On Friday evening,* after dinner,† we went to Barnes & Noble,# where you gave up your pacifiers‡ in favor of being a big girl.þ
Just after I first hit “Save” on this post, I heard the whump of your falling out of bed. I went in to your room, sat on the floor and held you for a minute before you crawled back up into bed. Then I decided to come back and move one of the footnotes to the end of this new paragraph, in which I would try to express that I really like you a lot.ψ
* The timing wasn’t entirely up to us. After a long break, you have resumed the painful and slobbery process of surfacing teeth, and you had started to chew through your pacis in your sleep. It seems to us that, when you separate a paci into two parts where the rubber meets the hard plastic, one of those pieces is good for nothing but plugging windpipes. So the need for action arose at a time when we might otherwise have been in no particular rush.
We thought that we would kill off the paci just after your second birthday by telling you, after returning home from Christmas in North Carolina, that all of the pacis had been left at grandma’s. “Sorry, kiddo; tough break.” But we departed in a sloppy rush, you sick with an ear infection, and all of us trying to get out of the house ahead of everyone else’s leaving for a play. We were only ten minutes down the road when we realized someone had popped a paci in you mouth, but it might as well have been an hour, a day or a week. We would ultimately need a new lie.
# I meant to spend a few hours later that evening reading, and wanted a couple of books in particular. I ended up reading three pages and falling asleep. Which left AT to tend to you on your first night (ever? maybe ever) without a paci. She says you were up and down until about 11:00, then did OK. You woke up about 5:15 a.m., but that happens from time to time anyway.
Since then, you have done very well. I think that having you hand over the paci, knowing that it would be gone for good, made all the difference. The few times you have asked me about it, it has sounded more like a statement of regret or longing (“I want my paci”), rather than a request for me to do something about it. (I base this interpretation on two things: (a) you don’t look at anything in particular, including me, when you ask, but kind of stare off into space; and (b) you don’t ask again, even when I make zero response.) It all reminds me of when I quit smoking, and how addiction denied presented itself not as a burning desire, but as a cold heavy stone of regret for something that wasn’t coming back.
‡ We sat you down before we left the house and asked you what little babies do. You said “babies cry”. I explained that it was time to give the pacifiers up so that they could be given to little babies so they could have pacis when they were crying. You said “I like the little babies”, and seemed to agree with the gist of the plan. We went through this with slight variations two more times to make sure you understood, all the while collecting your pacis and washing them off.
When we were ready to check out, I went first up to the counter. The next cashier was a woman of about 40, who turned out to be pretty friendly. I’m glad we didn’t end up with the other cashier, who was putting some guy through all kinds of loud grief about a product return. I explained that you were going to give her your pacis, and that we had said they would go to little babies. I told her they had been washed off, and should probably be thrown away. I asked if this would be OK, and she said yes just as you and AT made it up to the counter.
We picked you up and handed you the pacis. We told you that this was the lady who would take them and give them to the babies. And you handed them over. You were watching the cashier very closely as she took them and set them aside. Everyone agreed that you were a very big girl, and, once your elephant was back in hand, you seemed to be good with the whole thing. We told you in the car that we were proud of how you had given up your pacis for good, and you said “yeah; little babies not crying.”
þ Part of being a big girl on Friday was getting to pick out something at the store. You checked out a bunch of the stuffed animals that Barnes & Noble had thoughtfully put out at just the right height to be visible and accessible to someone your size. But it was all over once you saw the pink elephant. You have this thing about pink—you love it. And you love elephants. The only tense moment was when the cashier had both your elephant (while she was ringing it up) and your pacis. I could tell you recognized the shakiness of your negotiating position, and that you were weighing verbal or physical escalation.
But the elephant came back, you relaxed, and here we all are on Sunday evening, collectively and individually as well as can be expected. I’ve told you a few times this weekend that I’m proud of you, but it bears memorializing: you have once again taken something that might have been difficult and handled it with aplomb.
Now let’s talk again about the potty, its uses and applications.
ψ Sg, you may get the impression when reading this that your mother and I totally lied to your face to get you to do what we wanted. That impression would be correct. I’m pretty (if not entirely) comfortable with this. I don’t think you are equipped right now to understand the idea of a choking hazard. I’m not even sure that you know that doggies, kitties, people and, yes, even elephants die. So telling you the truth would have meant enforcing an apparently-arbitrary decree, rather than giving you a choice.
Probably, by the time you read this, you will have other examples of times we have lied to you “for your own good”. I’ll admit that the potential for abuse of this technique is great. Even in this case, which may be more morally clear cut than any that later arise, we gave you a choice mostly for our benefit, not yours. We have no way of knowing that enforcing an apparently-arbitrary decree would be less character-building than what we did. But we do know that we are in the clear when it comes to paci-deprived recriminations. You don’t understand that we manipulated you, but you do recall that you handed over the pacis, and you believe that the pacis are beyond mommy’s and daddy’s ability to bring them back. We manufactured an emotional jolt that would register with a 2-year-old so that you would believe that you had crossed a Rubicon, that there is no going back to a pre-April 17th mentality.
I’m pretty comfortable with this because I don’t think it’s my job to always do right by you. I am sure that you will get more honesty, care and support from me than I have ever given to anyone else. But I also know that, by the time you read this, I will be able to name examples of times you have lied to us in ways that you are pretty comfortable with, times you have steered a situation to your benefit at our ignorant expense. You deserve some leeway on that sort of thing, and so do we. I will not tolerate saintliness in this family.