Thursday, December 4, 2014

goodbye, paci: a toddler & the 5 stages of grief

We had managed to widdle down pacifier time to Elden's nap and bedtime quite a while ago. We have been talking about getting rid of it for months (the pediatric dentist gave us a deadline of 3 years old in order to allow Elden's body to naturally reverse any damage it was causing on his own) but with Edith on the way--and then arrived and depriving us of sleep--the timing just didn't seem right. Too many changes too fast, we rationalized. Before Edith was born, we "threw out" (but really had a special clean trash bag just for pacifiers that I then fished out and dishwashed to reuse with #3) all but 1 of his pacifiers and would tell him when he was ready we'd throw out his last one. Then when Edith was born and he saw her with a pacifier we told him he should give his pacifier to Edith because she was a baby and he was a big boy. Then he bit a slice in in it and we told him Edith could no longer have it; we'd have to toss it when he was ready.

For the past month, he would tell us he was going to throw it out. We'd enthusiastically agree and try to walk him to the bathroom to toss it but he would say, "no I *need* my paci." On Thanksgiving, I'm not sure what changed, but he made the executive decision his beloved paci was going to go in the trash and before I could process what he had just said, Elden had pranced into the bathroom and tossed it. When he came back into his room he was so excited and I tried reminding him this meant no pacifier for bed (we had to skip his nap due to the timing of Thanksgiving dinner) and he was down with it.

Thennnnnn bedtime happened. Our bedtime routine had evolved where while Elden was in the bath I'd hide his pacifier somewhere in his room. It was just a simple game we played but he LOVED it. After his bath, Elden prances into his room with a smile painted on his face and asked his (every day) question: "Mommy hid my paci?!"

Cue hearts sinking.

Me: No, buddy. Remember? You threw it away. Your pacifier is gone.
Elden: (look of WHAT HAVE I DOOOOONE!? followed by all the tears)

Enter the five stages of grief, of which we experienced all spare acceptance in a 1-hour period.

Stage 1: Denial.
Ho boy. Buddy was in the thick of it. He insisted at first that I had hid it.

Stage 2: Anger.
Hell hath no fury like a toddler sans pacifier. There was a whole lot of this that hour:
E: Mommy lay doooooown!
D: (lays down)
lather, rinse, repeat umpteen million times

Stage 3: Bargaining.
After about half an hour of wanting me to lay down / never breathe the same air as him again, Elden took a dagger to my heart with this cryversation (I'm really hoping I just invented this word but am too lazy to do a quick Google search):
E: Elden need Edif's paciiiii
D: No, buddy. If we take Edith's pacifier she'll cry. We don't want that.
E: Yesssss, Edif wanna cry!!
He attempted this approach on and off for about 10-15 minutes.

Stage 4: Depression.
I'd say he was experiencing stage 4 basically the whole time. A whole lotta stage 4 laced in with stage 2.

Stage 5: Acceptance.
In all, it took probably about 70 minutes for Elden to pass out from sheer exhaustion that night. I think skipping his nap actually saved us quite a bit of heartache because Elden does not go quietly into the night about these things if he has the energy. Six days in and I think we're fully at acceptance. His first nap on Black Friday he was slightly upset but not like the evening prior. It took him about 20 minutes to fall asleep without it. However, every time he sleeps now he has been trying his hand at a new little shtick called fake it til you make it:
Elden (nodding head quite enthusiastically, using a very sweet and gentle voice): Elden needs pass-ee-fire.
Us: No, Bud. You've been sleeping great without it!
Elden (continues to nod head enthusiastically): Yes. Elden needs pass-ee-fire.

Suffice to say, Thanksgiving night sucked for all involved parties (except Edith, who snoozed away blissfully one room over). We're glad he's off it, though, and that we didn't have to be the ones to take it from him. With Edith, we intend on taking it away right at the one-year mark because within a few months after Elden was 12 months there was an obvious shift from where it was just a soothing device to where Elden had significant emotional attachment to it. If I learned anything from this experience it's that 2-year-olds experience grief quite theatrically and with a ton of emotion. It was really heartbreaking to see him so so sad. It's nice to know he's not distraught about things now and that we didn't irreversibly break him when we stood firm and didn't let him go dig it out of the trash.

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