Every morning for the past several months, the first words out of my two-year-old’s mouth have been, “Can I have milk in a bottle?” I realize that if a child is old enough to put together a sentence with this many words, that bottle’s departure is probably way past due. So, feeling a little guilty that I hadn’t been paying it much attention, I decided that one of my (many) goals for the beginning of 2015 should be to initiate the bottle’s demise. And I suppose it’s about time we ditched the pacifier and the diapers too. There’s only one problem. In order to convince a child that he is in fact a big boy and no longer needs these baby vices, his Mommy should probably be fully on board. Trouble is, if I’m being honest with myself, I’m not ready to say “bye bye” to my last baby.
With my first child, I remember putting a lot of time and thought into the idea of weaning her from these… addictions; I think that’s a fair word for them. I recall being embarrassed on a couple of occasions that I had to pull out Elizabeth’s pacifier during her Kindermusik class and wondered what the other mothers must have thought of me. Really she was still quite young and I’m not sure what I was so worried about. At the time she seemed SO grown up. Looking back she looks like a baby. Nonetheless, I overzealously mapped out a plan on paper to eliminate both, and even created a Potty Progress Chart. Potty-training began with a freaking sign-language program at 18 months before she could even talk! We taught her the sign for “potty”, “more”, and “all done” and blew a silly Potty Train whistle when it was time to go pee. Training ended a full YEAR, dozens of pieces of candy and many toy bribes later. What I know now (for our family) is that the earlier you start, the longer it takes and the more you torture yourself (and your child) thinking about it. I vowed not to even think about potty training my next baby until she was two-and-a-half.
So, the experience with Caroline was much more laid back. Partially because I was pregnant with John, had started my own business was probably too caught up in Elizabeth’s enrichment activities . Typical middle child caught in between the importance of their siblings sort of stuff. It’s a little sad now that I recognize it, but I’m confident she is a better, more flexible person for it. Looking back at the pictures, little Caroline still had her pacifiers, was not potty trained and was still sleeping in her crib when John was born.
This third time around maybe I have been a little too lackadaisical about it all; the bottles, the pacifiers, and the diapers. Maybe it’s because I know that it will eventually just happen, when he’s ready. Or maybe it’s because I don’t actually want my baby boy to be a big boy… not yet. Is that selfish? Probably. But, I’m almost positive this “big boy” was JUST this tiny newborn baby. And I could swear I was just giving this little infant a pacifier for the first time, hoping he would take to it, so my own nipples could get even just a little break. It seems like just a short while ago that I was counting down the days when I could give him his first bottle so that I could give someone else a turn to feed him, and so that I could enjoy more than an hour away without the timer ticking down until I had to rush home for the next feeding.
Fast forward a quick two years later and picture a child so obsessed with those pacifiers, that he carries six of them to bed with him (or as many as he can fit in those two tiny little hands). A child addicted to his morning bottle like me feinding for my morning coffee. Oh, the irony of it all.
While I’m finding it hard to accept that my baby boy is actually turning into a big boy right in front of my very eyes, I can also admit that I’m a little tired of cleaning out bottles, rushing around looking for the missing favorite pacifier and of course, wiping dirty bottoms. I assure you that I am no longer at all motivated by what other people think, but I see signs that John wants to break away from baby-hood. And it is unfair of me to deny him that. While it makes me a little sad to think I will never pour another bottle for one of my babies, I also look forward to the ease of leaving the house without those bottles, pacifiers, diapers, and wipes in tow.
Life here is still crazy, but it a new way. Gone are the days trying to juggle nursing while two other children need attention, schlepping home for two different naps for the baby, and interpreting the cries of an infant who can’t tell me what he needs. Now, we have a busy preschooler who climbs on the counters, colors on the couch with marker and on his face and the carpet with nail polish and make up. While the challenges are in many ways more difficult now than having a new baby in the house, we are having more fun together than ever before. All five of us can finally go to see movies together, go sledding, hike in the woods and so much more. While a little reluctantly, I realize it is indeed time to officially say “Bye Bye Baby.”
