I love that Alex still sleeps with his teddy bear and favorite blanket!
Not all of my kids had special attachments as children. My middle daughter, turning 19 this year, became attached to a stuffed Big Bird doll my mother had sent her for her 2nd birthday. One day I found 'bee bird' as she called him, left outside after a heavy rain and his electronics were destroyed (we have since become a kid-powered household!). This particular model couldn't really be taken apart so we had to say good-bye to him. I was able to find a similar 'bee bird' that week that my daughter accepted well and she never let that one out of her arms for the next two years. I sewed 'bee bird's' head back on several times because she carried him around by his neck, tucking it under her arm, and wore out this one area of him really fast. Eventually she outgrew 'bee bird' on her own, but I saved him in her keepsake box.
My oldest and youngest daughters never became attached to a toy, blanket or stuffed animal when they were little. Though my oldest daughter did have a favorite kindergarten nap blanket I had made for her that she would snuggle with from time to time through her teens. She would even sneak it away from Alex, who I had handed it down to for his preschool nap blanket, when he wasn't looking.
When Alex came along, a friend gave him a stuffed bear at my shower. Somewhere between 3-6 months old, the bear got lost, and I had to find another one. The stores didn't seem to have the exact same bear anymore, so I got one that was similar once again. He barely noticed the difference and this has been the bear he's had ever since. He has a blanket with a similar story- became attached, it got lost, I replaced it, all was well.
He won't let certain people touch his bear and blankie (I still catch myself calling it his 'mankie' which is how he used to say it) if he thinks they will hurt them, especially our pets. When he was younger he would get upset if his tears got on his blankie (how cute is that?), fearing it would damage it. He can separate from it for a few nights when he is with his dad or at a friends without any difficulty, so I know he has a healthy attachment. He is determined to take the best care of them, not exposing them to bad weather for example, so he can pass them down to his own son one day he says. When he expresses his love, he tells me he has three hearts- one for his love for me, one for his love for his daddy, and one for his love for his bear and blankie.
When I was a child my oldest brother's girlfriend, Nina, gave me a stuffed Koala bear. I named it 'Nina'. haha Nina was the only stuffed animal I was ever attached to. One day I couldn't find my Nina, and for days and days I looked, but she was gone. I remember my family helping me look for her, but they gave up the search pretty quick (as far as I was concerned). I even had a dream where I came home from school to find all of my family gathered, and my older brother stepping forward and pulling Nina from behind his back. They had found her. Yay! I woke up so happy thinking it had been true. But sadly, I never found Nina, and I remember crying over her loss. It is amazing the grief I can still feel over her loss to this day. I, a grandmother, woman who almost never cries because she's as tough as nails, find myself tearing up when I think about my Nina.
That is how powerful attachment items can be for our children. Those feelings of pure love can stay with you your whole life. Why would we ever take that away from them?
Recently, I jokingly (or was it?) interrogated my mother about the mysterious disappearance of Nina. Her response... "Nina? Nina who?" I was shocked that she could barely even remember her! What to me was a very intense and lasting connection to my stuffed animal, was apparently a very private attachment that went unnoticed to the people who claimed to love me. But in all fairness I do not share my feelings easily, so I will not hold a grudge (for much longer). My mom swears she had nothing to do with Nina's missing status, as I was half convinced my family conspired to take her away because they thought I was too old for her, but she swears she didn't, and I SUPPOSE I will give her the benefit of the doubt.
This once. ;-)
I am so glad Alex has something he feels safe with, something that acts as a sort of talisman and helps him feel better when he holds them or when his blankie touches his skin. And I guess I feel like he's still my baby just a little bit when I can watch him sleeping like this snuggled with his bear and blanket. I do not try to prevent him from growing up, but I won't rush him through his childhood, either. Kids need to be allowed to be kids, as long as they are able.