But we knew the end was coming. The parenting police -- you know the ones who say your child should be off the bottle by age one, walking by fourteen months and should be able to read War and Peace in Mandarin by five -- stated that by age one at the latest, a child's pacifier ought to be history.
We were way overdue.
In March 2011, when Riley was 2 years and 4 months old, we went on our first dental visit. We chose a lovely Bucktown practice that treated children only. Dr. M was fabulous - sweet, gentle and thorough, and Riley was perfectly happy and compliant. His paci affinity, however, had begun to show itself in some slight abnormalities in his bite. Dr. M advised us to stop the paci ASAP, with a definite deadline of his next appointment, six months later. Upon leaving we scheduled the end date. The paci would be given last rights before September 16, 2011.
Riley seemed on board, at least at first. For the first few days he went sans paci completely. Then he couldn't get into a nap without it, so we gave in. What harm could it do? This was a daunting task! We had six months; we could afford some leeway.
We enlisted the help of the Hyde Park Parents Support Network, a listserv that every community should have. You can get advice on anything parenting or household related. Within minutes someone will let you borrow, buy for cheap, or test out any baby related item, and it is a wealth of parenting punditry. The winner by far was the Paci Fairy scheme, where the child leaves his/her paci(s) in a box, to pass on to the world's paciless babies, and in return receives a gift. The other method, desensitization, however worth consideration, was given the thumbs down by most. Poking holes in the paci and cutting it shorter and shorter, rendering it as appealing as sucking on goose droppings, was condemned as out and out trickery.
As kind, enlightened parents, we agreed. We wanted Riley to make his own decision to give up the paci. We hid his stash and limited him to one green MAM. We borrowed a book called The Binky Fairy and read it to Riley whether he liked it or not, or rather, as much as possible.
Some days he said he was ready to give it up. Some days he said he wasn't.
But in reality, WE couldn’t give it up. We had an excuse for everything.
We had no red box like in the story. We had no adequate gift. And those were just the tangible parts of the equation. Where night-time put down used to be a dream, we were now living the nightmare of Go the F--- to Sleep. The thought of every nap put down being a battle of wills made us want to lie down in the middle of Lake Shore Drive.
Meanwhile, using the binky fairy method, two of Riley's fellow paci-addict buddies ditched the habit quickly and easily. A day or two of weeping, and then boom, done.
Months passed, with Riley having a paci only for the five naps he took at home, as opposed to at daycare, where somehow, without being drugged or beaten, he slept paci-free. We rationalized that we had made some progress. Every child is different! we told ourselves. Riley had a baby sister who sucked on her paci constantly. It was in his face all the time! It was taunting him! How could we just cut him off?
By August it was clear that we were wimps. We had totally wussed out. We now had less than six weeks until our return to Dr. M. Riley hadn't been in daycare since May and was sucking the crap out of his paci for every nap, as well as whenever we were home and he felt out of sorts, which, as with most two year olds, was always. I began having visions of having to turn tricks down by the Chicago River in order to finance the orthodontic scaffolding my son would need for his jacked up teeth.
We had to DO something.
Trickey, schmickery, bring on the pins and scissors. If that was what it was going to take I'd cut that shit up like Benihana.
(To be continued)