometimes I'm glad for people to learn the lesson that not all kids belong on Barney...not all are just SO HAPPY!!!!! to have your attention. I try to treat kids like I do grown-ups wrt first meeting. Ease in, etc. It should be the same IMO.


SM, thanks!
NotSoSage said…
I read about the ear lobe thing...where was it, at Kyla's? That's so sweet!

Mme L is exactly the same way as your two girls. I used to ask her at night if she wanted a toy to cuddle with and she would answer, "No you, Mama. Stay a little while." And people at her daycare continue to tell me how compassionate and thoughtful she is. She's having no trouble attaching at all.

This was such a lovely read.
Kyla said…
Ahhh, this was beautiful.

BubTar is still the child with no object attachments; he is a cuddler through and through, though. KayTar came out of the womb attached to her Gee, though. One time we dropped it in public and I felt like we had lost a member of the family, we were completely panicked. Luckily it was found. She and Gee are inseparable.

KayTar is so flattered that her little lear lobes have Persistence's approval. A high honor indeed.
Aliki2006 said…
I used to despair that Liam never had a lovey--he had me, and my hair, which he clung to--but never a lovey. You're so right--we parents need the loveys, not the kids.

I love the pic too!
Magpie said…
That's sweet. My child has never had a lovey either. She's more serial about it - a different one each day - but even so, she doesn't (usually) care if she has one or not. She, however, can't get through the night with at least some time in my bed. I guess I'm her lovey.
Anonymous said…
Fiona didn't have a lovey until she was 2. It was a Kipper dog, and he did everything with us. She dropped him at about 3 1/2 and nothing has replaced him. She doesn't sleep with a stuffed animal! This is bizarre to me because I still do at (almost) 40.

Lorenzo has no "lovey," but perhaps that's coming soon if he is following in his sister's footsteps. (Shhhh) We bought him a cookie monster for his birthday, which is Friday.

Now Fiona has quite an oral fixation, and I have resorted to letting her chew gum because otherwise she would be chewing up the furniture, although neither child used a pacifier or sucked their thumb/fingers as infants. Oh, how quickly I forget! Fiona's pacifier was ME.

You hit the nail on the head with "the security object is mainly for the comfort of the adults."

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