Lovies Are The Mark Of A Bad Mommy


You know you are a bad mother when the lovey goes missing. Patrick disappeared last fall when we were raking leaves. One minute my fourth grader and his friend were riding bikes up and down the drive and through the yard with Patrick the bear peeping from a sweatshirt pocket. The next minute Patrick was gone. Really, really gone.

We went through all the piles of leaves. We combed the field behind the house where we found Peter’s shoes last spring. We pulled apart couches and organized toy boxes and dug through every bin in the barn. No Patrick.

If you have ever had a lovey yourself, if you have ever nurtured your own Velveteen Rabbit or scruffy polar bear, you know what happened next. Peter mourned. He couldn’t sleep. He cried to his dad on the ship. He colored and cut out a paper bear to carry instead of Patrick.

If you have never had a lovey, if you think the grubby lovies of small children are nasty, you know what Peter’s teacher did. Ms. Taylor rejoiced.

Ms. Taylor thought this was an excellent time to give up Patrick for good. She saw Patrick as the source of all Peter problems. Just because Peter is on the autism spectrum, just because Peter’s dad is gone so much, Ms. Taylor didn’t think that made Patrick OK.

“Peter is ten years old. Peter is a boy. Peter should not have a bear in his hand,” Ms. Taylor insisted at our parent teacher conference.

I wanted to crawl out of that conference and just cry. Sometimes I suspect that because my husband is at sea so often that the people at school thinks things are not all right at home. Thus the Patrick.

Part of me understands what Ms. Taylor was trying to say.  Ms. Taylor was trying to tell me that Patrick at school was an outward symbol that Peter is a little off. He is uncool. Ms. Taylor was trying to tell me that the disdain of fourth graders for little weirdnesses is only outdone by the contempt of fifth graders and the cruelties of middle school.

So I told my husband that we really ought to make Peter man up and give up the Patrick. “I should be like Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom,” I told Brad. “I gotta make that kid give up the Wubbie.”

“Really? Now?” my husband questioned. “Now is the time to give up Patrick?”

And then I remembered that we are a family that is for Peter so we are for Patrick. We know from long nights of separation and millions of cross country trips and a dozen moves that sometimes lovies can do what stressed out human beings cannot.

Lovies can calm. Lovies can soothe. Lovies have no calories. Do not intoxicate. Do not alter brain chemistry. Lovies can comfort in a way that I cannot when I have nothing left to comfort with.

So I got online and found a Patrick for sale at a Christmas store in Ohio. Brad said to buy two. Peter didn’t take the new Patrick to school “cuz I don’t want anything to happen to him.”

Me neither. Someday Peter will be done with Patrick. Patrick will lie forgotten, Velveteen-rabbit-like  under the bed. I will rescue him. I plan to hang a ribbon around his sweet belly and hang him on our Christmas tree, a scrap of childhood comfort and joy that we can never let go.

About the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Military.com. Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom. Find her at JaceyEckhart.net.
  • Lady Kleo

    Oh do I ever know the pain of the comfort toy going missing or getting eatten in my daughters case. My middle child has a baby doll she named after me that I got her for her first birthday. Now her first birthday was a very big deal because she has a lot of health issues & that birthday was one of her BIG milestones. Well a few weeks back my oldest daughter came home with her service pup after school like normal & went into the washroom leaving pup to roam the house. Well said pup decided baby doll would be a good chew toy. Both my kids were devastated over what happened. Younger one thought she was a bad mama for leaving baby where pup could get her. Older one was like OMG I left u for a moment I sware! So I two when looking for a replacement to baby doll. Found it & decided to stock up just incase lol. Now baby doll doesn’t leave lil ones sight. & to all the ppl who say well isn’t she getting too big… I say go through what she has in her short life & tell me then she doesn’t deserve something that gives her a lil happiness.

    • jacey_eckhart

      Oh Lady Kleo you are the kind of mom I want to have–and want to be!

      • Lady Kleo

        Thanx :) I think personally we all just want our wee ones healthy & happy. & do what it takes for that. Others don’t have to like it or agree on the method, just that their personal needs are being met :)

  • makessensetome

    Sorry about your experience with the teacher. My daughter is also on the spectrum and though well meaning, educators often overstep their bounds with their comments. I refuse to force my child to be anything but herself just to appease public perception. Some kids ( and adults) are going to be mean wether the kid is a straight A brainiac or a social awkward introvert. Such ” Lovies ” as Patrick can make it possible for our kids to de-stress, get comfortable, and focus on learning. I wouldn’t apologize for that. IEP’s and conferences have the habit of unintentionally making us feel like the worst parents in the world. I say giving your son the tools that he need to be successful makes you guys pretty rocking parents. Good for you for putting your sons needs first.

  • mel

    My 14 yr. old still has a quilted blankie she had as a baby. The first time it was ready for the garbage, I remade the entire thing (same design) and incorporated scraps of the old blankie into it so it would smell right. The second time it was tattered beyond belief, I just sewed cloth panels on each side so the smell would still be there. Both times, I had her pick out the fabric. She has the habit of biting it when she is stressed and due to behavioral issues since she was little, I haven’t tried to make her give up the blankie. She still needs it for reasons of her own and I continue to respect that.

  • Tips From The Homefront

    Both my boys still have their “lovies”, Baboo and Woovie. They have been everywhere and for their safe keeping we have made some rules. Like they have to stay home and when we fly they go in bags while in the airport. I told the boys that when they are done with them to let me know because I have a special plan to keep them safe because I can’t give them up.

