Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Friday, January 21, 2011

When Should My Child Give Up Her Blankie?

My little one, Lizzy (age 4), can’t resist bringing her pink elephant Ellie everywhere she goes. Her attachment to the stuffed animal is both cute and cumbersome. When we go out together, I need to find Ellie to avoid World War 3 with my toddler in the form of tantrums, tears, and a general surly attitude. Thinking back to my own childhood, I did not have an Ellie but I had a favorite blanket affectionately referred to as "blankie". I can't remember how old I was when I had to give up my blanket and start sleeping alone. However, I do still have my blanket in my possession. This got me thinking if there really a time that a child should give up their comfort object?

If you have ever read the book “The Giver”, by Lois Lowry, every child has to release his or her one stuffed animal once he or she turns nine years old. This is the set age that everyone in the village must comply with as a rite of passage. Nine years of age was old enough that a child should be ready to start acting more independently, according to the elders of the village. I am no psychologist but in reality, how could anyone say that every child is the same and should be in the same developmental stages as all other children of that age.

Lizzy takes Ellie to the grocery store, out on the swing, and most importantly she cuddles Ellie at night. Lizzy’s stuffed animal is a constant in her life at a very young age. It is good that she has Ellie to be with in happy times and sad. A child has a stuffed animal for comfort, for friendship, and for love. There are great memories for Lizzy to hold dear with that elephant. Ellie has been with her through everything; getting shots, moving to a new house, even her first trip to Disney World. That little pink elephant is in almost every picture we have of Lizzy, it even makes an appearance on our Christmas card.

Lizzy has to keep good care of her elephant. She won’t be able to play with it if it rips or gets too dirty. She got so upset the other day when the silk pink ribbon on the top of Ellie’s head started to fray. As soon as she noticed an imperfection, she quickly scurried over to me yelling, “Mommy, Mommy the ribbon is breaking,” while tears started to form in her eyes. Ellie is like Lizzy’s child and she doesn’t want anything bad to happen with her.

I know that Lizzy is still very young to even think about taking such an object away but after rereading “The Giver” not too long ago, the question has still been on my mind, is there really a time to take a stuffed animal away? After thinking about this for quite a while, I’ve come to the conclusion that a child will out grow a stuffed animal on his or her own time. The stuffed animal is not doing any harm to my child and I can go so far to say that it is teaching her values and responsibility. It will be a great reminder of her childhood for years to come. After all, I still have my blanket that I wrap Lizzy in and I hope my daughter has her elephant to share when she has a child of her own!

This guest post was provided by Nicolas DAlleva. Nicolas is a parent of 2 wonderful girls and the owner of a national answering service located in Pennsylvania. When Nicolas is not in his office, he can often be found having Gummy Bear eating contests or snowball fights with his children (weather permitting of course).

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