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.
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?