Life's Little Comforts for Life's Little Weirdos

We found out last week that Caroline is the weirdo in her class. This does not surprise me, because I have been the weirdo my whole life and I find it suits me quite well. My unique personality and my distinct nose give me enough character to make the USA network proud. What does concern me about Caroline's news is that, after four months at preschool, we are just now learning that she she interacts little with the other children and tends to keep to herself.

The teachers were excited to tell us about her weirdness finally because they have cured her. In childhood it is not acceptable to be the weird one. Parents of a three year old who "steps to the beat of a different drummer" spend sleepless nights surfing the web for information on learning disabilities and developmental challenges. Adults look for ways to help all children, born individual creatures, to become little sheep, herded into adolescence.

Caroline's assimilation into the herd was accomplished by the simple removal of a particular comfort item in her life, a white (well now discolored, off white), silky blanket. I don't even know where she got the blanket but over the last five or sixth months it has become her official security tool, replacing most of the six or seven little loveys we'd purchased for her over the years. As most children do with the item they love the most, she carries the blanket with her everywhere, holds it tightly to her chest and rubs her fingers along its edges, staring solemnly and peacefully into space. It is so dirty because we are rarely able to get it away from her to launder.

To comfort her in her new transition to preschool we had diligently placed her blanket in her hands as we left the classroom, knowing it would comfort her in our absence. What we did not know is that she carried it with her all day, rubbing it and staring quietly into Carolalaland. In a moment of harsh brilliance, her teacher took it away from her last week and placed it in her locker outside of the class. We were told that in retaliation she threw herself on the floor, kicked, moaned, cried uncontrollably and then 15 or 20 minutes later picked herself up and for the first time interacted with the children. She played, asked questions, smiled and acknowledged that there is indeed a world outside of her blanket daydreams.

When discussing this big event on the ride home that evening, Andy and I agreed that putting the blanket away was the best decision for Caroline and while it would be hard, we did not want any object getting in her way of building strong and important relationships with her peers. I also realized during this conversation that it is not uncommon for adults to have their own version of a security blanket; that object which one covets more than anything else. The one object that pulls him or her away from others. The object that the owner loves and spends so much time with that others may perceive him or her as a weirdo, removed from society. Andy's dirty, silky blankie is none other than his Blackberry.

His pattern of affection for the phone is quite similar to that of Caroline. He carries his comfort tool with him at all times. He rubs it often and checks every 5 minutes to make sure it is in his pocket. He whimpers and panics if it is not with him. He rips the house apart if he can not find it. He would spend an insane amount of money to have it replaced if it were lost. When he is holding or using the phone, he is completely distracted and has no idea what is happening around him. When on the phone, an earthquake could hit and Andy would not notice. When talking on the phone, Andy somehow doesn't notice that Caroline is sticking her finger in a socket, nor does he notice the car in front of him braking and slowing to take a turn. The party of friends seated around our dinner table can call to him, "Join us! Join us Andy!" but Andy is in the corner alone, scrolling his Blackberry, muttering softly to himself. He is in Andalaland and there is no coming back to reality.

If the locker technique works for Caroline, could it work for others? Could it work for Andy? I'm thinking of looking into school furniture auctions. Perhaps I can find and purchase an old metal locker that can be placed in our mudroom. Before entering the house, Andy can hang his coat in there. I'll add a little basket to hang from a hook, which will be for his Blackberry. He will not be permitted to enter the house until the phone is stored safely inside of the locker. He may throw himself of the floor in a tempter tantrum, but I bet that he, too, will recover and discover a whole world outside of his Blackberry daydreams.

Join us, Andy. Come, sit in the sharing circle. Stop being a weirdo and join us. That a boy. Stop crying. Here, have a blankie.

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