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