Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Path of Least Resistance

As I am looking out in the backyard at my 5 1/2 year old daughter singing and jump roping to Hannah Montana, I am amazed at how fast time has flown by and how much of a little girl and big girl she can seem to me at the same time. I am also thinking to myself, HAVE WE FINALLY SAID GOODBYE TO OUR PACIES (or you might call them nuks, nukkies, binkys, pacifiers, etc)???

Yes - I have a daughter who is in Kindergarten and until just 3 nights ago used a pacifier each and every time she went to sleep. And not just one pacifier, mind you. She had one in her mouth and one in each hand - it was a routine and ritual and there was never a night without one - even when she had sleepovers!! Yes - whether she was having a new friend from Kindergarten or a long time friend from preschool sleepover - or she sleepover at their house - she always used her pacies (as we lovingly refer to them). It amazed me that she was never embarrassed about her pacies to motivate her to kick this habit earlier. And trust me, her new friends from Kindergarten ALWAYS asked her about them. It was not a habit she could hide very well - she always had at least 12 of them in her bed at any one time. And her answers were always the same and very matter of fact when someone asked why she had them - “because I can’t fall asleep without them.” And you know what? That was it - no lingering conversation or anything, over and done with. Now, one time one of her friends said pacies were for babies, my daughter said she knew but she needed them to go to sleep anyways. And again - that was it - over and done with. Matter-of-fact. No excuses, no justifications, no reasoning, no convincing them that she was right and pacies were okay - just answering a question just as simply as it was asked and nothing more and nothing less.

Always in the back of my head I was wondering, when was she going to give them up??? Most of my friends would tell me she is never going to give them up, I as her Mom have to take them away from her. Well - I am a fan of the path of least resistance. It was not a fight to potty train her - she showed minimal signs of interest until she hit 3 and then she would go every now and then. She turned 3 in July and started preschool in August. She was toilet trained by Labor Day - thanks to peer pressure and her wonderful and amazing preschool teacher Robin (and one of my closest friends) who truly toilet trained her.

Then we move on to her bottles. On her own she gave up all of her bottles right on schedule - except that morning one lingered and lingered. Most of my friends kept pushing me to take it away - I tried once or twice and it was never very pretty and I never really bought into making her miserable to take away something that I didn’t really see a reason to take away right at that time. So, I always slipped and gave it back to her. By the time she was 3 1/2, all it took was one day at preschool where her friends expressed shock that she still took a bottle in the morning (now, I must tell you she drank it herself, I long ago stopped giving it to her - does that make it better???) because “only babies” use bottles. It was the next morning and I gave her the bottle and she took it and she said,”Mommy, its dripping, I think my mouth is too big for a bottle, I need a sippy cup instead”. And that was it - no fights, no arguments, no tears. She was ready on her own.

Same simple strategy for giving up night-time diapers. While she was toilet trained just a few months after turning 3, she didn’t give up night-time diapers until 4 1/2. Again, lots of friends told me I need to get rid of the night time diaper. So, I started limiting water after a certain hour (never found that made a difference with her - sometimes I’d limit it and her diaper was wet and sometimes I wouldn’t limit it, she was dry) and then I said I would put her in pull ups at night - less absorbent and supposedly she would “feel” it and not like how the wetness made her feel - all the pull-ups did was cause her to have diaper rash because they weren’t as absorbent as diapers. Finally, I decided she wasn’t going to go to Kindergarten in them (or was she as the months in her pre-k year seemed to fly by. . .) and she would do it when she was ready (just like everything else so far). So at some point in February of her preK year she said she wanted to sleep in panties. I told her I didn’t want to get up in the middle-of-the night to keep changing her sheets if she had an accident so she had to show me she was ready and have 30 dry nights in a row (so far she never managed more then 3 or 4) - guess what? After the 30 nights we put on panties and have never had 1 accident. We had more accidents when I was trying to bribe her to sleep w/ panties before she came up with the idea on her own.

So, let’s move into the here and now. As the time in her little life began to pass by I was realizing she was almost finished with Kindergarten and still using pacies. OMIGOSH - I’m a bad mom!! Most of my friends asked every now and then, but no one pushed the issue with me as clearly I was choosing to do nothing about this. One of my closest friends was the most vocal about it and kept telling me I was the parent and I needed to do something about this and it was my responsibility to get rid of it. I agreed with it - to a certain extent. But while parenting is the hardest job in the world and we don’t have all the answers, we need to use what we know to our advantage and one thing I did know about my daughter is that if she wasn’t ready, IT WASN’T HAPPENING!! And in all honesty, no, I wasn’t up for the fight of taking away a pacifier from a 5 1/2 year old - after all, I like my sleep too! :-) And this wasn’t a 2 year old I was taking it away from (probably a better age to take it away then 5 1/2) - but a Kindergartner who can talk, walk, feel and who clearly had a habit of using a pacie to go to sleep. My close girlfriend would keep telling me that I was being wimpy and I needed to step up to the plate and take it away from her already. And while yes, I suppose I can acknowledge I was wimpy, what about all those kids that need thumbs to fall asleep? While I know you can’t “take a thumb away” - the reality is that they need it just as much as mine needed her pacie and if you are silly enough like I was to wait until 5 1/2 to deal with it, I think you have to handle it differently then you do if you are trying to cut the habit from a 2 year old.

So, I say nothing.

Then last Wednesday (4/2/08) she comes home from school and tells me that the roof of her mouth is hurting and she thinks she is too big for pacies and she needs to stop using them. WOW!! So, I grab onto that and while I don’t make a huge deal about it (I don’t want her to feel bad if it doesn’t work), I certainly encourage her. She normally goes to bed around 8 (give or take) and wakes up around 7 (give or take) - well she finally drifted off to sleep (without a pacie!) around 10 and woke up around 5:15 to go to the bathroom, but couldn’t quite get back to sleep. BUT SHE DID IT!! Yeah!!

On Thursday night, she was able to get to sleep a bit earlier, by 9:30 and woke up a bit later, at 6:15. Well, I figure by Friday night she is wiped (late nights, early mornings, school, gymnastics and birthday party) and she will pass out early. Around 8:30 she tells me it is sooooooooooooooooo hard for her to go to sleep without her pacies and she is sooooooooooo tired, she thinks she wants her pacies back. I told her whatever she wants is fine with me, but I told her to try and count in her head and then she might fall asleep. She finally fell asleep around 9:45 - but she managed to sleep a bit later, until 6:30!!

Are we getting lots of good sleep? NO!! But are we getting to sleep and sleeping through the night without pacies? YES!!! Am I confident we have kicked the habit yet? Not really. What do they say, it takes 90 days to make or break a habit?

But I am so proud of her and I have told her that if she is able to do it one whole week without pacies she gets to get that Hannah Montana guitar purse she has been dying for. That is a bribe I can live with!

And what I have learned from this - my path of least resistance while making my friends crazy, seems to continue to work for my family. . .

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