On Sunday, just after Justin left for work and before Ella and I were going to leave for church, Ella reached into her crib and picked up her pacifier. I stood in the doorway of her room, watching her.
"Ella, you know the pacifier is just for sleeping. One day, when you're ready, you can 'put the paci in the trashy,' like the big kids do. But for now, put it back in the crib, please."
She put it in her mouth and gave it a few good sucks--you could see her cheeks and lips working. She was also trying to smile, and her eyes were grinning. She gave me her I-know-I'm-being-naughty look.
"Ella, put the paci in the crib, please."
She took it out of her mouth and started walking.
"Ella, you can't bring it with you!"
Down the hall she went. "Ella..." came my warning voice. There was no way she was taking a pacifier to church!
When she passed the front door and her shoes, I started to panic. Somehow, I kept my voice even. "Ella, if you put the paci in the trashy you can't get it back. You know that. If you throw something away, it's gone forever. Ella..." I followed her into the kitchen.
Ella loves to throw things away. She is my helper. She never digs in the trash to get anything back, though sometimes she does look into the trashcan to see whatever it is languishing there. Sometimes, when she throws something away, she puts her arm in as far as it can go, to make sure it's really going "bye-bye." She gets bothered if the lid is not on properly and fixes it, saying "uh-oh!" until it's right. Ella knows trash.
She stopped by the tall white can and looked at me. I kept talking, my heart racing. "Ella, if you throw the pacifier away, it's gone forever. You can't get it back. You won't have it to sleep with. Are you sure you want to do this? Because you really can't get it back. It will be gone forever. It will go bye-bye forever."
Still looking courageous and already victorious, she started running back to her room.
Half way there, in front of the TV, she stopped and turned around, giving me another smile.
She went back into the kitchen. Again, I was fast talking about the consequences.
"Ella are you sure? Because you can't get it back. It will be gone forever."
She pushed open the swinging lid with one hand and held her right hand over the garbage.
"Really. It will be gone forever. You won't have it anymore."
She dropped it in and stared. "Trashy!"
I felt like I was going to throw up. "OK. You put the paci in the trashy. It's really gone." I looked in, too. I'd been thinking I could secretly retrieve it, just in case. In case of what? I didn't know. But I could get it back!
It was lying next to the egg shells and coffee grounds from breakfast.
|See the purple pacifier face down in the garbage?|
I tried not to make a big deal of it, just telling her what a big girl she was and that she "put the paci in the trashy," just like in the book we'd been reading for two months. "Pacifiers Are Not Forever."
My heart was lurching. Justin would be starting work in three minutes. I called him. It was an emergency. I could call him. He should know. "Ella threw her pacifier away."
"Oh my God. Really?"
"Yeah. She picked it up and threw it away. I tried to talk her out of it, but she did it."
"Can you get it back?" his voice was panicked.
"Nope. It's gone forever. There are raw eggs in there."
"Oh my God."
He had to get back to work. We went to church.
I knew what I was going to be praying about.
On the drive over she said, "Paci, paci, paci," once. I told her, "Yep. You put the paci in the trashy. You're such a big girl!" And broke into song. A little skinamarinky dinky dink and it seemed to be out of her mind.
She was an angel in church. She sat quietly and colored. She stood with the congregation as appropriate most of the time. She's old enough now to be able to see over the pew in front of her, so she can watch the musicians.
From the pew behind us, one of the older ladies who wear hats on Sundays said, "You have a darling daughter."
On the way home we talked about having lunch and taking a nap. I considered going to a restaurant for lunch--anything to put off going to sleep without her pacifier. As we talked about her nap, she said, "Paci. Trashy."
I confirmed the new reality. "Yep. You put the paci in the trashy."
My consolation was that I could blame her. It wasn't my fault that she didn't have a paci. She threw it away. She wanted to do it. She did it. I didn't do it. I just let her do it. It was her choice.
I realized quickly that if she had wanted to run in the street, I wouldn't have let her do it.
When it was time to lie down, she began asking for her paci. I wondered if she would remember that she had both a pink and a purple paci, and that she only threw the purple one away. Still, I told her, "Nope. You put the paci in the trashy, remember? It's all gone. It went bye-bye."
