Drew and the Pacifier Blues


 Between eighteen and twenty months of age, my firstborn son, Drew, lost his pacifier before nap time at Mother’s Day Out. I was concerned about this until the day care provider told me, “He fussed for about ten minutes, and then he went to sleep.” I became excited at the thought of not enduring another middle-of-the-night search for the elusive pacifier. (I have since learned, with number-two son, to dump every pacifier we own into the crib while he sleeps.)

That night, Drew fussed about ten minutes without his passy, and then went to sleep. I had forgotten just how wonderful a night of uninterrupted sleep could be. I thought to myself, “This is going to be a cinch.” Certain friends had told me it took two weeks to break the pacifier habit. Other friends, like myself, were still trying to find the magic key to unlock the hidden mysteries to de-pacifierization.

The morning after my first full night’s rest, I was busy whistling a happy little tune when I walked into the kitchen to prepare breakfast. There to my utter disbelief was my toddler son digging in a drawer that he was not even tall enough to see into.

“Paapaa!” he called. “Paapaa!”

In my excitement the night before, I had failed to rid the household of any lingering pacifiers.

I held my breath, whispering a prayer. “Please, oh please, oh please.” But I could tell Drew had nabbed one when his face lit up as if it were Christmas morning.

“Paapaa, oh, paapaa!” It was the sweetest, most heart-wrenching cry I had ever heard come out of his pre-terrible-twos mouth. Drew had rediscovered a long-lost friend, the only friend he had or cared to have at the moment.

That morning, upon arriving at the Mother’s Day Out program, I casually instructed the personnel to lose the pacifier again, which they kindly did. After that, Drew would occasionally ask for his paapaa, but the major battle had been won, or so I thought.

In February 1995, my second son, Dallas, was born. After he was about three weeks old, Drew realized Dallas was now a permanent fixture, and no amount of slapping the baby on the top of his head was going to send him back to where he came from. For Drew, the upside of Dallas’s arrival was that Dallas took a pacifier. Drew began to like Dallas a little more. After all, any pacifier friend of Dallas’s must be a friend of Drew’s. There we went again!

I was instructed, throughout all the self-help baby books I could get my hands on, about sibling rivalry, to let the older child participate as much as possible in caring for the new baby. Before I knew it, my twenty-five-month-old thirty-four-pounder wanted his diaper changed on the changing table. Drew also wanted to nurse, or “eat like Daddas.” You can guess that now the pacifier was on the endangered species list in our home. The first month or so, I felt this phase would pass, but as time marched on… I wasn’t so sure.

Dallas took the pacifier only while he slept, but before I knew it, Drew had the pacifier in his mouth during Dallas’s awake hours. I began to tell Drew only babies took pacifiers. He told me, “I a baby.” I told him he was my baby, but only itty-bitty babies needed a pacifier. Drew then told me, “I itty-bitty baby.” I finally told Drew that babies needed lots of sleep, and if he wanted to take the pacifier he needed to take a lot of naps. That worked! He gave it up in a heartbeat. Drew loves to sleep, but he didn’t want to sleep nearly as much as Dallas.

This little solution seemed to be working fine until one day when I couldn’t find a single pacifier — or Drew. As I was running throughout the house with a screaming baby on my hip, I came across my now two-and-a-half-year-old son crouched behind the living room rocking chair with his small hands cupped over his mouth.

“Drew,” I said. “What’s that in your mouth?”

“Uhhh, don’t know.”

“Drew, if that’s Dallas’s passy, he needs it!” I yelled over my screaming five-month-old. After what seemed a five-minute standoff, Drew reluctantly handed me the pacifier.

As I looked into Drew’s little face, I realized my son had a problem… a pacifier problem. I likened him to an ex-smoker having nicotine fits. He had gone cold turkey from his addiction, and now — his first relapse.

I put down Dallas and his passy and picked up Drew.

“Together, we can fight this,” I told him. “I’ll get you professional help. There must be a twelve-step program we can get you into.” Poor Drew, I had no idea he had come so far as to hide to steal a drag from the pacifier.

Well, a few months passed, and I truly believed the pacifier attraction was just a phase, so I didn’t seek counseling. Drew’s cravings came and went, and we would still find him hiding behind a piece of furniture, enjoying an occasional drag.

I finally came to terms with this, though. If the only addiction Drew had in his life was a pacifier, then let him surround himself with them! I mean, there are no proven facts that they stunt your growth, cause any fatal diseases, or give you bad breath. Even so, there will be no pacifiers when he graduates from high school, goes to college, and eventually walks down the aisle. But why am I carrying on so? He is, after all, only two-and-a-half years old!

~Leslie Boulden Marable, From Chicken Soup for the Soul: New Moms