Separation Anxiety: It’s Not Just for Toddlers

Kate Stone Lombardi
Human Parts
Published in
5 min readMay 9

Sometimes, Adults Need Something to Cuddle Too

I’m a grown woman — okay, a woman who belongs to AARP — who sleeps with a stuffed animal.

For most of my life, I didn’t feel the need to clutch a small, cuddly toy to make it through the night. But now I’ve come full circle, and don’t mind people knowing.

The first stuffed animal I loved was “Rabbit.” He was no beauty, even when he was new. He had short yellow fur on his face, arms, and legs, and an odd red-and-white-checked pattern on his chest and on the inside of his floppy ears. But Rabbit kept me safe every night.

We would hang together under the covers when my parents threw their frequent raucous parties. The sounds of glasses clinking, high-pitched women’s laughter, men’s loud, commanding voices, along with the smell of cigar and cigarette smoke would waft up the stairs and into my bedroom. Rabbit and I would confer under the sheets to make sense of it.

When my mom was drunk and mean, Rabbit understood. We had an imaginary, protected world. Rabbit and I threw our own parties in my canopy bed, to which we invited my other, less cherished, stuffed animals. Once, when my Dad came in to say goodnight, he asked what was going on under the covers.

“We have a night club,” I explained.

My Dad laughed and laughed. I didn’t understand that to him “night club” conjured up The Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center or The Stork Club, packed with movie stars and celebrities sipping martinis.

The Cold War hit its peak when I was a child. In elementary school we routinely did drills for nuclear attacks. We left our classrooms after closing the windows, and sat in lines along the hallway walls, heads between our knees, hands clasped behind our necks, presumably to protect them from flying glass.

The Cuban Missile Crisis hit at the same time a popular commercial for pull-out couches was airing on New York radio stations. The company, “Castro Convertible,” had the following jingle:

Who’s the first to conquer living space — it’s Castro Convertible!

Well, I’d already learned about the space race — John Glenn had orbited the earth…

Kate Stone Lombardi
Human Parts

Journalist/author. Contributor NYT 20+ years. Also WSJ,, GH, AARP, more. Author: Mama’s Boy Myth (Penguin/Avery 2012). Cook. Besotted grandmother.