Bye Bye Bottle
When January 1st rolled around, we told John that we had sent all his bottles to Aunt Emily so she could use them for the new baby in her tummy. I had actually just tucked them away behind the bread basket on the counter, and I’m still surprised I haven’t caught him hijacking them yet. I had to actually put “no bottles” in writing on the refrigerator so I wouldn’t cave in a weak moment when he got really crabby begging me for a bottle. But I’ve been shocked to find that John took the news like, well, a big boy, and hasn’t put up a fight. He has asked for them a few times, but when he remembers they are gone, he moves on pretty quickly without an argument. For these last months he really has only wanted that one bottle of milk in the morning. He used to have a bottle of milk before his nap, but when he ditched the nap this past fall, that bottle went away too. He had been keeping a bottle of water (no milk after teeth brushing) next to his bed at night time for awhile as well, but he seemed to have lost interest in that late in the fall. So, I guess that was it for the bottle! It was that easy. Guess, he really is a big boy.
Peace Out Pacifiers
Now, the pacifiers have been a little more difficult to eliminate. While we’ve been phasing them out gradually over time, he really does LOVE them. With all three kids, here’s how I’ve done it. Rather than pull them away cold turkey, we’ve started by making rules that we accomplish gradually over time. We began with step one back when he turned two last May.
- No pacifiers in public. Only at home or in the car.
- No pacifiers except for nap time and night time.
- No pacifiers except for night time (in bed reading books and sleeping)
We have pretty successfully made it through steps one and two and John only uses his pacifiers at night (usually). Now I will say that John is smart enough to do the same thing his sisters have, which is to hide a few in some secret spots. On occasion when the house is suddenly very quiet, I find him in a corner blissfully sucking away. Reminds me of the time we found Caroline sitting up in her room sleeping when she found one (pictured above). He has even snuck up on to the counter and grabbed one out of my hiding place. Some days I have to pry them away, but others, he yells “I’M NOT A BABY, I’M A BIG BOY!” and he throws them on the floor. Or he has even brought me a pacifier or two this week and said, “I found a paci.” He hands it to me to add to my secret stash. In disbelief, I comply. On other days though he is conflicted. He will ask for them and when I say “No,” he’ll shout “I not a big boy anymore. I’m a baby.” I can’t blame him. I honestly feel the same way some days.
Soon, when we feel like it’s time to say sayonara for once and for all, we will give John some warning that the Pacifier Fairy will be coming soon to take them away to Emily’s new baby. The fairy will leave him a present in return. Bedtime for the proceeding week or two will probably SUCK! He will have tantrums and wake up in the night. For now, I’m fine with him having them still at night, especially since he so willingly gave up his bottle. One thing at a time is about all I can manage here.
The Demise of the Diapers
Moving from diapers to big boy underwear is still very much a work in progress. Last fall John actually independently went and sat on the training potty and went, on two separate occasions. Think he was trying to tell us something? Selfishly I sort of ignored him a couple times when he would talk about using it again, mostly because I just wasn’t ready to start working on it. “No, not yet, buddy,” I’d say. At the time I was managing getting my new kindergartener adjusted to a very different routine here and I wasn’t ready to throw potty training into the mix.
Santa Claus brought us new Thomas the Train underwear along with a potty training book that talks! Now that the new year has arrived I feel a renewed desire to help this little guy transition out of diapers. I have to admit, I am awfully tired of changing them. I’ve been wiping kids asses around here for over seven years straight. It would feel awfully good to get this little guy on the path to independence.
The first step will be rewarding him for making an effort to sit on the potty. Last week he spent a full hour sitting on it because he REALLY wanted a piece of gum. Once he’s more willing to try on a regular basis then we will begin giving the rewards for actually going pee or poop on the potty. No doubt, it will be a process. One that I’m not super excited for, but it is inevitable at this point.
THE SILVER LINING
As I reflect on our campaign to get rid of the baby paraphernalia here, I still feel a little conflicted. I’m torn between my selfish desire to hang on to my baby and my responsibility to enthusiastically help him undergo the metamorphosis from baby to big boy, the way we should teach them to take on every challenge of life. But what I realize now is that the pacifiers, the bottles, the diapers are just THINGS. Just because I’m getting rid of this STUFF, doesn’t mean I have to let go of my baby. He will always be mine. The special MOMENTS are what I really need to hang on to instead. Holding him in my arms while he still fits, playing trucks while he still wants me to, and singing him to sleep at night while he still needs me to. Often John says to me, “Will you be my baby?” I think he’s actually imitating me asking him that question, because I frequently do. My response to him is always this, “John, even when you are a grown-up, you will always be my baby.”