Some kids have a security blanket. Others have a favorite stuffed animal, doll, or toy. My blanket’s name was Geegee. In the end, Geegee did not resemble a blanket at all, but I liked rubbing the fabric pills between my thumb and index finger. When they fell off, I saved those pieces of my friend in a butter dish.
Of course I did.
One day my mom started making me keep Geegee in the top of my closet, just at night when I slept. She claimed that keeping him close to my face while I slept was bad for me because he was so old. At first I fought back, until I discovered that it was just easier to sneak him back down from the closet after my parents went to bed. This went on for a while, until my lazy nature won out and I just stopped sneaking him down from that closet altogether. Eventually, I forgot about Geegee.
I guess that made me a pretty crappy friend. It also shows just how much our affection for things and people can be a result of our addiction to them. Fill the space with something new, and our brains will make new connections. This is both depressing and encouraging at the same time. But, I do have a good memory of that blanket. Call it human sentimentality.
My daughter is currently obsessed with a box full of torn paper.
Actually, it’s a Songburst Game (the 50’s and 60’s version). It’s just the box lid, filled with a thousand pieces of torn game cards. Some cards are still intact. For now. I am not sure what happened to the little records that were part of the game, they disappeared sometime last week.
She carries the box from room to room. Sometimes she just sits on the stairs with the box and taps on the cards. Sometimes one at a time, sometimes in a group. Sometimes she taps them against her ear. Every few minutes she tears one.
Occasionally she smells one.
I will admit, this is an improvement to the torn bits of paper we were finding throughout the house before I gave her the game. Often they were things we did not want to find torn….But now that we have the issue confined to a box, and she seems to want to keep them there, things have gotten easier. It calms her, and I believe she needs to tap and rip. I can also see that she gets too involved in it, so we are trying to put limits in place so she will do other things, too.
Just how long do we let her tap on paper by herself in the hallway upstairs? That’s a question you can’t just Google. Try it.
At some point the box makes her mad. You know it, because she will start frantically rummaging through the pieces. Don’t catch it fast enough- and those bits of paper are getting tossed down the steps. Luckily, I caught it tonight and the box went above the TV and out of her reach. After a few moments of mourning (in the form of stomping, biting, and lying on the stairs while fake crying), Teghan was able to fully recover from the whole ordeal.
There are rules to interacting with the box. Some are obvious, others we find out the hard way. They certainly have nothing to do with song trivia. Rule number one is that no one else is allowed to touch the contents of the box. Ever. Overall, Teghan is pretty easygoing- so I can sometimes get away with grabbing a card a few times in a row (as long as I immediately hand it back to her) before the box gets thrown and some random object gets bitten. Or I get bitten. I don’t know why I do this, it is pointless and obnoxious.
Turns out we’re okay with her rules. We have rules of our own. If the box makes her angry, it gets taken away. If she refuses to listen while playing with the box, it gets taken away.
We do not allow her to sleep with the box.
While I believe Teghan is addicted to her box of paper, I also believe she has a pattern of such addictions that come and go frequently. Nothing really sticks, and there will be no sentimental memories for her. She just plays different. She thinks about the things around her in relation to her senses, not her imagination.
Everything is what it is, and nothing is pretend. But she still makes her connections, chooses her favorites, and desires to keep them close. Her inability to personify her toys or create a world where they have a conjured up relationship with her, makes it easier for her to let go and move on to the next thing that impresses her senses. Unlike my own relationship with Geegee, she will probably feel little guilt over even eating that paper. And we can’t dismiss that as a possible outcome here.
Some people will find this so difficult to relate to, that she may seem as if she lacks feeling or affection. But that is not true at all. She just lacks the pretend kind. She is very loving and affectionate with us, and will be silly and fun with any game that is straight forward. Which means that we never hop from the couch to the chair to avoid the lava on our living room floor. Am I sad about this? Sure, but that is just my sentimental nature talking.
So maybe there will be no cute pictures of Teghan snuggling her torn pieces of song trivia cards. I mean, there could be- it would just be for us, after all. We are funny like that, so we’ll see…..But maybe it’s not too strange. I got a lot of teasing about that butter dish. Was that weird? Some kids keep their baby teeth. What do you do with that? Her reasons for keeping paper are far more practical.
I still have favorite things that I feel are necessary in life even if I no longer find it necessary to carry them with me at all times. I give them prominent places in my décor, and I never ever consider throwing them away. When we move, they go in the cleanest, nicest boxes. They are labeled in the neatest handwriting. They are unpacked and arranged on the first night.
Teghan will never feel the same way as I do about these things, or her own things, and I will have to get used to it. The good news is that she is constantly giving me new perspective on the ways we are all wired differently. I wish I could talk to her about it. She has relationships with objects, but for different reasons. She enjoys them in different ways.
Her way may even make more sense.