long I'm pretty sure it was mom & dad who weren't ready for this change rather than Anderson. I'm talking about that important milestone - getting rid of the binky (pacifier). Our reticence was not so much a sentimental hesitation meant to delay the rapid growth of our first born. It was more about a reluctance to relinquish the magic power of the binky to facilitate a smooth transition to bedtime & re-center an unhinged child. That binky has done much to soothe the exhausted spirits of these two parents perhaps as much as it has offered comfort to Anderson. But it was time – yes, perhaps past time. Anderson recently turned three & we are well aware that most pediatricians recommend banning those suckers at around 18 months. But, just as children develop at different rates (eating solid food, walking, talking) so, we must remember that as parents we, too, are developing at different rates. And if there is anything we’ve learned from the parenting journey it is that mom, dad &, of course, the kids need copious amounts of grace as we all stumble through this maze of child rearing.
So, we finally began preparations for Anderson to transition to a binky-free lifestyle. Over the course of a few weeks we talked about it periodically. We asked him if he was ready. Jill suggested we make it a fun & memorable experience. The arrival of a new niece seemed to offer the perfect timing and Anderson embraced the invitation to give his binky to Sydney. He also seemed to step up to the gentle challenge that his older cousin Jack “doesn’t use a binky anymore.”
So, here’s how it went down. The four of us gathered at the dining table for the ceremony. First, we wrote a letter to Sydney about how much we loved this binky & our hope that it would bring her comfort now. Then Anderson added some of his favorite color – blue – to the letter. Next, we read Marianne Richmond’s poignant reminder to parents, If I Could Keep You Little. I’ll admit that my voice broke a bit as I read the final lines. “If I could keep you little, I’d keep you close to me. But then I’d miss you growing into who you’re meant to be!” After the book, I read a specially commissioned poem for the occasion.
There is a time for every season – a time for winter, a time for spring
A time to sleep, a time to play; a time to listen, a time to sing
A time to sit, a time to run; a time for laughing, a time for crying
A time for burrito wraps, a time for footie jams
A time for chopped food, a time for whole food
A time for strollers, a time for walking
A time for a crib, a time for a big boy bed
A time for car seats, a time for seat belts
And, yes, a time for binky’s, and a time for soothing yourself.
And, then, with no hesitation Anderson dropped his binky into a Ziploc bag. With our brief ritual complete we loaded up the van for an exciting trip to…the FedEx store, of course. This was perhaps the biggest motivator for Anderson. His binky was going to ride on one of those white trucks to the airport, fly in an airplane overnight, and then zoom around in another truck to Sydney’s house in Charleston. We could even track its progress online on the “lily pad” (iPad). The very final step, which we are still awaiting at the time of this writing, will be to “face time” with Aunt Brookie & Sidney to verify the binky’s arrival.
It has been mostly a non-event for Anderson. There’s been no crying, no tantrums, no begging for binky’s return. However, Jill & I will confess to a desperate hope that his moratorium on the taking of afternoon naps will prove to be only a temporary adjustment to the loss of his dear binky.
Of course, this was about more than just getting rid of a small piece of plastic it was about learning to let go, even deciding to let go – and learning to find new, more appropriate ways to self-soothe. And those are two important lessons that life forces most of us to keep learning well beyond the age of three. When a toy breaks, we must self-soothe. When a friend moves away we must let go. When we don’t make the grade, we must self-soothe. When a dream shatters, we must let go.
And there are so many unhealthy ways we attempt to soothe ourselves – a new, shinier relationship, another drink. And let’s be honest, Jill & I would be glad for our boys to use a binky through their teen years if it might help them avoid huffing household chemicals or binge drinking. But, of course, the entire process of parenting is an exercise in choosing to let go - learning to trust in something bigger than ourselves. And so it is by letting go – affirmed through ritual, supported by community, emboldened by hope – that we celebrate, grieve, make meaning, grow, and receive what we need to be fully human, to become a family.