Wednesday, July 17, 2013

For the love (and letting go) of the pacifier: Part 3

Other than my typing, the only sound I hear right now is my dog snoring.

Um...So what???

So this: My son is silent...asleep...without a a big boy.

So...I will bask in the joy of this milestone a few moments longer. It is absolutely in my nature to spend time and energy thinking, praying, worrying, earnestly praying, planning, fretting, remembering to pray again (you get the idea), but then when the problem is solved, the result is good, the prayer is answered like I had hoped...I say a quick "thanks" or an excited "yes!!!" and move on to fret about the next thing. SO in my nature.

No, I need to spend as much time enjoying the moment as I do planning for it and as much energy saying thank you as I do making requests. (Inhale...Exhale...)

When I last posted, I was anticipating a second try at laying him down for a nap without Daddy and without a pacifier (the first try was a disaster). Anticipating may be too kind a word (see above list...planning, fretting, remembering to pray again). I was playing it out in my mind all morning, and I wasn't feeling it. His urge to get sympathy from me is so strong right now that though he had gone down great for Daddy, Aunt Andrea and then Daddy and me together, I just had the feeling he was going to try to pull something. What incentive did he have not to?

But I had an ace up my sleeve. I decided if it was going to work, I had to use it preemptively -- I couldn't wait to see if he would be fine without it. Now, it wasn't a completely foolproof plan because it involved some delayed gratification, which is very tricky at this age. However, I knew this particular incentive was huge for him, so I thought I would give it a try.

He had been asking to go to his friend Madeleine's house for several days. Gavin knows Madeleine from church. She is a very mature and sweet 7. She apparently has that "it" factor for toddler and preschool boys. I think it has something to do with the fact that she pays attention to them and talks to them and (at our most recent play date) develops lesson plans for them compete with games and hands-on activities. Are you getting the picture here? According to her mom, she doesn't mind that the toddlers follow her around and hang on her every word (read: she likes it). She plays great with Gavin, so I like it, too.

Though he didn't know when, he knew we were going to her house soon. So at lunch, I pulled out the calendar and drew a heart on Thursday (today is Tuesday) and told him that we were going to Madeleine's house in a couple days, but first he had to lie down and take a nap like a big boy with no crying. I showed him how many days away it was, and I was clear that we were not going when he woke up -- we would go in two days. But first he had to lay down like a big boy. He seemed convinced immediately, and I could tell it wasn't one of those I'll-placate-Mommy-now-but-I-am-already-making-plans-to-rebel moments. I think he really intended to do it.

Of course, intending and doing are two entirely different things. When I was laying him down, he did start to insist on a pacifier and feign apathy about Madeleine's house, but I very quickly reminded him of our plan, repositioned him, said I loved him and walked out. No tears. Woohoo!!!

It took him forever to fall asleep! But no tears. Some of my friends who had been praying were texting and emailing with me while I waited, and of course, I was sending updates to Josh. When Gavin finally got quiet and fell asleep -- I am not going to lie -- a few happy tears escaped my eyes.

He's been doing great ever since (a whole one day, but I'm optimistic). We are still dealing with cranky mornings, but once we start breakfast, he's usually good. I hope we get back to morning cuddles and smiles soon.

Thanks for coming along with us on this journey to a life without paci. Not that I don't love you and everything, but I think you'll understand when I say -- I'm glad it was a short one.

Other posts in this series: Part 1 and Part 2

Monday, July 15, 2013

For the love (and letting go) of the pacifier: Part 2

In Part 1 of this short series, I talked about how I prepared to help Gavin say farewell pacifier. But the initiation of our "You're a Big Boy Now" Campaign actually started with Gavin. A month or so ago, my mom had told him that soon he would be old enough to say goodbye to his pacifier and give it to a baby. He mentioned it every now and then, and one morning, out of the blue, he said he wanted to give them to the babies now. After expressing interest and reserved pleasure, I asked if he was ready to take a nap without his pacifier. He thought about it and said, "I give them to the babies later." Even though he wasn't actually ready, he brought it up without any prompting, so I thought -- maybe this is a good time.

