Two years later than I thought it would happen, it finally did. We said goodbye to the pacifier.
Usually there’s a feeling of euphoria when checking another parenting milestone off the list – sleeping through the night, weaning off the bottle, potty training, etc. Every time we’ve successfully made it through one of these obstacles I’ve been all like “YEEAAAAHH! Pour me a BIG effing glass of wine, Daddy Kopp, because we are KILLING this parenting thing.” But not this time. Retiring the binky was different.
Letting go was hard. And I’m not talking about my two-year-old. It was hard for ME.
From the beginning, I fell in love with the binky much faster than our baby boy. He resisted at times – spitting it out, throwing it – but eventually we broke him and he became a devoted user.
So since our son’s first weeks of life, the binky has been put to good use. It’s fallen in mud, soup, and toilet water. It’s been covered in vomit, dog drool, fur, and sand. Just like my son, the pacifier went from being washed every time it touched a speck of dirt to being washed about once a week. At least one zillion times in the past three years I have asked “Where’s your binky?” I’ve tracked its whereabouts as diligently as I’ve tracked my toddler’s. (And anyone who has had a kid with a pacifier knows that those things are damn near impossible to keep from losing. Drop a pacifier and it virtually disappears, falling to the dirtiest and most unreachable spot in a 50-foot vicinity.)
Through it all, I somehow became more attached to the binky than my kid. Sure, there were moments that it irritated me. Nobody enjoys fishing a pacifier out of a potty. Nobody wants their kids to have pacifiers plugged in their mouths in every family photo. But mostly I was glad to have the binky in our lives. Here’s why:
- Peace and quiet – Some children are louder than others. And some children need special tools to shut them up. The pacifier is an excellent example of such a tool. Its magic brought silence to long car trips, formal ceremonies, and the occasional meal at a nice restaurant. If I was lucky, it could even end a temper tantrum.
- Staying little – Everyone says “You don’t need a binky. You’re a big boy now.” But my little guy is not so big. He’s not even three years old. And I vividly remember when he was an infant sucking away on his pacifier, serenely snoozing. When I see him with his binky, I see that he’s still little. Too often, we force our children to grow up fast. Maybe it’s okay to let them be little a little longer with their binkies.
- Cuddles – Who doesn’t want more cuddles? Owen instantly became sweeter and more loving when the binky was in his mouth. No way am I complaining about all those extra snuggles with my boy.
- Comfort – Owen never had a lovie. Instead he had his binky. And it got him through some scary moments – vaccines at the doctor’s office, his first haircut, his first night away from home. When I couldn’t comfort him, his binky could.
- Sanity – There were so many times that the pacifier pulled me back from the edge. Naptimes gone bad. Mealtimes headed to disaster. The binky was there to save the day. It was my parenting crutch at the end of a long ass day. You know, that moment when the clock is approaching 5 and you’re counting the minutes for another adult to get home and your child is whining “Mommmmmyyyy, I NEEEEEED YOU!” and your baby is crying and your pasta water is boiling over and you’re just about to totally lose your shit. That’s when you grab the binky, pop it in your toddler’s mouth, plop the toddler in front of the TV, and pour yourself a glass of boxed wine and thank Jesus for pacifiers, Mickey Mouse, and fermented grapes.
So for these reasons, I dragged my feet and tried to delay the inevitable.
But after nearly 3 years, the day to say goodbye finally arrived. Owen was only using his binky when he was in bed or very sleepy. So my husband decided it was time to completely break the habit for good, cold turkey. I reluctantly agreed.
We took Owen to Build-a-Bear Workshop with his binky. We explained that his binky would go inside whichever bear he selected and that it would stay there in his special bear forever. I faked excitement.
Owen was surprisingly okay throughout the Build-a-Bear experience; he happily named his new bear “Binky.” But he hadn’t fully grasped what “forever” meant. It wasn’t until the following day at naptime that he realized his binky was gone for good. And it was a heartbreaking moment.
Yes, his pacifier was just a dirty piece of plastic. But it was his first true loss.
He cried himself to sleep that day and when he woke up from his nap, he was NOT happy. I was afraid to leave him alone with Binky Bear, worried that I would find the plush bear dismembered with the stuffing guts all over the floor and the pacifier back in Owen’s mouth.
But that didn’t happen. Instead, less than 48 hours after implanting his paci in a stuffed bear, he seemed to have mostly forgotten about it. Meanwhile, I was missing my little “parenting crutch.” Every time Owen refused to nap, I wished it was still here. Every time he threw a fit in a store, I wished it was still here.
So a few days after saying goodbye to the pacifier, here’s how I was coping:
And here’s how Owen was doing:
Lesson: Children are resilient. Adults are not.
Which is why I put together this tribute video for Binky – because I will never forget Owen’s first few years and the binky’s important part in that time. (Confession: I made this video with the intention of being funny with an overly dramatic, parody-style tribute. Instead I ended up making myself cry. So if you’re a dork like me, get your tissues ready.)
So long, Binky.