I will freely admitted that I’ve always loathed the sight of talking toddlers trying to form words whilst sucking madly on their dummies. As a brand new mom, I had no idea that the way to get a newborn to take a dummy was to shove it in the minute the little mite pops out of your womb (or pretty soon afterwards). I can’t recall when I was first alerted to the fact that a dummy might be a good idea. I think it may have been at least a couple of weeks after The Princess was born. But by this stage she was NOT interested in having a piece of plastic shoved into her little mouth – even one dipped in sugary gripe water.
When we said that The Princess didn’t take a dummy at her six week check-up, our very direct, Eastern European paediatrician took one look at The Mother Figure and I, and stated emphatically:
“Every baby takes a dummy.”
She proceeded to hoist The Princess over her one knee, performed some kind of magic, rhythmical foot tapping, shoved a dummy in The Princess’ mouth, held it there and had her in a trance after a couple of minutes. She then looked up at us pointedly as if to say:
“You see? This is how it’s done.”
Obviously, no amount of knee-tapping, chanting or dummy shoving ensured a successful repeat of the process at home and I accepted the fact that The Princess was one of those rare and exceptional babies who “don’t take a dummy”.
Despite this, over the first four months of her life, eight different caregivers tried their hand at getting her to take a dummy: myself, The Husband, her two grannies, her two nannies and two different night nurses working different shifts. Then, we hired Margie, whom I’ve written about before here. What Margie lacked in tact and social awareness around adults, she more than made up for in terms of her expertise with babies. She officially got The Princess to take a dummy at four months old.
From then on, The Princess was a fairly big fan of the wretched piece of plastic, but for the most part, when she was awake, if there was no dummy in sight, she would manage quite well.
Everything changed when she started to talk. At about 15 months she had a repertoire of about 20 words. By about 17 months, this repertoire included the word “gummy” for “dummy”. From then on it was tickets. This kid was well and truly hooked. Any vague experience of distress, fatigue, irritation, frustration and a very vocal demand for her “gummy” could be heard. It’s alot more difficult to ignore a toddler’s demands when they’re being so specific about what they want and I often found myself giving in.
Things went from bad to worse when we were out one afternoon and she had a small playground accident. Naturally, she was desperate for the dummy then but I hadn’t brought one along, in an attempt to reduce her dependence on the thing. A group of mothers at the next table kindly produced a sterilised one and donated it to us, but not before basically saying that going out without a dummy is a very, very stupid move.
“Keep one in your car next time,” they had instructed me. I had been useless in the moment of crisis, going into full panic mode when I saw a bit of blood and screaming that I thought The Princess had lost some teeth when nothing of the sort had occurred. So, from then on, I decided I had better heed the advice of these obviously more experienced women.
Everywhere we went, the dummy came along.
But the longer and more beautiful The Princess’ golden locks grew and the more she spoke, the more I grew to loathe the sight of the dummy obscuring her beautiful face.
I was toying with the idea of getting rid of it about a month ago when The Princess was about 22 months old, but then we were going away and then she wasn’t sleeping well and then… well, there always seemed to be a reason why the timing wasn’t right. The Husband also still recalls that fateful day when his security blanket was wrenched from him and deposited in the trash and he was loathe to put his daughter through the same type of trauma… So we put off the dealing with the dummy issue some more…
But then suddenly The Princess’ neighbour and BFF (three weeks younger) gave up the dummy (not of her own volition, of course). Apparently a nurse told her mother that letting a 22 month old suck a dummy outside of of sleep times was “borderline abuse” and that was that – the dummy was gone the next day, except for sleeping. And The Princess’ BFF coped brilliantly.
I knew The Princess’ case was a little more severe, however, and that she wasn’t going to give up her dummy without a huge fight. I hatched elaborate plans, based on ideas from other moms, to mark her farewell to the dummy.
First, we went along to Frankie & Fred’s toy shop in the Blubrid Centre where I told her that she could choose a toy if she was willing to pay for it with her dummy. At first she was uncertain, but the sight of an enticing, wooden, Melissa & Doug’s cup-cake set managed to convince her somewhat. Still, the moment when she had to hand over her dummy to the very patient salesladies, was tough. She hesitated for quite some time, but she clearly understood that this was the only way she was going to get her lovely toy. Eventually, she relented, plucked the dummy from her mouth and “bought” her cup-cake set.
I thought we were on a roll and produced a second dummy, with which another toy could be purchased. After firmly sticking that dummy into her little mouth, she eagerly chose another toy. However, when the time came to choose between the new toy and the dummy, she literally abandoned the toy in the middle of the shop floor and sucked madly on her precious dummy. She didn’t even argue when I reminded her that we’d therefore have to leave the shop sans the second toy of her choice.
Mission only partly accomplished.
The next part of the operation was a pre-planned “farewell to the dummy” mass playdate. We invited four fellow toddlers around to watch her dummies sail away into the heavens, attached to helium balloons. Science has never been my forte, though, and The Husband (who’d especially come home early from work for the proceedings) quickly pointed out that the eight over-sized helium balloons I’d collected were not going to hold the weight of her remaining nine dummies (over and above the stash of dummies I had hidden in the cupboard for sleep times). And so, Plan B was hatched whereby two of the nine dummies were symbolically attached to the ballloons’ ribbons. The other seven dummies I sealed in plastic, and, with fear in my heart, deposited the package into the kitchen dustbin… The end of an era…
Despite the impressive spectacle of her dummies being carried away into the clouds, it didn’t take The Princess much more than 40 minutes after her friends had left to start crying for her dummy. She knew she hadn’t witnessed the ascension of her entire stash.
To make matters more confusing, we now had to start chanting our new motto from “the balloons carried your dummies away!” to “when you’re a big girl, dummies are only for… SLEEPING!”
By this stage it was about 6pm and sleep time was around the corner anyway. Not the best timing, I’ll admit. When The Princess climbed into bed at 7pm and was presented with her dummy for the night, she couldn’t have been more elated.
It’s now been a whole eight days since we bade farwell to the dummy during all waking hours. On Day 2, we had a full-on meltdown the likes of which I have only very rarely experienced with The Princess. In hindsight, it only lasted 35 minutes but it felt more like three hours. We’re not completely out of the woods yet, but after the first three or four tough days when tears were shed more regularly for the dummy, things started getting easier. Now, The Princess usually only asks for a dummy if she sees another child sucking one or if she’s tired. It’s so great not to have this giant piece of plastic obscuring her beautiful face anymore. Also, I no longer have to wrestle with myself when she cries for the dummy and wonder whether I should be strong and try to withhold it or whether I should simply give in. Now, giving in is not an option, unless we want to start again from Square One and I definitely don’t have the strength for that…