A few days later, when I told Gavin I had gotten some books about pacifiers from the library, he came over in a trance-like state. Did I mention he loves his pacifier?

I was thrilled that Gavin liked Bye-Bye Binky. Overall, it's a cute book. When Nori, the main character, loses his pacifier, his friends find it in various places (unbeknownst to him) and think it is something else -- a ring, a hair clip, a swing, etc. When the protagonist finally gets it back, he realizes he doesn't need it anymore, ties it to a balloon and lets it go. The story is light, fun and lets parents fill in the blanks of their child's specific situation. I don't quite get the part about the curly-tail catapult, but okay -- whatever.

So we started talking about how he is a big boy and how it's time to say bye-bye to his pacifier, so his teeth would stay nice. We brought out a calendar on which I had highlighted the next three days. We said, "This square is today. This square is tomorrow. Each square is a day. Today is over. Let's check it off. Can you help me make a check?" He thought that was so cool. Then I pointed to the highlighted days and said, "You can pick one of these days to say bye-bye to your pacifier. Do you want to pick tomorrow, the next day or the next day?" Wisely he chose the day furthest away, which worked well with my plan because it was a Friday. Each night we would check off the day and talk about what would happen on Friday. He smiled every time he said, "I'm gonna say bye-bye my pacifier." I knew the tears would come regardless, but as I said in the last post, I wanted him to feel positive, prepared and supported.

Enter the moral compromise of the story: Gavin wanted to say bye-bye to his pacifier by letting it go up with a balloon -- like Nori in the book -- and we said yes. Ugh, I can't believe we did that. We really do love birds and the environment and everything. I guess desperate parents + a possible way out = poor judgment. Don't worry, it all works out for the birds in the end. Keep reading.

The next day we read the book more and also watched part of the Elmo video (Bye-Bye Pacifier: Big Kid Stories with Elmo). I thought the story in the video was drawn out and rather tedious. It may be interesting for parents or kids with longer attention spans because it explains all the ways Elmo tried to get rid of his pacifier and what finally worked. I knew there was no way he would sit through the entire thing, so I just played the song and portion of the story that described the final solution. It's a cute, catchy song with elements of empathy and reasoning. It got stuck in my head for way too many hours.

When Friday came, the three of us went to buy some helium balloons. That was fun in itself! We got four balloons for the two pacifiers and two for him to play with after the lift-off.

We decided to do it at home in our backyard (fewer witnesses for our environmental folly). We let Gavin hold them, and say, “Bye-bye! I’m a big boy now.” He let them go, and they flew over the fence...

...right into the neighbor’s very tall tree.

Hmmm…Gavin looked up. There are the balloons. There are the pacifiers. Not quite the climactic moment we were envisioning. Thankfully, he was so excited about being a big boy, it did not ruin the plan. He just looked up every now and then and said, "I'm a big boy now. I said bye-bye to my pacifiers." He played in the backyard while Josh and I argued with whispers and facial expressions about whether or not we should get them down. I was against. (He’ll be fine. We don’t have anything that will reach. I’ll tell him the squirrels will use them for their nest. I don’t want you to fall and break your neck. It’s so hot and humid that we hardly go in the backyard!) Josh was for. (If he wakes up and sees them there, all bets are off.) Josh was right.

Without going into detail, let me just say he got them down using all the mechanical engineering skills you’d expect from a sociology major (his words not mine). So it was a happy ending for the birds and the environment (and our backyard neighbors). Once rescued from the tree, we had to kill four innocent balloons. Tragic, I know, but they had served their purpose, and we couldn’t very well have them floating around the house the next day. No, they had to go. We did suck the helium for fun. Total sidebar: Josh’s voice is not affected by helium. I’m thinking about checking the color of his blood. (Cue Twilight Zone theme.)

When we started our before-bed stories, Gavin asked for his pacifier out of habit. We reminded him that he is a big boy now, and we said bye-bye to them. That went fine until it was actually time to lie down. He protested and whined and whimpered. We gave one more hug, and he lay down, but not more than a minute after we left the room, he started whimpering again. We let him go for five minutes, and then Josh went in, assured him and left. (We decided on Josh going because before we left the room it was obvious that he was trying to get sympathy from me.) We didn't hear another peep from him. Overall, pretty good! We were pleased.

