The big day finally came. It was time for Lil to say goodbye to her beloved pacifier.
From the first moments out of the womb, Lil fell in love with her pacifier. At first we weren’t so sure. The nurses all recommended we take the stick out of our new-parent butts and just allow her to enjoy one of the few comforts a newborn baby has- suckling.
Her suckling was fierce and strong, and I was always amazed at the way her little lips and tongue held tight to her paci. She never developed a bond with any “lovies”, stuffed animals, or blankets. Only her pacifier. I remember losing those things like crazy and frantically searching for them in restaurants. They made her content, happy, and quiet.
Many parents around us started cutting their kids off of the paci. At the one year mark, lots of them did it successfully. I tried it for a day, and then shrug it off, allowing her to hold on to her sense of security a bit longer in an uncertain world. I was in no rush to make my kiddo grow up fast or stick to some staunch timeline. Plus, there was no hard-fast research that said it messed up her teeth, until around age 2 or 4 (conflicting research on age.)
We trucked along, and paci stayed. Through first steps, first slide, first haircut, second birthday- there was the plug in her little mouth.
Recently we had her cut back to nap times and bedtime for use of the paci. After potty training and moving her into her big girl bed, she started clinging to her paci frantically. She would beg for it all hours of the day, throw fits, and not be able to get comfortable enough to go to sleep until she had it. One day, after hearing her whine for almost an hour for her paci, I was done. DONE. I did not like how frantic and fearful she had become when she didn’t have the comfort of her pacifier and realized that the longer I waited to break her of her habit, the harder it would get.
I asked her if she thought she was a big girl. She said, “yes.” Then I asked her if she would like to give her pacifiers away to a little baby who would love them. Hesitantly, she said, “yes”. I told her I would reward her with a surprise if she was brave and generous and gave them away.
She had her paci for one more nap, then they were packed up. I picked her out a big girl present (a Strawberry Shortcake doll she had been wanting), and gave it to her. She was delighted, but I could tell she was also anxious.
We went to the park, and I asked her several times if she wanted to give her paci’s to babies we saw. Every time she said no, almost to the point of tears.
Then I noticed her going into my purse, pulling them out, and bravely walking over to an adorable little boy in a stroller. She proudly handed them to him, and looked at me with a solemn face that melted my heart. “Good girl, I am so proud of you”, I told her. It was as if she knew and I knew in that moment- she is growing up. Growing up is scary, hard, and very bittersweet. She ran over to me after making her very own commitment to break her very favorite habit and gave me a big, sweet, hug.
The last three days have been hard. She hasn’t napped once, and has been sleepless and uncomfortable through the night. I have been so empathetic for her, and have even been breaking a very difficult habit of my own as she has inspired me. (I bite the inside of my cheek- an old, nasty habit). It has reminded me that comfort-habits do not die easily. It has also made me very aware of her uncertainty right now, and of my need to be gentle, assuring, and encouraging to her that she can do it.
In just a few days this will all be past us, and just another distant milestone in her early toddler years. It is amazing how quickly these important moments simply move behind us. Independence is a thing to celebrate and look upon with great joy. As her mom, I am so proud. Yet, it is hard to let go. I know this is such a tiny, little thing. But this was the first time in her life she decided to do something, and despite the pain it is causing her, is wanting Mom and Dad to stand behind her and encourage her that she is brave and strong enough to endure the discomfort for her good.
She has done a good job giving up her favorite thing these past two years, her (as she calls it), “facey”. If we learned from kiddos we could all kick our habits. She inspired me this past week.