I don’t remember sucking my thumb or carrying a lovie around. Do you? My sister had a tattered blanket that she ended up taking to college with her, and I would be willing to bet $100 that she kept it balled up underneath her pillow in the army housing just last month while she was in chaplaincy training. While Drew would only accept the green hospital-grade pacifiers, he gave them up like an old toy by his one-year birthday. He doesn’t even ask for his blanket at night anymore, which tugs at my inside organs.
Then there’s Madeline.
I’ve written before about her blanket. It’s sort of a recurring character in this blog, probably because it is the fourth member of our family. Some people have dogs they consider extra children deserving of love and attention — but not we Rhodes’. No, we Rhodes’ have bedding. I say “we” because in her short life, Madeline has trained us to care every bit as much about her blanket as she does. I’m constantly aware of where the blanket is in the house, and if it might be cold, dirty, or snatched. Keeping track is hard. It’s like keeping track of a child — one that can be stuffed silently into corners or hidden beneath TV room debris for hours at a time.
And then there’s the sucking. Sometime during my uneven parenting of Madeline’s infancy, I allowed her to suck the blanket’s corners. All four of them. When the blanket was lovingly knitted by one of my mother-in-law’s friends, it was light pink with white and lavender trim. Now it is beige with black corners. I’ve had to explain to two people this week — a preschool teacher and the neighbor down the street — that the blanket’s corners were not originally crafted with black yarn, and that no amount of washing or bleaching will eliminate the bacterial horror wrought by Maddie’s saliva. The expressions on people’s faces when I tell them this always brings me down to earth if I’ve been feeling full of myself. (You also might be scandalized by this situation. Rest assured, Madeline is rarely ever sick and has superb dental health. And only once (or twice) have I pulled a pink yarn from her diaper.)
I have been waiting for Maddie’s attachment to wane like Drew’s for his pacifier and blankets, but it only seems to be getting worse. The moment she gets hurt, she cries for “Banky,” and THEN Mommy. When I drop her off at preschool, she runs over to her cubby and drags Banky out of her bag to suck while she colors at the craft table. When she sits on the couch at home watching “Caillou”, she sucks Banky like it’s a quickly melting Popsicle. Sometimes she drapes it around her shoulders like a mink stole, allowing a corner trail dramatically behind her. At times, she lets it rest on top of her shoulders and around her head like an isolation cone. Tonight she was carrying it around in a bucket for some reason. I asked if the bucket was her purse. When she said “yes,” I had the disturbing image of 30-year old Madeline Rhodes pulling Banky out of her Louis Vuitton and sucking on it in a movie theater.
Yesterday, she was pretending it was a basketball — rolling it up and throwing it over her head in the general direction of the net. She dragged it all around the driveway like it was giving her a wider berth and greater importance. When I was un-strapping her from the car seat today, she offered me a corner of her blanket because maybe I wanted to suck on it for a little while too. She’s so thoughtful when it comes to her blanket. Politely, I refused. I should also mention that she offers her blanket to various babydolls in their times of need. When one of her fancier dolls skinned her knee today, Madeline laid Banky across the doll’s knees just-so and kissed them one after the other. Banky makes it all better.
I’m not quite sure what to make of all this. Is this OK? Is this sort of awful? I do know two things for sure: this habit is incredibly gross but unspeakably precious. Wait. That’s the definition of toddlers.