In the mornings, we usually cuddle in the glider before starting our day. He woke up asking for his pacifier and would not be comforted -- even by Daddy! No cuddling today. Good thing I had those new hot wheels cars. Instant mood changer!

Naptime Saturday was harder. He didn’t want to lie down. We let him cry for 10 minutes. Josh went in, settled him and left. No problem. Repeat at bedtime that night.

Naptime Sunday was a different story. Josh left in the afternoon to work on his dissertation, and I had nap duty by myself. When I left the room, he started crying. I was going to let him cry for 10 minutes and go in to reassure and then leave again, but at 8 minutes he got quiet – the miracle I was praying for! Just when I started to feel sad that he had cried himself to sleep, I hear him. Is that whimpering, humming, singing? It was hard to tell. After a while, it escalated. I went in, reassured, left – further escalation. Rinse and repeat. At some point, Gavin decided forget sympathy, I’m going for all out autonomy – no nap today. I called Josh to ask him to come home. My hero came in, calmed him for two minutes, left the room. Silence. Sleep. Nap ensues. Thank you, Lord.

So at this point, I’m low. Very low. I knew there would be tears, but not this. And it seemed like it was becoming a pattern. I knew it couldn't last forever, but how long? My friends said three days -- that's tomorrow! It doesn't seem like it's going to be better tomorrow. Ugh! What to do?!

So I prayed and thought. I was in the same turmoil as when he'd go through sleep transitions (rebellions) in his newborn days, so why not use the same plan? Make someone else do it until his habit changes. Unfortunately, I was the catalyst for the crying and protesting, so I decided it was best to remove myself from the equation for a few days. (Yes, I know how blessed I am to have help -- believe me, I do.) So my new plan was: Sunday night, Josh does bedtime with Gavin solo. Monday, he naps at my sister’s house while I work.

Both Sunday night and Monday afternoon went great (yay!!!) -- not a single tear. Monday night I decided Josh and I would do bedtime with him together like normal. We had a very fun bedtime. He was in a good mood. I was feeling it. It was going to work. Then after I laid him in the crib, he was like, "Wait! Mom's here. I should see how far I can take this." I firmly reassured him, and Josh gave him his blankets and bears. I know Daddy being there helped interrupt the downward spiral. "Sweet dreams" were exchanged, and we were out. No crying! Hallelujah!

So I sit here and type, moments away from a celebratory froyo. My next big hurdle is laying him down by myself with no crying (his crying or mine), which I will have the...excitement...of doing tomorrow, and at naptime nonetheless. I am hopeful for a good result. I'll let you know.

Other posts in this series include: Part 1 and Part 3

Sunday, July 14, 2013

For the love (and letting go) of the pacifier: Part 1

This story begins early one winter morning when Gavin was less than two weeks old. My mom had come over to help and let Josh rest. Gavin had just nursed but was still very fussy. We tried every soothing technique we knew. And then I just did it. I grabbed the pacifier the hospital had given us and popped it right in his mouth.

Now we had been trying to wait on this step as long as possible -- so as not to introduce nipple confusion. We knew it was just a matter of time before we'd give it a shot. This child had such a strong sucking reflex and a strong mouth. Oh yes, a pacifier was in his future. It was only a question of when.

When Josh woke up later that morning, he was surprised to see Gavin with a pacifier (which he later insisted that we never call paci or binky or anything else). I just said, "We decided we're doing the pacifier now." He looked confused like maybe he was so sleep-deprived that he forgot that entire conversation. No honey, not you-and-I "we." Me-and-my-accomplice "we."

And so it began. Pacifier. I'm a fan.