Boy, was she mad.
I tried all the methods I could think of to comfort her. I gave her five minutes to calm herself down, which she usually does quite quickly. I went in and gave her hugs and then put her down and rubbed her back. I sang a lullaby. I rocked her in the glider, cradling her as if she were a baby. I read her books. I got her baby and her dolly and her favorite stuffed animal Elmer the elephant, to see if she wanted to sleep with them. I tried skin-to-skin. I couldn't figure out how I could lay in her crib with her, so we lay on the floor together, looking each other in the eye. I let her roam about the room.
She was so desperate. Her crying was jagged. She'd slow to a whine. She'd become frantic. She'd be quiet, and I'd think there was hope. Then she'd start over. Only once, while we were skin-to-skin, did she rest her head on my shoulder. I prayed that she would fall asleep like that, but ten seconds later she was up again. Mournful.
I felt terrible, but I couldn't give her the other pacifier. There was no going back. We had planned on taking it away in a couple of days anyway, when Justin would be off, and we could suffer together and it wouldn't matter so much that we couldn't sleep. It was happening, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. She was growing up.
I was desperate, too. I did all of those methods of soothing her because I could. Because for now, I can still be the one to give her what she needs. Because one day she's not going to want to lie in my arms anymore. She's not going to be simultaneously furious and clingy. She's going to be so much more her own person than she already is. I'm just going to be there. Not there, like I am now.
After an hour of "rest" I decided we could leave her room. If she wasn't going to nap anymore, she was at least going to rest and have quiet time. (One day it would be quiet, right?)
By 4 p.m. she was saying, "tired" and lying on a blanket in the living room. The part of me that thought she might finally be tired enough to sleep without the pacifier was overruled by the part of me that wanted her to sleep at night. We slogged through three more hours awake.
During that time, I rediscovered George. George is the Gund monkey that my brother and his wife gave Ella on her first Christmas. He is delightfully soft, really more of a blanket with a head than a stuffed animal. We included George in the rest of our activities that day. (George can put together a puzzle and push a truck and get kisses from Mommy, just so you know.)
When it came time to sleep, we talked about the paci again. Justin was home for the bedtime routine, so we all (with George, of course) read Good Night Moon and said prayers together. At her crib, I told Ella what big girl she was, and told her George was really tired.
"Can you show George how you sleep like a big girl? George wants to sleep with you."
I lowered her into the crib. "Get comfy, and I'll put the blanket on you," I said.
"Yes, blankie. Good night, George. Good night, Ella. I love you!"
I tiptoed down the hall.
Justin and I looked at each other in anticipation and terror and then went about our evening. We didn't talk about it at all, both afraid we'd jinx it.
She never made a peep.
In the morning, she woke up at 6:30, crying "paci, paci, paci," so I ran to her.
We reviewed the facts (paci, trashy) and started our day an hour and a half earlier than usual--nothing I can complain about.
|Ella and George on her first morning without a pacifier.|
It was easier when she didn't talk, because now she cries "mommy, mommy, mommy." We knew it was a job for the baby whisperer, though, so I lay on the couch in the fetal position, hugging a pillow and crying while I listened to their voices on the baby monitor.
And then she was asleep.
We drank wine and contemplated our situation. I had him call our friends to cancel our Friday night dinner plans. Though she is usually a champ in restaurants, even if it is past her bedtime (which it rarely is), she would be a wreck this week. There was no way we could have my mom babysit--she couldn't handle the crying. (She had already told me that I shouldn't have done it and that when I was a baby they boiled my pacifier for me lots of times, so I actually could have "rescued it." Because Ella is so small.) We couldn't leave her, anyway; we wanted her to feel safe and secure, even without her pacifier. She had to know that we would always be there for her. She had to see that it was true--we had to be there.
So today, on the sixth night without a pacifier, those friends are coming to our house for dinner. She'll be fine. She loves Oakley--even asks for her when we're not together. "Uncle" Brandon isn't so bad, either. (She's only just now losing her fear of his deep, booming voice. He says she's not the only kid who feels that way.)
|Ella and Oakley at the Ren Faire this year.|
I don't want to jinx it.