We need more lovies in the world

My teenage boys will never forgive me for “The Velveteen Rabbit.” They insist they remain emotionally scarred, more than a decade after first hearing it.

“But the rabbit becomes real!” I protest.

“Mom! The boy doesn’t get to be with his best friend EVER AGAIN! How is that a happy ending?”

Needless to say, we take our love of loveys very seriously. We have lovey stories that run the gamut from tragic to comedic to touching, yet somehow all tear-jerking.

There’s the one when we created our own neighborhood Amber Alert for the missing dolphin, only to find him tangled in a laundry load of beach towels. The one when we thought we lost the dolphin forever, until a superhero disguised as a restaurant owner rescued it and kept it safe until we could return to collect it. The one when we realized more packing supervision was required when, upon arrival at a weeklong Caribbean vacation, someone sheepishly admitted that his suitcase basically contained 24 loveys and a swimsuit. The endless battle to fit one medium-sized boy and 78 loveys on a twin bed continues to this day.

The most recent one? The oldest moved away this summer to play baseball but insisted he couldn’t play as well without sleeping on his (large, pillow-sized) stuffed dog. So, we put the dog in an actual pillowcase and off they went. Upon discovery, the main reactions of teammates were “Oh, your lucky dog” and “Man, I wish I’d brought mine,” leading me to believe that a) baseball players’ superstitions are weird but very real and b) there is hope for all of humanity if this is the main reaction to a lovey by a bunch of “dudes.”

Our belief in the power of loveys is so great that our fledgling family charity is “The Lovey Project,” whose mission is to help provide stable, unconditional emotional and financial support to children in crisis. With almost a quarter of U.S. children suffering from some type of mental health disorder, it is clear that loveys, both the physical beings and the comfort they represent, are desperately needed.

We have found that we are not alone. Everyone has a lovey story — their children’s, their siblings, their own — so we have begun collecting them. We want to share as many lovey stories as possible! There is a dedicated section on the Lovey Project website (re-launching in October) where we celebrate this most universal of childhood experiences. If you have one that you want to share, please send it to [email protected]. The more, the merrier!

In the meantime, I’ll try to make it up to my traumatized children by closing with the beautiful, bittersweet ending from their favorite and probably the most famous lovey story, “Winnie the Pooh.”

“But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the forest, a little boy and his bear will always be playing.”

— Jen Dean of Hinsdale is a former contributing columnist.