But we knew the time would come when we would have to wean him off of it -- a day I was dreading. Somewhere around 18 months we made the slow but pretty easy transition to keeping it in the crib and only using it for sleeping. Our doctor said he could sleep with it until age 3, but my friend cautioned me about waiting too long because she said if he's not physically desperate for a nap, he may start dropping his nap when his comfort item is taken away. I am interested in keeping the nap as long as possible, so upon this advice, I started thinking about how we would wean him. A few months later, after he turned two-and-a-half, we decided it was time.

I knew there was probably no way to avoid the tears, but I also didn't want to spring it on him one night. I wanted him to feel positive, prepared and supported. (And just in case you were wondering -- no, he is not the kid that is just going to give it up one day on his own. I wish. He loves this thing. He is not attached to any other object.)

Gavin loves books, and he is pretty suggestible if the idea comes from a book, so I started reading reviews for every pacifier book I could find. Based on what I found, it seemed most of them spent a good deal of time helping the child limit pacifier usage only to sleepy times. Well, we were already there, so I kept looking. The only one I found that really seemed to meet our needs was Bye-Bye Binky by Brigette Weninger. Unfortunately it was out of print and going for $49 or more on Amazon and auction sites. (When I was lamenting this to my parents, my so-sweet, very-frugal dad blurted out: "Fifty bucks! Give me that pacifier. He'll only cry for a day." Ha ha -- funny dad.) Thankfully, I found it for free at our local library. (While I was there I also got Little Bunny's Pacifier Plan. Gavin never wanted to read it, but it seemed to coincide well enough with our situation that I gave it a shot.)

I also bought my first kid's DVD: Bye-Bye Pacifier - Big Kid Stories with Elmo. Before this video, Gavin still hadn't really watched TV yet. We originally chose not to introduce TV before age two based on Brain Rules for Babies (see my take on the book here), but then after he turned two, I just never made time to look into what shows I wanted to him to watch, and he never seemed interested, so we never made it a priority. Anyway, I thought this video would be a special treat.

The last couple things in my arsenal: pictures of Gavin's slightly older friends who had given up their pacifiers already (before and after pics), a pack of hot wheels cars I had picked up at a resale shop and a calendar with markers.

See how it all comes together and then falls apart and then (hopefully) comes together in the end, as this short series continues. (You can subscribe by email or to the RSS feed or follow me on twitter @valerie_e.)

Other posts in this series: Part 2 and Part 3

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Not just the negative

In my last post, I lamented that Gavin didn't want to play with me anymore. Just boss me.

In my effort to bring "not just the negative," I thought I'd write to say that the very next day was a bit better. And it's been getting better ever since. We have actually played together, especially over the past week. Not as equals, mind you. I mean, he's still the boss (make no mistake). But it has been fun to join in his make-believe and actually have some of my game suggestions approved!

Just look what we've been doing:

Pretending his scooter was a bulldozer to push the blocks and pretending his arms were a crane to lift the blocks and build a building. All while wearing his "construction man" hat.

Playing pirate ship -- "Land, ho!"

The crane truck is towing the Lego car, so the mechanic can "take a look." Funny how after it's fixed, the crane truck still tows the car home.

Sometimes the little boy pictured helps put out fires, but mostly he plays on the ladder. There's our "control tower" in the background.

 It's been fun playing with my cheery guy. Don't get me wrong -- he still loves to say no and knows how to throw a fit, but I'm glad to have the bright spots of "play" as a part of this two-year-old cocktail again.

In other news...there's no way to know if Gavin had his first dream today, but there is evidence that he did have a dream today, and it's the first one I've known about. He woke from his nap saying, "Mommy, Mommy" in a whimper (not unusual). I walk in and he's still lying down (not unusual). He says, "Mommy, I want to hold a truck," in a sweet, pathetic, urgent voice (very unusual). I repeated his request to make sure I understood, and then not having a truck at hand, I offered a race car. He then started working his way to a standing position saying he was ready to get up. It's so cute to think of him dreaming about trucks. And I didn't need particularly well-honed dream interpretation skills to surmise that the dream was triggered by that morning's play date with a boy whose room is "car heaven" -- many plastic bins full of cars and a wall of storage cubes with large, realistic trucks and construction equipment. If that doesn't inspire a little boy to dream, I don't know what does.