I have a couple of friends who have come home with older children recently, and they are struggling with the adjustment- both the children and the parents.
Nobody can quite understand why it is so hard and so they call me. I do my best to explain what is going on but until now, I have been only marginally successful. I woke up with this story in my head and I think I can explain it now.
When every baby is born they are given a blanket. This blanket is supposed to be warm and soft and protective. It usually has beautiful colors and satin edging. It is wrapped around the baby and the baby is at peace.
Sometimes, the blanket is old. It hasn't been washed and it is made of burlap, but it is wrapped around the baby, and even though it is a little smelly and scratchy, the baby is at peace.
The blanket for this baby has big problems. There are big holes in it. It looks like it had satin edging once, but that has been torn away. It may have had soft pastel colors, but it is now a dull and dirty brownish grey. It is wrapped as best it can be around the baby, and the baby clings to it for peace. But the baby is cold and can't get comfortable. Now, both the baby and the blanket are dirty and smelly, but it is the baby's blanket, and baby holds on to what little comfort it knows, and tries to have peace.
Suddenly, the blanket is ripped away. Baby cries and reaches for the blanket, but it is gone. Baby knows it wasn't a good blanket, a warm and soft blanket, but it was baby's, and with it, baby knew the only peace that baby has ever known. Someone has wrapped a new blanket around baby. It has pretty satin edging and soft fleece. It smells fresh and inviting, but baby throws it off. That is NOT Baby's blanket. Where is baby's blanket? Baby cries and cries as the new blanket is wrapped back around baby's body. Baby notices warmth that baby has never felt before. This is a trick. Yes is is warm, but IT IS NOT MINE!!!!! Baby had better not get used to this. Baby doesn't have a warm, soft blanket. Baby only knows the scratchy, dirty and cold blanket. Baby kicks it away.
Baby is cold and lonely and misses the old blanket.
Baby toys with the edge of the new blanket. Baby feels that it is soft and inviting. Baby can tell it is warm. Maybe baby will just hold the edge of this blanket for a while. It is not baby's blanket, but it is here, and baby is sad and needs comfort.
Someone keeps trying to wrap the whole blanket around baby, but baby still throws it off. Baby will only hold the edge. Why won't baby take the blanket? Can't baby see how much better this blanket is? It is warm, it is soft. Come on, it is polar fleece!! What is baby's problem? It is such a great blanket!!
Baby continues to reject the entire blanket, but is still holding on to the edge. Eventually, baby can cover one arm and rub baby's face with more of the blanket, but baby stops short of wrapping up in it. The new blanket providers have stopped trying to force baby to wrap up in the blanket, and have accepted that baby can't or won't use the whole thing, and have settled on waiting on baby. Sometimes baby brings the blanket to them and asks them to drape it over baby's arm in just the right way so that the satin edge touches baby's face the way baby likes it. This continues for a time and baby realizes that even though baby misses the old blanket, baby has a peace that baby has not known before. Baby thinks it might be this new blanket. Baby is torn. Baby misses old blanket, but old blanket didn't protect baby like new blanket does. New blanket is warm. New blanket smells good and is so very soft.
Old blanket is gone.
One day, baby needs help with the new blanket. Baby takes it to the ones who gave it to baby and they wrap it gently around baby's shoulders. Baby holds on tight to the blanket and baby is at peace.
I know I talk about a baby in this story. I do it so you consider just how long your baby has had that old blanket.