Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pacifier, Withdrawn (Part II)

I was motivated.  I downloaded a (free!) PDF file of Bye Bye Binky, which described the psychology behind the method and gave specific daily instructions.  If done properly your child would declare his/her pacifier broken and unpleasant, the whole episode ending in a gentle surrender of his/her formerly beloved oral fixation.  

So, I poked a few holes in the paci.  Then either because I felt guilty, am the poster child of enablers worldwide, or just got lazy, I let things go for a while - weeks, I'm ashamed to admit.  Then my fear of orthodontia,  resentment of my own passivity, and my frustration with my kid’s tenacity, i.e. inability to bend to my wishes, spurred me to poke again.  Obviously, I was helping him adapt to a less substantive pacifier.

By the time of our vacation to Michigan, we had four weeks until our return to the dentist, and two weeks until the start of school - an adjustment that would surely be a source of stress for Riley.

This really needed to end. 

The paci now looked like a Rottweiler’s chew toy.  It had gashes in it, and was clearly a choking hazard. How ironic would it be if our efforts at appeasement wound up in catastrophe?   Yeah, um, we didn’t want to go through the stress of taking away our son’s paci, so like, it was totally in shreds, but we let him have it anyway.  That’s why he choked, okay? 

On Day Four, Thursday, of our weeklong vacation,  I became particularly disgusted with this epic de-pacifying process. The pacifier, in addition to being torn, was the color of an aquarium that hadn’t been cleaned since the heyday of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. At 1:30 p.m., just before naptime, a particularly moody and annoying Riley began whining for his paci, which lay buried in the detritus of lunch on the kitchen counter.

DING! News flash. I could end this now.

The urge grew clearer and stronger.

End this now. End This Now!  END. THIS. NOW! 

Thinking I could cut the jagged edge off in one elegant motion, I grabbed a knife from the drawer.  I turned my back to Riley and cut.

The tough silicone and the cheap, dull knife conspired against me. Instead of the singular deft move I envisioned, I was hacking and sawing away like someone cutting a side of beef with a pair of nail scissors. If Benihana had been so inept, he would have succeeded only in peddling stir-fried slop from a roach infested Toyota.  

Riley had seen the entire act of butchery. All that remained was a centimeter long stump.   

I handed it to him. “Here, you can still use it,” I said feebly, praying it would still work.

He grabbed it and brought it to his lips.  He threw it down. “MOMMY RUINED MY PACI!  MOMMY, PUT THE TIP BACK ON!  PUT THE TIP BACK ON!  I WANT MY PACI!”

“I can’t.”

J came and picked him up.  He sat down on the sofa and held and rocked his devastated little boy.  J looked beaten.  I felt sick. It was what we had wanted for so long, and it was all wrong.

Over and over, Riley cried, “I want my paci!”  I began to hate myself for what I’d done and how I’d done it.  I pondered getting in the car to hunt down a new set of MAM pacis and starting anew once we got home.  I was an idiot and a monster. I’d ruined my vacation and sent my son down the path of emotional ruin.  I began racking my brain for major acts of self-flagellation that might erase what I’d done.  If kissing the bare asses of the entire lineup of GOP hopefuls would have eased his suffering, I swear I would have gladly puckered up. 

We promised him gifts, which he didn’t want.  We were just shy of offering him a pony.

He kept howling.

Finally, after an hour of violent sobbing, J put Riley down and he fell asleep.  I went on my brand new Kindle to see if I could get a nice book to help Riley understand the big step he was taking.  I thought I’d found something fabulous.  In the story, when a little worm lost his pacifier,  his friends informed him he was too big for such a thing, and besides, his paci was with him all the time. Brilliant!  I was elated! What’s the internal paci?  I wondered.   It was Jesus.

I returned it.

Riley woke up, and began wailing instantly.  We convinced him to stop crying, by promising him a fabulous new train set at the toy store in downtown St. Joe's. 

At the toy store we bragged about Riley’s amazing milestone to the owner.  She fawned over his achievement.  Riley, contentedly playing with the Melissa and Doug train table arrangement in the middle of the store,  puffed up at her compliments.  He was thrilled with the set we purchased for him, and couldn’t wait to get home to play with it. 

In the days that followed, Riley still cried at naps and was more tempestuous, but by the time we got home he seemed proud of himself and knew he had crossed a milestone.  He was one step closer to becoming a big man, the big man that he became in the stroller. (I know. Don't ask.)  Most likely, a part of him was relieved to be done with the warnings and drawn out threats.  He was aware of his own resilience, having seen at this early stage that life does indeed go on. 

For a time, Riley derived a vicarious thrill from touching his sister’s paci, even putting it in her mouth like a cured smoker who relishes lighting others’ cigarettes. Throwing Aria’s paci or stepping on it, was and is still a favorite passive-aggressive activity. Bedtime remains a nightly two-hour purgatory.

On September 16, 2011, Riley’s dental appointment was a huge success, his teeth and bite pronounced in good shape. 

And after all that drama you would think I would be making immediate plans to get rid of Aria’s paci ASAP.

You would think…


  1. You had me cracking up and remembering our own battles with the paci!! I really did think we were going to have to send our daughter to Betty Ford!! Great piece!! Your son sounds way too cute and way too smart!!! I also just realized I was not following you, so now I will get to read your great blog on a regular basis!! Take care!! I posted this on facebook, I thought it was just too funny not to share!!

  2. We are in this battle right now.
    We went cold turkey.... she feels betrayed. Naptimes and bedtime - once easy and lovely - are now disastrous. Give me strength.


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