So often the lovies and objects of children’s attachment turn into a little bit of a crutch for the parents, as well as providing familiar comfort for the child. Many parents have caught themselves turning their car around because the little one’s favorite teddy bear was forgotten at home, or dragging a neck-breaking load of favorite toys for only a simple trip to the park.
I noticed that my son’s addiction and attachment to his binky/pacifier (“smukk”) was starting to become just as much of a security blanket for me and my husband as for himself. We had great plans of keeping it to night- and naptimes only, but often it was brought out during extenuating circumstances like boo-boos, travels, car rides, transitions times, etc. Then it became a fight. We were not consistent about our rules, so the screaming and tantrums would often elicit more willingness to dig it out of the pocket.
Finally, I took the dreaded step — to get rid of it. Parents of older kids had said it was never as painful as they had anticipated; that once the step was taken, it was surprisingly easy for the wee one to accept that this milestone was reached. We had our doubts. Our child was different. More addicted, more attached and stronger willed. This would not be as easy for us. We also had to work on our different opinions on our own and our child’s readiness to give up the soothing device we all relied on. But then we made up our mind — it was time.
I made a letter rolled up as a parchment, tied with a purple ribbon addressed to my son. The letter pictured a fairy holding a pacifier, and congratulated our son for becoming so big that he was now ready to help all the little babies in this world that did not have pacifiers of their own. He was to collect all his pacifiers in three days and deliver them to the fairy’s assistant in the toy store. She would then supervise the distribution of the pacifiers to the needy babies. In exchange, and as a symbol of his big-boy status, he was to pick out some presents for himself from the toy store.
We read the letter together over and over in the next three days, and the last day he expressed sadness, but readiness. He needed to do what was expected of him, and he willingly handed over the box of collected beloved items to the somewhat puzzled shop assistant at the toy store. He picked out quite a few toys, we negotiated the amount, he agreed upon the fairness, and left happily with his new trains.
The night came, and he asked for his smukk. I gently reminded him of his great deed, showed him his new trains and kissed him, saying I was proud of him. He whimpered for a minute or so, and asked if the babies were happy. “Very happy,” I replied. “They are all sucking their pacifiers, thanking you for being such a big boy.” “I AM a big boy,” he beamed. Shortly thereafter, he fell asleep.
There were only a few more gentle reminders after probing inquiries the next few days or so, and then it was over. In fact, I had planned an overseas flight alone with him only two weeks after his smukk cessation, and confidently left without a crutch in my pocketbook. It really is a chapter ended. Melancholy hits slightly, given the proof of my son reaching yet another milestone, but the fights and tantrums over this menace and savior is finally over.
And it was as easy as the parents of older children had predicted. Sometimes, it is not so bad to take the advice of people who have been there. Even if your child is different, more special, high spirited, sensitive or fabulous than any other.