This comfort item, however, is a genuine soft lovey. For a kid with tactile sensitivities who avoids touching soft objects - like stuffed animals - like the plague, this is no small feat. In fact, I look at it with awe nearly every day because - for the longest time - there were no "loveys" in our toolbox. Instead, there was Mama. Mama rocking Jack when needed. Mama rocking him on the floor in stores, in the waiting room at therapy clinics and doctors' offices, and Mama rocking him in the middle of Gymboree. That was his only comfort - that rhythmical motion.
But now, there is another. I've written of it before. It is a Halo SleepSack - one that goes unworn. It is red, so it commonly gets called "Red". It also gets called "Sowos" for no reason other than that is the noise he makes while holding it. It takes a trained ear to know that "sowos" means "Red SleepSack", but it's a good thing that I am emerging in fluency in Jack language.
Now that Jack has a lovey - after 4.5 years of encouraging him to have one - the thing I find is that people want to take it away. They want to take it away in the name of teaching him to "self-soothe".
Ah, self-soothing. This is where perspective would be helpful on the part of those calling for an end to comfort items and a dawning of the age of self-soothing. You see, I remember that time not too long ago in which the only way my boy could be calmed was through motion. It meant that Mama was actively engaged in the soothing process, because Jack had no tools in his toolbox to help him do just that.
Now he does have a tool he can access. He has his "sowos". He can hold it and run it on his face and move it and find comfort there. In my mind, the "sowos" is a conduit for self-soothing.
So, why must we strip that from him? All in the name of "normalcy"? "Age-appropriateness"? Some misguided image of what progress means and looks like?
I say no. It's a tool for him to use. The ones who would judge based on how appropriate it is for a 4.5 year old boy to carry around a blanket-like item like Linus does are the ones who have the problem. Not my boy. Not him.
Because it is they who were not present for the journey to get him there. They don't see the progress inherent in a boy snuggling his "sowos". What they see is a fidget, a distraction, a item whose purpose needs to be extinguished, but what they don't see is how long it took for Jack to be able to seek out an item and use it because it made him feel better.
And so I gladly hand it to him when he gets home from school and says, "More sowos", because I know that it is no small feat that we are at this point. I know that it is amazing that he has a comfort item at all that isn't hard, cold, and made of plastic. I know it's incredible that there is something he will hug with all his might (and I wish it were us). I know that it is a symbol of how far we've come and that the people who know Jack understand and respect that.
And I also know that respecting Jack means that I don't place expectations of him that are unfair to impose. Respecting Jack means making it okay for him to just be at the level he is right now. Respect means trusting him to give up his comfort item when he is ready - not when someone else or some timeline says he should be.
Comfort items are just one more go-to in the toolbox. Why not let them stay?