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Don't Leave Home Without It

Maddie’s whole current separation anxiety thing seems to be a part of a larger issue these days: transitions.

We’ve spent a lot of time working on transitions from a parenting point of view (see previous blog), but Madeleine’s hitting an age of awareness where she needs a little help going from A to B.

Any change in her activity can set her off. And I don’t mean a change in her daily schedule; we’ve got a routine going and it helps her feel confident about what’s coming next, but we mix up our life enough that she’s not stressed if we skip the park one evening or don’t have Music Time one afternoon.

I mean smaller transitions: going from playing an instrument to having a diaper changed. Or leaving the swing set to get on the slide. It’s like she enters this timeless period where she’s content to do the same thing – be it playing with duckie while I brush my hair in the morning, or pushing her push toy up and down the hallway – ad infinitum. She enters a “task zone” and is startled and discomfited when that zone is interrupted. 

She will sob like she just discovered Cheerios have been discontinued when I take her from playing with her musical instruments to the kitchen to help me with dinner. She’ll look bored with the swing but scream bloody murder when I try to take her out of it. She cries when we get in the car to go to the grocery store. She cries when she gets in the shopping cart. Then she cries again at the car to go home.

And leaving the park? Forget it. She can be tripping over her feet she’s so tired, but she’ll run around the playground until her legs are bloody stumps, faint with hunger, before she’ll willingly leave it. That’s a cryfest that lasts the whole walk home.

So we’ve been implementing a few changes to her daily life. We’ve begun saying goodbye to EVERYTHING. When it’s time to stop playing with the instruments we say, “Bye bye instruments!” about ten times. When it’s time to get off the swings – there’s a long line waiting, or she’s given me the finished sign – we’ll swing ten more times, counting backwards to one. Then I lift her out of the swing and we bid it a tearful goodbye. Fifty times.

We’ve built more rituals into the routine parts of our days, too, and that seems to help. She knows we’ll be going to the park because first she gets a massage (sunscreen), then she gets a toy to play with while mommy packs up for the morning, then we both sit down and put our shoes on together, and so forth. The ritual ends, of course, with us saying bye bye to the house.

These changes have seemed to help her cope with her transitions for the most part, but there are some transitions that nothing can help with except the most important member of our household.


When life really gets her down, Maddie is always comforted by her lovey. It’s not just for sleeping anymore, folks.

Silky used to be primarily for bedtime, only leaving the house with us if we anticipated a nap while out. But now, it’s the bridge that crosses the great divide, it’s the comforter, it’s the friend to cry on. So far, it’s the only thing that comforts her when we leave the park; all the happy bye byes and waves and countdowns work right up until she’s actually strapped into the stroller. Then it’s Silky time, and woman, it’s a long walk home if you forgot it.

Silky’s also the panacea for car trip traumas, usually involving someone getting out of the car and leaving Maddie. She’ll suck her thumb and hold Silky tearfully to her face, talking softly to it. “You’re the only one that understands me, Silky.”

And we’ve recently hit a few all-time lows with Silky. One night she was actually inconsolable because I wouldn’t let her bring Silky into the shower with her. Brian had to stand outside the curtain and sing endless refrains of “Rubber Ducky” to get through the dang thing. And on a recent morning we headed to the high chair together as we always do when she tried to cut and run towards her bedroom. I thought she was going off to play so I put her in the chair over her protests. She melted down, sobbing, and I realized perhaps she was just trying to get Silky. I let her out of her chair, she hopped down, ran to her room, grabbed the thing, and came back, hiccupping but ready to eat. She spent the entire meal with Silky glued to the side of her face.

We’re actually so concerned about losing it that we now own two of them, and Silky and Silky Deux are in rotation with each other. This ensures that 1) the dang thing can get washed occasionally (like after a Silky breakfast!), and 2) if one is lost the other one smells exactly the same as the first. I’m thinking about getting a third to leave in the car. Stop me.

I’m a bit concerned she’ll become the teenager that carries a stinky scrap of her lovey in her purse to her junior prom, but sufficient unto the day, I guess. She’s not carrying the thing around all the time: we’re only handing it out when the situation’s dire. I’ll deal with the prom later.

Lovey: don’t leave home without it.


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