Pacifier Addiction: Letting Go of the Paci with the Help of a Pink Build-a-Bear

Our kids just turned four (not sure if you heard).

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From early on, our girl favored a pacifier (paci), while our boy favored his lovey (Dida).

I never really gave a rip what they used while they slept, as long as they weren’t harmful or impacting their health and growth.  All was fine according to dentists and doctors.  As always, every kid and every situation is different.  There are kids who have pacis til they’re 25.  I don’t care.  There are kids who never use pacis, I don’t care.  Everybody does what they think is best and this is simply our story.  Please respect that.

Comfort (and coziness) is the most intimate and profound and privileged concept and we cannot define what provides that comfort.  We each have to find it for ourselves and if that’s taken away, it feels vicious.  It feels invasive.  We all want our kids to feel comfort and safety as much as they possibly can.

On the selfish side, our kids have been really really good sleepers.  And part of that, I’ve always believed, is that they have these comforts with them to sleep.  And each other of course.  I was scared of what would happen to their sleeping patterns if we took them away.

When they turned four though, it was time.  And while I felt guilt about letting my boy keep his Dida while his sister had to give up her paci, I thought we would try it and see how it went.  The night of their fourth birthday, it was time.  They can both keep their Didas forever as far as we are concerned, until they are just scraps of fabric from all the love.  She likes her Dida well enough, just not as much as her paci.  Thus my guilt going into this.

We’d all been prepping her for months.  We had given her so much time and warning and promised her a build-a-bear trip with mommy to put her very favorite paci inside forever.  It seemed to be working.  She seemed to be ready.  Her brother was so encouraging and giving her pep talks right along with us.  He was really interested to see how she would do and was there for her as usual.

Now, I’d be lying if I didn’t equate this whole story with my own of addiction. A hazard of being an alcoholic is that I have enormous empathy for folks trying to quit their beasts.  I know that I’m putting this on her but I know what that feels like – I sympathize and empathize with her.  And while the paci didn’t give her a high or even a low, it certainly gave her comfort.  It was her go-to when she was sleepy or feeling sad or uncomfortable or lonely or just, needed a break from the not having anything in her mouth for a while.  I GET IT.

Man do I get it.  

I know what it feels like to have your main source of comfort ripped away and how angry I got when that happened to me.  Granted, it was ultimately my choice to stop drinking, but I felt angry at everybody else because I had to.  I didn’t want my girl to be angry.  I didn’t want her to be resentful.  I didn’t want her to be so sad.

Of course that is all projection.  Our girl is her own person and in no way do I need to put that on her, but all of that is to say, I RELATE.

Anyway, back to my girl on that first night sans paci.  She cried.  She cried that really sad cry where you know something really hurts and she’s really sad – not that fake looking for attention or for you to change your answer cry.  It was the, “mama, I want my paci mama” cry that about ripped my heart out.  I held her.  I held her now much longer at four years old – but still my tiny Baby B girl – who was looking for comfort that I couldn’t give her in that moment body and told her it was ok.  Over and over I told her it was ok, but was it?  I cried with her for a minute but then we both pulled ourselves together.  Because she is so brave.  She is so resilient.  A paci is a minor thing, I know, but in that moment, she was my hero.  She fell asleep.

Now that was after their birthday party and we thought, well, she was really tired.  The real trick would be the following day for naps.

But you know what happened?  She took her nap without her paci.  She continued to sleep at night and naps without her paci for a WHOLE WEEK.  She told our Nikki that “YOU DON’T EVEN NEED TO GIVE ME MY PACI ANYMORE.” We told her over and over how proud we were of her, and upon waking each time, we had a big celebration.  We could see in her that she was so proud of herself and it was contagious.

There was one precarious moment mid-week when she ran into kitchen with a shit eating grin. “Look what I found!” She had found a rogue paci tucked in the couch.  Oh that’s it.  We are done for, I thought.  She kissed it and put it in mouth. I calmly asked her to give it to me as I was freaking out inside. She kissed it twice and handed it over to me.  I couldn’t believe it.  I mean, if you had given me a bottle mid-week my first week of sobriety, all bets would have been off.

On that one week marker, she woke up and I said, “It has been one whole week since you used a paci” and her face just beamed with pride as she said, “A WHOLE WEEK?” “A WHOLE WEEK, BEBE! GOOD JOB!” came from her twin brother.  Even though they don’t know what a week is yet, she was incredibly proud of herself.  Now THAT is what we want to see.

The deal was that the extra pacis would go to other babies who need pacis and that is what “happened”, but her main one, her last favorite pink paci was going with us to Build-a-Bear (BaB).  This is the first time we’ve been there and it was a Bebe/Mama and Bubby/Dada day so it was extra special.  The kind people at BaB have been known to tuck pacis inside bears to help ease this transition, and I must say, I thought this was a grand idea!

We went to breakfast first, just us gals and then onto the mall!

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Her little hand in mine, we looked on the map for the store and wandered across my unrecognizable childhood mall to find the spot.  Her eyes lit up as she bee-lined for a simple pink bear (the least expensive too HOORAY!).  She knew what she wanted.  I gave her the pink paci and she held on tight as we waited our turn in line.

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The nice lady at BaB gave her simple instructions that you can hear in our little video telling her to hold the little heart close to her cheeks so it would have a nice smile, to kiss it to give it lots of love, to close her eyes and make a wish and finally, I said as she was putting the little red heart inside the pink body, “do you want to kiss your paci goodb….(my voice choked up here)?” AND THEN SHE DID.  She kissed her pink paci goodbye and put it inside the pink bear she would name Cupcake and she is so so proud.

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OH MY HEART.
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PINK PACI IS IN THERE!

I don’t think she has any idea how strong she was that day.  How much her mama admires her strength and determination.  Her willingness to let go and to move on.  These are qualities I want.

I want what my daughter has.  She was able to let go.  She’s sleeping as well as she ever has and in the end, it may have been much more difficult on her mama than on her, but if I can carry that load, I will gratefully do so.  We are all so proud of her.  Her brother can’t even believe it.  He has stars in his eyes for his sister and she returns those stars with love and hope.  The audacity of our girl with the middle name of Hope.

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Now, I can’t guarantee that there won’t be a ripped open pink Build-a-Bear sometime in the future when she really needs a fix, but I’m banking on acceptance and audacity and growth and hope and mostly on our brave little girl.

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