Passing on the Pacifier
We had anticipated the auspicious occasion for months … the day that we would finally bid farewell to a dear friend. This is a bit of a eulogy—but not for a relative or neighbor or pet. I’m talking about the day we said bye-bye to “Paci.” He (yes, we humanized him) left our lives peacefully one afternoon and luckily, met his end more swiftly than we ever imagined.
I’m sharing this story with you so you’ll know that despite all of the pacifier angst hanging over most parents, when the time comes, it’s not really all that bad. Paci had been a trusted member of the family for more than two years. A dependable friend who soothed my son through fevers, teething, and vaccinations. We knew he was only a temporary helper. The question that perplexed me for months on end was how would we ever say good-bye?
Of course, we had many more than just one. “Paci” (pronounced “passy”) referred to the tribe that inhabited our home the moment we brought the babies home from the hospital. Our stash of white, blue, green, glow-in-the-dark, Winnie-the-Poo, and Elmo binkies could be found in ever corner of my house and car. Towards the end, when our collection had been whittled down to two or three, my son would hide them in funny places (under the couch cushions, in a toy truck, inside the play oven). He knew the end was near. Sometimes I think the dang things pacified me more than him. But since the day that I started throwing extras in my purse, in the car and of course, in the diaper bag, I knew there would come a time when our reliable friend would have to go and my son and I would have to find another way to soothe ourselves.
It was a love-hate relationship with that ever-present piece of plastic from the beginning. At times, it was the only way I could keep my sanity … or catch a few extra minutes of shut-eye. That’s when I loved our friend Paci and secretly hoped we would never let him go. But once my little chatterbox started uttering his first words, I couldn’t wait for Paci to get out of town. I felt like Paci was preventing him from speaking his mind. I hated the way it looked—like he had a plug in his mouth. We tousled over when and where he could have it throughout the day. Yes, I had read all of the books that mollify anxious parents like myself with advice and acceptance of pacifiers. But it bothered me—even as I earnestly explained to the grandparents, “We now know that some kids rely on the sucking reflex to calm themselves … he’ll give it up when he’s ready.” But of course, when he turned two, I continued to worry. Two turned into two and a half and I was chomping at the bit to get rid of it for good. So I finally asked our pediatrician for her take. She inquired, “Does he seem to be a pretty thoughtful, empathetic kid?” Actually, he really is and I told her and he seems to be a people pleaser. “Great,” she said, “Here’s what you do.” And she proceeded to give me a counterintuitive strategy.
We would position the Paci as a “gift” he would give to a baby or younger toddler. Coincidentally, my nephew was about to turn one so we started talking about giving K. the Paci as a birthday gift. Dr. B. told us to pick a date and to even plan a party to celebrate the event. We got the whole family involved. When my son Skyped with Grandma and Grandpa or talked to Auntie M or Auntie CC, everyone congratulated him on the “gift” he was going to give to his younger cousin. We even told Baby K. about it in our video chats. My son would hold up his binkie and wave it in front of the Web cam. During this time, he still asked for Paci at naptime and at night. But he seemed to be getting into the idea. About a month later, the big day arrived. On the way to our gym class, we stopped at the post office and we picked out a special mailing envelope decorated with baseballs and footballs. In class, my son boasted to his teachers that today was the day he was giving away his Paci. He was proud.
After a festive lunch with cupcakes for dessert, just before nap, we gathered in the kitchen to put Paci in the fancy envelope. My son hesitated for a moment. I gently prodded him that it was time. Finally, he dropped Paci in and insisted on sealing up the precious package himself. I told him I’d drop it in the mail box while he was sleeping. Instead, I buried it in the back of a kitchen cabinet. Turns out, in the end, I was the one who wasn’t ready to let Paci go. Finally reaching the milestone felt really big. It was something so mundane and yet, it weighed on me. I guess I had to accept that time was moving much faster that I wanted. He was growing up and so was his twin sister (who still prefers sucking her thumb). Little did I know that giving up the pacifier would lead to a whirlwind of new experiences and transitions in the weeks that followed.
Shortly after, we began to say good-bye to diapers, sippy cups, and to their cribs. They were turning into little people before my eyes and as thrilled as I was to see the progress and development, I couldn’t help feeling, well, kind of sad. He cried for his friend that first night. But after a day or two went by, my son’s attention turned to other things. He wanted to know if his cousin had gotten the package. That weekend, my brother-in-law thanked my son for his generosity and said K. was so happy with his new Paci. Everyone applauded via video chat. Five months and counting. We’ve all grown by leaps and bounds. Paci is gone but not forgotten.