We are approaching a new milestone. One that we, as parents, have yet to mark with one of our children. We are approaching the end of the life cycle of Mister J's lovey, whom he calls "Blanket."
Each of our kids has a blanket as their lovey. We [Big J and I] have always called them 'your blanket' when we referred to either one of them in conversation. "Mister J, please pick up your blanket and put it back on your bed." "Miss M, you left your blanket in the playroom." The 'name' stuck, so we actually have two Blankets - one blue, one pink; one referred to in the masculine singular, one in the feminine singular. "Blanket doesn't want to stay in bed, she wants to come downstairs with me."
As I took Mister J's blanket out of the dryer this evening, I noticed a spot where the yarn was thinning - a lot. It's a hand knit blanket - something I could never recreate - and Mister J has been sleeping with it for close to 5 years.
As expectant parents, we heard lots of tips from experienced parents. One of those tidbits was to "make sure you have a double." Mister J never really got attached to anything until he was around a year old. I had no idea how attached he would become when I started putting Blanket into his crib when I was trying to teach him to soothe himself to sleep. As much I adored holding and rocking him, letting him fall asleep in my arms, and then just snuggling with my sleeping baby, I knew I couldn't do it forever. So I started putting him to bed with a blue and white knit blanket that we'd received as a baby gift. It was given to us by someone who cared for me when I was young, so it seemed, in a very sentimental way, to be the most perfect lovey. I really didn't give much thought to having a double "just in case." When it got dirty, it "got a bath" just like Mister J (well, except Blanket got his bath in the washer, of course). It didn't leave the house, except on long trips, so we didn't worry about accidentally leaving it behind. (Well, there was that one time that Blanket didn't get into the van when it was time to go...)
It has been a perfect lovey. It's traveled with us through the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, up to Indiana, and even to Seattle this past summer. And, as all loveys certainly do, it is finally starting to wear out.
I have always explained to Mister J that Blanket is unique - that there isn't another one like it (him). That if Blanket gets broken, we can't just go buy a new one. There was a phase of pulling on the yarn - and I'd spend hours 'unsnagging' Blanket, only to have to do it again, on a different spot, a few days later. There have been times when I have found loads of lint between Mister J's bedsheets after he'd spent some time taking the 'pills' off of Blanket. On days when Mister J is rough-housing, I remind him that if Blanket gets broken, I can't fix it (I have no idea how to knit!). Blanket stays at home, and usually in bed, unless we travel - but it (he) is still wearing out.
As I noticed the thinning area, I pointed it out to Mister J. I told him that I needed to make a knot in the yarn so it would be stronger - so that it wouldn't break and start to unravel. I was surprised, in a sad sort of way, that he said, "Maybe we need to get a new one." "What kind of new blanket would you like? Can you tell me what you like about Blanket so I can look for a new one that you will like?"
And then the tears came.
After several assurances that I was not going to take Blanket away, and that we could talk about it another time, we let the discussion go. But I know we will have to have it again. And I know the discussion will be full of emotion. And I know that I will be torn - how old is too old for a lovey? Do we let this one wear out completely, and the just go lovey-free? Do we attempt to replace it another one? Even if we could find one that looks like (the original version of) Blanket, a new one will never feel the same as the well-worn version. Even if we find something else that he likes, it will still never be Blanket.
I never knew how attached a child - and a mother - could become. After all, it's just a blanket. Isn't it? No, it's not just a blanket. It is so much more. He loves it, and by that fact alone, so do I. It's going to be a milestone for both of us, whatever lies ahead.