Paci Problems: Day of Reckoning

I am harboring a dirty little parenting secret. I like to think that we all have them. These things we do within the safe confines of our home away from the judging eyes of society. These little parenting shortcuts or hacks that we perform in an effort to make our lives easier by appeasing our kids and going against sage pediatric advice. I probably have several of these as I’ve yet to come out of the “survival mode” I entered when I had Olivia 3.5 years ago, but this one is probably the one I feel most ashamed about. You see, Olivia is still using her pacifier. Only at night. And only for naps. Oh and those occasions when she sneaks up into her room to “get dressed” only we find her either still in PJs or naked with pacifier in mouth like an addict who just needed one last hit before giving it up completely. At 3 years and 7 months, she is well beyond the recommended age for using a pacifier according to our pediatrician. I dread her dentist appointment next month when they ask me whether she uses one and I’ll sheepishly reply that she is. But really, aren’t all of our kids going to need braces? I had a jacked up can-opener for a mouth as a kid so really it’s her genetic destiny to have some orthodontic intervention.

Back in April 2017 I penned a post “Pacifier Problems”, which you can read in its entirety here or just enjoy this little excerpt “She’s only 18 months old, which after having a 3 1/2 year old to compare her to, is still very little. That said, I know the day of reckoning will need to come soon. Weaning will not be easy.  One of Olivia’s most in infuriating qualities is her stubbornness. A quality I hope will serve some purpose when it comes to refusing boys and drugs as she gets older. But when it comes to weaning, I know it’s going to be a full out war.”

Gosh, so much of this still rings true. Especially the part about Olivia’s stubbornness, which has only increased with age. But the craziest thing to me is that I wrote this when Anthony was Olivia’s age is now. How did two years slip by without us taking away the pacifier?? Truly, I am a bit embarrassed and ashamed. Karma is a mother f’er and I remember shaking my head when I heard tales of three-year olds still yet to be weaned from the pacifier. But then life happens and you find yourself starting to justify why letting them have it isn’t so bad. It’s not that we haven’t talked about doing it. No, in fact, taking away her pacifier has been an on-going conversation for quite some time now. When she turned two we entertained the possibility of taking it away, but she loved it so much. You also see just how much of a “baby” a two-year old is when you have a four-year old to compare her to. Would we be asking too much of her to give away something she loved so dearly? We also really value sleep above all else in this house and we feared the ramifications of what weaning her off them might do to everyone’s sleep. So we sort of let the year pass by with nary a mention of taking it away again. What were we, monsters? Then in the blink of an eye, her 3rd birthday happened in October and she was still all about that paci life. If anything, her attachment had grown terrifyingly stronger.

That was it. We were resolved. She was three and it had to go. At three she’s the age where you can reason with her. Not that she will actually listen to reason, but you have to hope that at least she comprehends what you’re saying even if she chooses not to apply it. But then we realized that we were bound for Disney World in two months – did we really want to try and take away this huge source of comfort while we’re sharing a hotel room for an entire week and embarking on one of the most overstimulating and exhausting trips you could possibly bring a three-year old on? The answer is no. Call us weak, call us wise, but we decided that we would do it after the trip. Then there was Christmas. What sort of Grinch-y parents takes away something so precious during such a joyous and kid-focused time? Then January came and went. February came and went. And then March kept rolling along and we sort of toyed with the idea of taking them away and even mentioned it to her in this half-ass attempt to get her comfortable with the concept of that paci-free life. However, we were all talk and no action. Then in April I was resolved to make this the time to do it…but Joe brought up that we had a trip to Ohio and maybe it wasn’t the best timing? Okay. Fine. That’s fair. But soon! We are taking them away soon!

Now it’s May 17th. She is 3 years, 7 months, and 5 days old and these things have to get the F out of our house. We are all way too attached. For too long we’ve tolerated it because it not only helps her sleep soundly but it’s also like a toddler tranquilizer when she’s over-tired and raging at bedtime. I do is pop that bad boy in my charging rhino’s mouth and she immediately calms and she sits so sweetly in my lap while we read books. Problem solved! But now she’s closer to 4 than she is 3 and I’m pretty fed up with walking into her room in the middle of the day to discover her with pacifier in mouth while she “reads” books or gets dressed. Or having to run into her room at 4am because she screams for me since she only has TWO pacifiers in her hand and is missing her third one. Oh yeah. Did you really think we only had the one? Please. There are three pacifiers and they all have specific names: green one, purple one, and white one. They’re not the most creative names but each one has its own personality and she needs to have the Holy Pacifier Trinity at all times otherwise there is hell to pay. To soothe herself to sleep, she holds one in her mouth and drags one of the others down her forehead, over the bridge of her nose, and spits the existing one out of her mouth and pops in the new one while transferring the spat out one to her open hand. In this rhythmic and perfectly synchronized way she lulls herself to sleep with one in her mouth and one in each hand while she clutches a stuffed animal. Sigh. She’s got it bad.

But this weekend they are being taking away. I’m half-writing this post and making it public so there is no opportunity to back out. You see, now that we’ve put it off for so long, it’s become this huge thing that we need to deal with. I don’t know why either. I had a heart of stone when we sleep trained both babies when they were 5/6 months old, but this, this somehow makes me feel beyond guilty. Because of that guilt and my anticipation of just how difficult I think this will be, I’ve woven this convoluted story about a “Pacifier Fairy” who will take the pacifiers and bestow them to babies in need. The Pacifier Fairy has been this ominous entity that entered our lives right around the time Olivia turned three. In our conversations, we’ve said that she’s friends with the Tooth Fairy, but doesn’t really know Santa or the Easter Bunny, but can definitely fly because she has wings like any fairy would. We are going to decorate a box, place the pacifiers in, and I think either the Pacifier Fairy will come and pick it up or we will send it to her (AKA throw that shit in the garbage and immediately take it outside so she can’t find it). In exchange for this act of courage, Olivia will be rewarded with a toy. Or whatever it is that her heart desire because honestly I don’t think there’s a limit to how much I would spend to make this as painless as possible.

My original plan was to have her pick out anything she wanted from Target. Or Wal-Mart because for whatever reason my kids are obsessed with going to Wal-Mart since they’ve never been. But I scrapped that when God deliver a vision to me of the two of us going to Build-A-Bear where she can make a new comfort object to be with her at night. I read once that a mother had actually put her kid’s pacifiers INSIDE the bear so that he could feel them at night and be comforted. I toyed with doing that, but then my common sense delivered a vision of Olivia tearing open her bear with a pair of child-safety scissors to retrieve the pacifiers. With bear stuffing flying everywhere in plush-toy carnage, she looks up and yells at me William Wallace-style “You can take away my life, but you’ll never take away MY PACIS!” 

It’ll be fun, right? I’ll pick her up from school on Friday and we’ll have lunch at the mall and build the bear that she will forever associated with taking away the one thing she loves more than anything else in the world. What’s more comforting than that? Ugh. I have dreaded this moment for many years. People say “it’ll be harder on you than her” and to that I ask, have you met my daughter? She is the very definition of obstinance. She will not go quietly into the night. I’m picturing hysterical tears and wails for “my pacis”. Also, I’m slightly terrified that she’s going to turn into a thumb-sucker as a result.

Sigh. But the time has come for us all to say goodbye. It’s time to gird my loins and be a stoic, yet comforting presence for her during this transition. Please send prayers. Wine. And probably coffee because I am not envisioning this weekend as being a restful one.

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