As she grew up, her love affair with the paci (as she calls it) continued. The need for one paci grew to two—one for her mouth and one for her hand. The paci soothed her when she fell or when she felt misunderstood.
But it was getting to that time when most children her age were giving up the pacifier. There were comments from friends who said "it only gets harder" if we allowed her to keep it. Others warned us about the "dangers" to her teeth. We knew this advice came with good intention, but we were not willing to take it away without giving our daughter a role in the process. She used the pacifier to soothe her body and mind and we didn’t want this to come to an abrupt halt.
We started to put some boundaries around the pacifier—she was welcome to use it, but only in her room. Later we decided it was only to be used before nap or bedtime. She began to find different soothing techniques during the day, but at night she still looked forward to the comfort of the paci.
On her birthday we gave her a bag with four pacifiers. We explained these would be the "final four." She would decide when to give them up. Together we brainstormed four celebrations, one for each pacifier. For number one we would go to the library, number two she could pick her favorite restaurant for dinner, number three she could buy a book at the bookstore. Number four we would plan a "paci party" with dinner, cake and a movie.
We enjoyed each celebration as she willingly gave up the first three pacifiers. Then came the big lull—number four seemed to be staying put. A few times it got lost and with great compassion we would tell her that maybe it knew it was time to go. Of course, it would always turn up.
My daughter held onto that one pacifier for a long time. It was not always in her mouth at night—she held it a lot. She took responsibility for this paci, almost like a pet.
We finally told her it was time to start planning the paci party. We showed her a calendar and she picked the date that felt right for her.
The day of the paci party we gave her a little pillow with her name on it. We sat together and each member of the family hugged the pillow and "put our love into it." Family members sent cards of encouragement that we read aloud. We had a wonderful celebration and then it was time to go to bed.
She lay on her dad with the paci in her mouth and I could see her brain churning. Since the day she came home from the hospital she has had this little piece of serenity, and it was time for her to say goodbye. She looked at me and put it in my hand. I hugged her and felt her shake. I backed up to wipe her tears and realized she was laughing. Her eyes were bright and she was looking so proud and confident. We tucked her in with her new pillow and she fell asleep with a smile on her face.
The only person who cried that night was me. As I threw that pink pacifier in the garbage, I thanked it for soothing my daughter. I thanked it for all of the uninterrupted dinners at restaurants, all of the peaceful nights and all of the plane rides when her ears were popping. I had a great appreciation for its role in my daughter’s life and I am glad she was able to let it go in such a positive way. It was her early childhood companion and now it was time to move onto new things.
Goodbye old friend.
Cathy Cassani Adams is a certified parent coach living in Elmhurst with her husband, Todd, and daughters Jacey, Camryn and Skylar. Vistit her Web site, www.intentionalparent.net.