Over winter break, we helped Henry quit his pacifier habit. He had been addicted to the pacifier since infancy, when we foisted it upon him until he learned to like it. He was a calmer baby than Eleanor, and I’m still not sure whether that can be credited to the personality or the paci. At any rate, the dentist told me we should try to wean him off of it at age 3, and so we had gotten him down to only using it for sleeping.
I was nervous. He loved his pacifiers (and had the crooked teeth to prove it) and was still using the type designed for infants because he refused the upgrades we offered. He slept with four of them every night. The first few nights without the pacifiers, he took more than an hour to fall asleep. After that, he seemed to forget about them. I couldn’t believe how smoothly the transition had gone.
Except — yes, here’s the exception — without the pacifiers, he refused to nap. He had reached the point where he definitely didn’t need a nap every day, but he still needed an occasional nap. Now, he typically goes three or four days between naps, and on that third or fourth day, the meltdowns reach hurricane strength.
So I suggest a nap. He rolls on the floor and flails and screams as though I have inflicted severe trauma. I pull out the pacifiers, and he screams louder.
“Do you want to take these?” I ask gently.
He watches me suspiciously, fearfully, because I have trained him not to use these and now I am offering a nightcap to my tiny alcoholic. I feel horrible every time I do this. He did an amazing job of adjusting, and now here I am dangling his vice in front of him again. But this is the only way he will nap. Without the pacifiers, he hops out of bed the moment I leave the room. He won’t nap in my bed. He won’t nap after a stream of books on a lazy afternoon (though I often do). He won’t nap with the enticement of a cookie or a TV bribe.
Do the ends — a well-rested, happy child — justify the means? I’m always worried that I’m screwing up. I know that I’m sometimes screwing up, and probably not with the things that I’m worried about. Are my kids going to be okay? Oh, that look he gives me, like he knows I am breaking a sacred trust between us.
On a lighter note, we at least nailed the bike-riding part.