Needing a Boppy (Don’t We All?)

Son and Boppy

Son and Boppy

My son and I were reminiscing about his childhood recently, and we got on the topic of tantrums.

“You didn’t have many tantrums,” I told him. “Not like your sister.”

And he didn’t. But I do remember one phase of tantrums he had.

My son was almost always a good sleeper, from infancy on. He started sleeping through the night (well, until about 5:00am) when he was six weeks old. As a toddler, he went right to bed at nap time and in the evening.

But shortly after he was a year old, he suddenly started standing up in his crib and crying and screaming whenever I put him down to sleep. He yelled at the top of his wailing young voice about something. “Boppy!” it sounded like.

Now what on earth is a boppy? I wondered. I had no idea.

This went on for several days. Then on Saturday morning I did a couple of loads of laundry. I was working full-time, and most of our laundry got done on the weekend. After lunch, it was my son’s naptime. I put him down and psyched myself for another bout of screaming.

Instead, he snuggled right into his crib. “Boppy,” he said with a huge sigh of relief, and fingered his blanket with one hand and put his other thumb in his mouth. He drifted right off to never-never land.

Being a logical person, I tried to parse through what had changed. Oh! It dawned on me. I had changed the blankets in his bed when I did the wash.

I decided to test a theory. That night I put him to bed with a different blanket than he’d had at nap time. He cried like I had abandoned him.

I gave him back the blanket he’d had for his nap. Magical happiness. “Boppy!”

So, Boppy was a blanket. A particular blanket. That he had to have.

And from that day forward until my son could understand the vagaries of our laundry schedule, we had to make sure that Boppy was always clean when he needed to sleep.

As his communications skills developed, we learned that “boppy” really meant any cloth with a smooth finish. A nylon windbreaker could be a boppy. My silk blouses could be boppies. The fringe of some of his other blankets were boppy-like enough to satisfy his need to stroke a smooth fabric.

But the preferred boppy was his beloved pale yellow blanket with a little fawn appliqued in the middle. This blanket was a baby shower gift from a work colleague of mine. It is pretty, but not so unusual as to inspire the devotion my son gave it.

Eventually (by middle school), Boppy found its way to a drawer in my son’s dresser, no longer needed at bed time.

Wrapped up in comfort

Wrapped up in comfort

All of us have certain items that brought us comfort as a child. For some like my son, it was because it soothed our sense of touch. For others, it was a familiar taste or smell or song.

For me, when I was a toddler, it was a stuffed duck I called Ya-Ya that I fingered like my son fingered his Boppy. Ya-Ya, though threadbare and worn, sits hidden in a box of my childhood memorabilia. (You can read more about Ya-Ya in my Family Recipe anthology, in the essay entitled “Gift from a Christmas Before Memory”.)

Because I sympathized with my son’s need for this sensory comfort (no matter how annoying at times), I’ll never throw his Boppy out. Boppy remains in my son’s dresser drawer today.

What’s your boppy—or your child’s, if you’re embarrassed to admit to one yourself?

Posted in Family, Philosophy and tagged , , , , , , .


  1. I love this story, Theresa and I love that Boppy lives on in your son’s dresser drawer.
    My boppy is a stuffed Snoopy dog, he’s been around since my first memories. He’s missing an eye and has half a mouth, but he remains perched on a Queen Anne chair in our master bedroom.
    Great photos!

    • Jill,
      Your Snoopy sounds like he’s in the same condition as my Ya-Ya, but you don’t hide him away in the closet!
      I was really pleased to be able to find these photos for this post — I was afraid I’d have to use a picture of Boppy in the drawer. But my daughter’s photo organizing of many years ago led me straight to the correct year, so I only had to sort through about ten rolls instead of hundreds.
      The photo in the rocking chair was our Christmas photo that year, so I remembered it. But the photo of young son wrapped in his Boppy was a huge surprise that has had me smiling all week.
      Thanks. Theresa

      • Snoopy is on display in all his tattered glory. 🙂
        I wish I could be as organized as your daughter with photographs. I used to keep up, but once I fell behind, I felt overwhelmed by all the envelopes full of pictures.
        The photo of your son wrapped in his Boppy still has me smiling…too sweet!

  2. My boppy was “Mmm-mmm” and “Grandma Gene’s Mmm-mmm,” two blankies made by my grandma, each with fuzz on one side and a print pattern on the other. Mmm-mmm’s pattern was Mickey Mouse, while Grandma Gene’s Mmm-mmm’s pattern was pale blue birds. You give us an out in your question to avoid admitting we’re embarrassed by. If I was the type of person to be embarrassed, I wouldn’t share this detail, but since I’m not, here it is: My comfort with these two blankies was picking the fuzz off of them and sticking the fuzz up my nose, just to blow it out. It was fun.

    My Grandma Gene turns 90 on Friday, and I can’t wait to join my entire family in Minnesota for a tremendous celebration of her life.

    • Kate,
      Enjoy the reunion! Blessings to Grandma Gene and all of you.
      I picked the fur off my Ya-Ya, though never stuck it up my nose. But your comment made me remember getting into TERRIBLE trouble when I pulled the loops on my parents’ bedspread during my nap one day. I’ll have to post about that some time.
      Thanks. Theresa

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