    I think they are so, so important to children. Lovies are their first best friend and helps give them comfort. As a parent I would never force that separation EVER!!! My nephew is 15 and still has his neatly folded under his pillow.

  • Amy_Bushatz

    Hey. The polar bear is not scruffy. ;-)

  • Sharon

    When my daughter was born, my parents came to visit. Both my boys were born overseas and dad was still active duty. Ali was my last. Mom brought a blanket she had crocheted for her. That blankey went to little Rock AFB, Aviano, Ramstein, Offutt, Ellsworth, and back to Offutt. My daughter is now almost 22 and she still has her blankey. The only time she didnt have it was when she went through BMT. It is on her bed always. My mother, now 79, is astonished that she still has it. She has made many knitted and crocheted gifts over the years and never was one more loved and appreciated than this one. My daughter is well-adjusted and responsible. She knows without a doubt that she is loved. A lovey is not something to be ashamed of. What IS a shame is the shame some people try to impress on those with loveys. I think they have a problem.

  • Jeff M

    Jacey, Our 14 year-old son is also on the Spectrum and he still has his ‘nite-nite friends.’ He doesn’t take them on ‘sleep-away’ camps with the other kids, or to school, but bed-time is not complete without them. The bunny has a silky ear fabric that he rubs for comfort. On the advice of his therapist (@ the Navy Hospital believe it or not!) my wife made him a ‘fidget’ to carry in his pocket. ‘Fidget’ is made of 2 layers of the same material, that he picked out, with some iron on innerfacing (sp?) for stiffening and he can carry it to school or wherever. It is unobtrusive and he can reach into his pocket and finger it when he is getting stressed-out. It is a wonderful comforter for him. We also found he likes to sleep in a ‘sleep sack’ for comfort, the best, and surprisingly cheapest, was marketed on the ‘as seen on TV’ stuff for a few years, I can’t remember the name of the actual product, but that also comforts and soothes him. I take no credit for these developments, it is all my wife and the Therapist (Dr E. D. @ Navhosp Pensacola)! Stay strong for your son.

    • jacey_eckhart

      Jeff–the fidget is a great idea! Sort of a socially acceptable travel-size lovey. I wonder if we could do something like that…..Thanks for the tip.

  • I think I’d have told that teacher to stick it. When my oldest son was 2, we moved across the country from Fort Benning to Fort Irwin, and my husband was deployed. My son’s lovey was a small Lightening McQueen race car that went EVERYWHERE with him. One day on the trip it got lost and he was inconsolable. So I left the kids with my mom at the hotel (she was with us on our trip), searched out the Walmart at 10pm in a strange town, bought a new one and spent 20 minutes in the parking lot scraping the paint off of it so it looked the old one. My son was so happy that Mommy “found” Lightening at the store. Sometimes, it’s just what their little hearts need, no matter how old they are. :-)

  • M.J.

    My son is 14 and also has autism. He also has “Mr. Owl” Its a large blue owl that he has had since birth. He doesnt take it to school with him, but he has not slept a night without him. I couldnt count the stichings Mr. Owl has on all fingers or toes. The problem is not with “Mr Owl” or “Patrick, but with the ignorance of some well meaning teachers. It has taken us 10 years for us to finally find a school were my son doesnt dread going. Unfortunately, its a private school for children with special needs and a tuition of 15k a year. The horror stories of public school for special needs children is probably a story needed unto itself, add into the mix a deploying father like myself or mother and its a whole new nightmare.

  • William

    We homeschooled, so we didn’t have bad teachers pushing inappropriate decisions. Now, she’s at a private boarding school, so she has good teachers. But our own experiences included plenty of bad teachers when we were growing up. I can understand wanting to cry, but if Peter’s autistic, then I suggest that you should have asked the teacher if perhaps it was time for her to give up pop psychology?

  • William

    My own experience with “it’s time to give up…” came from my mother, who thought that I should give up comics at 5. At 47, I still read them, and defy anyone to criticize me for it. She thought I should give up matchbox & hot wheels at 12, and I resented it for years, especially since I knew other kids still playing with them in the mid-teens. I had the West family cowboy dolls (“action figures” hadn’t been coined yet), and she made me give those up; I wasn’t able to pass them on to my daughter. I can see suggesting to a child not to take a lovey to school, citing the greater chance of it being lost or damaged, but not telling the child it’s really more about not being laughed at by other kids. I also think that teacher should be told never to make such an offensive suggestion again; her job is NOT to parent for us. She should be reining in other children teasing a child for having a lovey, not trying to force one to give up a security blanket.

  • William

    M.J., any luck finding financial aid for that school? My daughter was in Duke TIPS, took the ACT and SSAT (Secondary School Aptitude Test), and gets scholarships paying most of her tuition. Until the SSAT, I didn’t know that was possible for private high schools. If there’s academic scholarships, surely there’s need-based scholarships for special-needs children?

  • MSgt C

    I still have my blankie (at age 43) and it’s seen Deployments, TDY’s, and the birth of both children. Today, it is packed nicely in a keepsake box because one more rub would cause it to self destruct, but that blanket has kept my nerves together many a night. I am not a special needs person but my oldest is on the autism spectrum (Asperger’s Syndrome) and if had needed a lovely to make his life easier, he would have had that and more. I know the importance of a lovely and don’t let the teachers tell you what is best for your child.