Growing up is hard to do…(I was singing “breaking up is hard to do” by Neil Sedaka in my head.) I’m also reminded of the song by Ben Folds, called “Still fighting it” which is maybe melodramatic for this occasion…definitely…but I like the repeated line about “it hurts to grow up” because that is how it feels to let go of a pacifier. 🙂 I still remember trading my pacifier for Teddy Ruxpin and wondering if I had made the right decision…for a very long time. So, during the first few days of helping Pen Elaine let go of her “binky,” there were definitely a few passing moments when I wanted to just let her keep it until she was going off to college…or hopefully when she started having slumber parties, she’d want to get rid of it on her own. However, my Honey helped me stay strong. Parenting requires support.
It all began after we left our pacifier in Pops’ car when getting dropped back off at the airport after a visit. Pen Elaine and I were traveling alone, and I ran furiously to all the airport shops, asking if they sold pacifiers, to no end. So, I knew we would have to brave the flight without one, for the first time. This was a month before Pen Elaine’s second birthday. When I told her that “Pops had her binky,” she seemed to accept that, repeating that phrase several times when she was wishing she had it, and though there was no sleeping on the flight, there were also no meltdowns. Thus, I knew Pen Elaine was ready to understand reasoning behind getting rid of the binky for good…although I was still in no hurry to do so. (Pen Elaine currently had a binky for naptime, bedtime, and riding in the car.) That was May, and we had just found out that a new baby would be arriving in January, so I told my Honey that maybe it would be a good time to get rid of the binky by the end of the summer. That way, Pen Elaine would be over her own binky before the new baby came, hopefully having his/her own binky to use without having to worry about big sis stealing it, and also, Pen Elaine would not associate losing her binky with the arrival of the new brother/sister. So, one Thursday night in mid-July, I mentioned something about the “great goodbye binky,” and my Honey, in his man-way, said let’s do it this weekend. I was nervous, but I knew the summer was quickly passing us by, and there’s no time like the present. A sweet binky era was about to end. I knew that once we started, there was no going back.
Saturday morning: Pen Elaine and my Honey went around the house and car, collecting every single pacifier into a small plastic bag, so that we could send them to “little babies who needed them” because Pen Elaine was a big girl now, and didn’t need a binky. Our decision to “send them away” versus throw them away just felt better that morning; I don’t know if that was the best reasoning, but that’s what we ended up doing. Then, they walked the bag down to the mailbox and left it there. Since she was a big girl now, we took her to the toy store and helped her pick out a new baby doll to care for – the one we found came with a bottle and a cloth carrier that she could be strapped into and Pen Elaine could even carry on her back. This was also one of those dolls that closes her eyes when she lies down. We helped Pen Elaine name her new baby “Baby Betty.” We wanted to get her something special for her to take to bed instead of a pacifier; however, she already has several other babies and bunny that she likes to get tucked in with her. Riding in the car without the binky was no big deal; she asked about it, but was not upset and reminded herself (with out help) that she was a big girl and the binkies were gone – for little babies who needed them.
Saturday afternoon: Naptime went pretty smooth; there was no crying, but Pen Elaine did take an hour or so to settle in and fall asleep without her binky. For a while, we wondered if she was ever going to fall asleep, but she finally did.
Saturday evening: This is where things got traumatic, and I wanted to let her keep the binky forever. She went through bedtime routine just fine, but when we left the room, Pen Elaine started crying with the sounds of a desperate, lonely, hurting little girl whose best friend had died. We each checked on her once or twice, which probably only prolonged the crying, but how could we resist when she yelled out things like “Mommy! I need you!” It was heart-wrenching, but after 20-30 minutes, she fell asleep.
Sunday afternoon: There was crying for this naptime but just about 5 or 10 minutes, and they were not the desperate pleas of the night before.
Sunday evening: Once again, there was crying when we left the room, asking us to come back, but this time, my Honey helped me stay strong, and we resisted going to check on her, so she was asleep by 15 minutes after getting put to bed.
*In the mornings and sometimes throughout the day, she would remember and tell us how the binkies were gone, she was a big girl, and they were for the little babies. She was very cute when she would say these things. I also felt like her already crazy toddler emotions were a bit more volatile during this transition time.
Monday afternoon: This time, naptime involved less than 5 minutes of crying…I could feel that progress was being made.
Monday evening: This was very exciting as well, and she only cried (less intensely than the previous nights) for about 5 minutes.
Tuesday afternoon: Happy day – no crying at naptime!
Tuesday evening: Bedtime felt like too good to be true: she cried less than a minute, like in the time it took me to walk from her room to my room, after singing her bedtime songs, she had stopped crying!
Wednesday: We have arrived! No crying all day!! She is officially past needing a pacifier. She has become a big girl, and binkies are for little babies. I was still holding my breath on Thursday, but the pattern continued 🙂
I don’t know if maybe I was just more aware of her being a “big girl,” but I noticed during the second half of the week, her trying to be more of a helper, enjoying being a big girl more and more. For example, Pen Elaine wanted to help me unload groceries from the car and in the kitchen for the first time after a big grocery shopping expedition. I think “big” things like not needing a pacifier and small things like retrieving her shoes from the shoe basket can all contribute to helping a toddler feel more independent and in control of their little world. According to Erik Erikson and his stages of psychosocial development, after the first year of learning the concept of trust, the second step during the toddler years is gaining some autonomy and independence, and if they don’t, they develop more shame and doubt. Growing up is hard to do, and it can be hard, as a mommy, to watch my “baby girl” turning into a “big girl.” However, magical surprises are around every corner. I know God has “all the days ordained for [her] written in His book before one of them comes to be” (Psalm 139:16), and that God has “plans to prosper [her] and not to harm [her], plans to give [her] hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).