Help! My Husband Has Confiscated Our 5-Year-Old’s Blankie.

Advice on manners and morals.
June 13 2013 6:15 AM

Bad Dad

A husband who confiscated his 5-year-old’s blankie—and other quandaries for Father's Day.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
My husband and I are at odds over our younger daughter and her "blankie.” My mother bought it for me when I was born and it's been loved so much for so long that it's completely see-through. I passed it to both of my girls, but only the younger has been attached to it. My daughter is almost 6 years old and my husband says she's much too old to be carrying around a "rag.” He also has a problem with her referring to blankie as "him" because it’s an inanimate object. My youngest talks with blankie and when she has tea parties she will "feed" blankie. (I was a similarly imaginative child.) My husband wanted to burn blankie or throw it away, but I got him to agree not to by saying I would make a bear and use blankie as stuffing. Blankie has been hidden from her for two weeks. Our daughter cries sometimes at night because she wants to cuddle with blankie, or she will say "I'm afraid blankie is going to die." I want her to have the blanket back, but my husband is adamant. Is there some way I can convince my husband that loving "blankie" is still OK no matter what our daughter’s age?

—Blankie Blues

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Dear Blankie,
Please tell me your husband has some other redeeming qualities because as a father he is not only a wet blanket but cruel, punitive, and bizarrely literal. Over the years people (or their loved ones) who were embarrassed or concerned about their security objects, from blankets to stuffed animals, have written in asking whether their continued attachment was abnormal. When I’ve run these I’ve always been flooded with lovely replies from people who continue to have a special place of affection for an article that helped get them through some hard times, including being in a bomb attack in Iraq. In the psychological parlance things like blankie are transitional objects, and their use is perfectly normal and healthy. Given the paucity of blankies at executive committee meetings, most people make the transition and let them go. But giving up blankie could be years down the road for your still 5-year-old daughter—and if she holds onto this shred of assurance over the long haul, that’s fine, too. Your husband’s objection that your daughter calls blankie “he” because it’s inanimate makes me wonder if you’ve married someone who lacks the capacity to understand the minds of others, particularly children. I’m disturbed that in response to his daughter’s tears, your husband wants to incinerate this little piece of cloth. As far as blankie is concerned, you should tell your husband point blank that blankie is yours, and he’s not to get rid of it. But this conflict is not really about a threadbare piece of cloth; instead it’s about your husband’s capacity to be a compassionate and loving father. To address that, start by telling your husband that this issue has made you realize you two need to go to parenting classes together. As a start, hearing from a neutral party that your daughter’s attachment is typical might mollify your husband on this subject. Whether your little girl eventually consigns blankie to a special private place (highly likely) or continues to keep him within reach (possible, but less so), ask your husband this question: What’s it to you?

—Prudie

Dear Prudence: 7-Year-Old Holy Terror

Dear Prudie,
A few years ago I got into an office romance. We were both single and in our mid-20s. It was alcohol- soaked and sex-filled and a hell of a lot of fun. About six months into it I realized this woman and I had virtually nothing in common aside from our penchant for work, sex, and booze. Then we found out we were expecting. We're still together (although no longer working in the same office), we have an amazing daughter, and are both loving and committed parents. The problem is that aside from our daughter, we still have next to nothing in common. I wasn't as happy as I could be, but I accepted this. I never knew my own father and had a chaotic early childhood, so I was willing to sacrifice my own happiness for my daughter's well-being and stability. Then a couple of weeks ago I went to a conference for work. On the first morning, I was seated next to a beautiful young woman and we clicked. We got to know one another during the downtime, and although there was quite a bit of tension, nothing occurred but flirting. Since coming home, I've been struggling. I’m not hung up on the woman from the conference, but I had forgotten how exciting and mentally stimulating simple conversation with someone from the opposite sex can be when you actually share common interests, experiences, and values. I realize that every relationship has its low points and requires a lot of work from both partners, but am I wasting my time? Could my efforts to look out for my daughter's best interests by staying potentially screw her up more than if I just ended things with her mother now?

—Bored and Confused

Dear Bored,
No, it is not going to screw up your daughter to have two committed parents devoted to making a stable, loving life for her, ideally in the same home. The way trends are going fewer and fewer children are growing up with a father in the house, and it’s admirable you want to keep your daughter from experiencing this, especially since you know the pain of lacking a father entirely. I assure you she doesn’t care that Daddy and Mommy aren’t soul mates. You may not be delirious, but you don’t sound miserable, either. The beautiful woman at the conference may have triggered your longing for all you're missing, but keep in mind that an alluring and fascinating stranger can have a powerful effect on even the most happily married person. You should acknowledge what an accomplishment it is that you and the mother and your child have made things work thus far. It’s worth trying to make a conscious decision with your girlfriend to do things as a couple that will build connections and conversation. You could volunteer together for a cause you both care about, take up running, or, given your mutual past pleasures, join a wine-tasting club. You two have also avoided the big questions, and it’s time to face them. You certainly don’t want to find yourself having another child with your girlfriend without ever really deciding to commit. Just learning how to talk to each other about what you want out of life—before deciding to find it elsewhere—is a good place to start.

—Prudie