For years, I’d known that, one day, my son would finally have to give up his beloved pacifier. Although he only used it to sleep, he was clearly very attached, so much so that he would cry for me in the night if he lost it. I kept telling myself that it really wasn’t that big of a deal if he still used his paci, especially since he never had it during waking hours. His identical twin brother sucks his fingers and we’re not stressing about taking those away…well, only because we can’t. Regardless, I knew that when my boy turned 3, the paci would have to go.
A few months ago, right before my nephew was born, I tried to convince my son that he should give his pacifiers to his new baby cousin. I’d heard that method often worked. Unfortunately though, my twins are born negotiators and apparently much smarter than me. The two of them started explaining to me that we could just go to the store and buy pacifiers, duh. I was stunned into silence, and decided I would probably need a more carefully-formulated plan to finally rid my boy of his addiction.
I heard several suggestions on how to help my child part with his pacifier — some ideas were kookier than others. A friend mentioned attaching his pacifiers to balloons and sending them off into the sky. Someone mentioned decorating a beautiful box to bury the pacifiers in. Another friend had apparently left the pacifiers out for the Pacifier Fairy who then swapped them out for candy. These all sounded like creative plans, but a kid who wasn’t willing to give his pacis to his sweet newborn cousins, definitely wouldn’t give them up for some so-called Pacifier Fairy (aka, likely scam artist).
So, I decided to just be straight with him. Right before their 3-year checkup, I told my son that his doctor had called and said that, now that he was 3, it was time to give away his pacifiers. I didn’t say he needed them for the babies. I didn’t say that they were flying off into pacifier heaven. No, I just told him that because he was a big boy now, he didn’t need a pacifier anymore.
I could see the concern on his little face. Of course, he didn’t want to give up his pacis, but the doctor had said it was time. We talked about it for days, and I acknowledged that it would be hard, but that he could do it. He accepted it, without argument, almost as though he knew it was the way things had to be.
When the day came, I let him have one last nap with his pacifier. Then, when he woke up and we started getting dressed for the doctor, I asked him to give them to me. With a sad face, but brave resolve, he did.
At the pediatrician’s office, my mom managed to slip a message to the doctor about my plan. So when he walked in, he said to my boy, “Now that you’re 3, we’re all done with pacifiers, right? Can you give them to me?” He did, almost proudly.
But I wanted to cry. I wanted to break down and sob right there in the pediatrician’s office. I wanted to hug my little baby tight and tell him that, never mind, he could have his pacifiers forever if he wanted. I didn’t want him to be sad now and I didn’t want him to be sad later when he went to sleep without them.
Thing is, he didn’t seem all that sad. So, why was I?
That night, I told him that he could bring anything he wanted into bed with him. I reminded him that he wasn’t going to have his pacifier, but he could have this bear or that blanket or that toy. He just looked at me and said, “My don’t even need my paci. My happy to give Dr. Peter my paci.” And then, my eyes welled up with tears and i did cry.
I should have been happy, right? Well, I was. And I wasn’t. I was so very proud of my big boy, but it also meant that he wasn’t a baby anymore.
When he noticed my tears, he looked concerned, as though he had done something wrong. (His brother looked relieved, like, “Thank God, I still have these gorgeous fingers.”) I reassured him that they were happy tears, that Mommy was so proud of him for being such a brave boy. I asked for a big hug and squeezed him tight, grateful for the soft, snuggliness of his little body. Just like that, I felt much better. Yes, he’s a big boy now, but he will always, always be my baby.