Monday, March 21, 2005


Goodbye soother...

I wanted to come up with a witty and eye-catching title for this post, but my heart just isn't in it. Tristan has finally given up his soother, and I'm surprised by the strange mix of emotions I feel. Before I had kids, I swore I'd never use pacifiers. "Take a beautiful baby and hide half his face with a big hunk of plastic? No way!" (Note to self: blog for another day = lamebrained things I thought about parenting before having kids.) For whatever reason, both my boys are pacifier junkies and have been from the start.

He's three, so it's about time he gives it up. I know that, he knows that, but it's still been rough. This is a boy who only gets his soother(s) - he actually has three of them and wants them all at the same time - when he's in bed, but who is a bona fide suck junkie. (Hmmm, I guess obsessive personalities are genetic.) I would occasionally find him in his room in a corner, having scaled the furniture to snatch a soother off the high shelf, sucking surreptitiously away like a smoker in a windblown alley. I'm sure the reason we had regular daily afternoon naps for as long as we have, and the fact that he tells me every day when it is nap time and not the other way around, is entirely about the need for a suck fix and has nothing to do with sleep.

Having seen it work for a friend, we decided when the time came to give them up for good, we'd take the soothers to Toys R Us and use them to "buy" a Gordon (from Thomas the Tank Engine). We've been talking it up for a couple of months now, but on the weekend he brought it up himself and told us he was ready. All morning and for the entire drive to the toy store, Tristan babbled excitedly about how he was going to trade his soothers for Gordon and we praised him for being such a clever big boy.

I love the Toys R Us staff. I called ahead to make sure a Gordon was available, explained about the soothers and asked them to hold one at the customer service desk for us. They must go through similar rituals fairly often, because nobody blinked an eye and they were incredibly sweet about it. Later, while we played on the in-store train tables, Daddy went to "get a bag" for Gordon and it was all we could do to convince Tristan to release his precious cargo for even that long.

It was all good. We were having lunch when Tristan announced it was time for a nap. "I want to take a nap with my..." (Beloved and I held our breaths during the longest pause in conversational history) "...Gordon!" (Immense sighs of relief.) So up he went, but when he got to bed he did ask for the soothers again, and when reminded that he had traded them for Gordon, he simply decided he wasn't tired anymore. He spent the rest of the afternoon building sprawling wooden tracks for mighty Gordon all over the dining room floor. For the entire day Gordon was golden.

Knowing that the worst was yet to come and yet fortified by the success of the day, I hadn't really been dreading bedtime as much as perhaps I should have. It was all good until Tristan, on his way up to bed, sat down on the stairs and said in a tiny, heartbreaking voice that he didn't want Gordon anymore, he wanted his soothers. Tantrums I could have handled, but that tiny poignant voice nearly did me in.

He did eventually go to sleep without too much more complaint, but woke up a few times in the night crying for them. Simon must have been feeling sympathetic anxiety, because he woke up on the alternate hours crying. I have to admit, I was at a bit of a loss as to how to comfort Tristan when for the last three years, any nighttime trouble was instantly resolved by stuffing the pacifier into his mouth. Cuddles and kind words seemed to do the trick for the most part. And this morning he was his usual cheerful self, minus the plastic plug that has been our bane and our saviour for the past three years.

This is a major transition for us, even bigger than CIO and the move to a big-boy bed. To me, this is the first time Tristan has had to live with the consequences of his own decisions, and watching it has been by turns exhilarating and heartbreaking. I imagine this is a small taste of things to come, when parenting is more about providing emotional support and moral guidance than changing diapers.

It's been a long night.