My daughter’s favorite pacifier was the one she brought home from the hospital. The thing looked like it had been haphazardly pressed from a single piece of rubber. Our insurance probably received a $13,000 bill, but we thought of it as free.
Our daughter gnawed on that pacifier and put herself to sleep. A sleeping baby is the pinnacle of parental achievement. When the baby sleeps it means you can sleep. We came to treasure that pacifier, it always seemed to do the trick. She developed a dependency on it. So did we.
The only problem is that we only had the one.
Looking back on it, I am somewhat stupefied by the risk we took. A parent simply cannot afford to allow pacifier control to fall into the baby’s hands. Too much depends on those pacifiers. Rest is critical, a child that won’t sleep can break you. Military operatives use sleep deprivation to break hostile informants…but black ops operatives aren’t nearly as merciless as a fussy baby. You need back-ups of the magic pacifier! You need cupboards filled with exact replicas! You need stashes around the house that your wife can find years later provoking a round of tearful nostalgia.
“Remember when she was so little?”
“Yeah, back when she wouldn’t allow us to sleep? Gosh I miss those days.”
If you don’t have back-ups, what happens when the pacifier gets lost?
The problem with this hospital pacifier was that we couldn’t get any more. They didn’t sell the brand at the grocery store and I couldn’t find it online. We had one, that was it. If we lost it nobody in our household would ever sleep again.
I suppose, theoretically it might have been possible to train the child on a different type of pacifier. But who has time for that? Besides, her favorite had a cylindrical nipple. Most of the pacifiers at the store had a kind of ergonomic nipple that was designed to bring “extra comfort and satisfaction to your child allowing him or her superior rest while also stimulating proper gum and tooth development.” These fancy pacifiers with all the bells and whistles were always designed by a chemical engineer with a Ph. D. in early childhood development who was also a mother of sixteen.
Those pacifiers were garbage.
Please, please, please, don’t overthink it. Just make a normal, regular, simple pacifier that puts a kid to sleep!
Our daughter rejected all other pacifiers with extreme prejudice. You don’t know the awesome strength of a baby until you give her a pacifier she doesn’t want. You insert the pacifier and watch as they determine whether it meets their lofty standards. With eyes closed, they grasp the pacifier in their mouth. First, they explore the item looking for cues of shape, taste, and texture. Finding the pacifier wanting, their forehead furrows in cute baby rage. Sometimes they just open their mouth and howl causing the offending item to dribble out, other times they reach up and fling the pacifier into baby oblivion.
Away foul pacifier, AWAY!
Absolute, total dismissal with no chance of compromise.
For the first few months, it’s pretty easy. The child can’t move around, so you always have a pretty good idea where the pacifier is going to end up. There are always a few brief scares when the pacifier gets wedged beneath the cushion or under a pillow. But nothing catastrophic happens for a while.
The real problems come when babies get a little bigger and transform into sadistic little self-sabotaging Houdinis. They become experts in slight of hand with the single objective of discarding their favorite pacifier where it can never be recovered so that they can spend the rest of their lives howling about it.
“Mom, Dad, how could you have failed me so?”
You’ll take them out on a stroller and they’ll wait for you to look away as they reach up, pluck their pacifier, and toss it into the bushes. Sometimes they simultaneously knock over their sippy cup so you don’t notice the pacifier, too, has been ejected. If you pick up the pacifier first and then go for the cup, they’ll throw the pacifier away again before the cup is secured.
They like to keep you right on that emotional fault line where you’re just about to break. It makes them laugh, “hehehe.”
If you think misplacing your cell phone is bad, believe me, it’s nothing compared to this.
They train you. You become a fanatic. You find yourself triple checking the location of the pacifier thirty times a minute. You and your wife start to look like those nervous birds with wide eyes and 130 beats per minute heart rates. In your moments of repose, you sit in the corner and tremble. When the pacifier is not where it’s supposed to be, you get that terrible chill like when your wallet is missing.
“We’ve got to get her to take a different pacifier!”
“But she won’t!”
“We can’t live like this!”
“WE HAVE TO!”
And it goes on and on and on until one day you hand your child the pacifier and she doesn’t want it.
“But this is your favorite pacifier.”
“Don’t want it.”
Then your child goes to college and you’re left at home cradling their old pacifier like Gollum holding the one ring.
Sometimes your wife catches you and she says, “Oh, remember when she wouldn’t sleep unless she had that pacifier?”
Wiping away a tear you say, “Yeah, I miss those days.”
This post was previously published on A Parent Is Born and is republished here with permission from the author.
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