Fumbling

With my oldest three girls, we took away the pacifier pretty early. That’s what everyone told us to do.

Unfortunately, then they all became thumb-suckers, and I’m here to tell you, that’s a hard habit to break.

When Charlotte turned 2, I decided it was time to start weaning her from the “paa-thi,” and by “weaning,” I mean “I lost the last one and was too lazy to go to the store.”

Creating and executing a plan has never been a strong suit for me.

So it was bedtime and the thing was nowhere to be found. I started to rock Charlotte and she said, “Wansome miwk, pease.” I got her milk. Warmed just the way she likes it. I hadn’t figured out what I would do when she finished it, because the next step in the routine involves paa-thi. Sure enough, her eyes rolled back in her head while she sipped, and as soon as it was gone she opened them wide, grabbed her “blank-let,” and asked for the pacifier. I came up with a flawless plan I will refer to here as “panic.”

“Paci went bye-bye, honey.”

She stared straight ahead, then looked at me incredulously.

“Want paa-thi. Pease.” She wasn’t freaking out yet, so I gave her the same excuse. I said it like I was sad too, so we could share the disappointment. She considered what I had said, and like the mature toddler she is, she decided to cope with the realization by re-enacting a scene from the Exorcist.

Actually, it wasn’t as horrible as I expected. She cried, and when I laid her in her bed she kept repeating “Paaaaaaaathiiii. No bye-bye,” which is almost enough to make a grown woman drive to Walgreens in her pajamas. But we made it through the first night, and when naptime came around again the next day we went over the specifics again. Listen, I know I could have added a fairy or pretended we were giving it to the new babies that were born at the hospital. It was a spontaneous moment, so “went bye-bye” was as detailed as I got.

For three nights she whined when it was time to sleep, and together we kept repeating, “Paci went bye-bye. All gone.” On the fourth night, she didn’t ask.

And I decided the fairies would have been a waste of creative energy.

I mean, this was flawless. I had broken her of the habit I believed she might bring to college with her, and she wasn’t even 25 months old. For weeks we went on this way, and all was well. There was one incident that involved the vacuum and a paci that had found it’s way under the couch, but overall we got through it just fine.

Until, you know, the road trip.

Ten hours in a car with a screaming kid will make you abandon any moral decision you have made in a sedentary setting. I made it for 6. Does that count for anything? Finally I looked at Todd and said, “I’m just going to give her the one that’s in the glove compartment. We’ll just let her have it for long road trips.” I nodded assuringly. Yeah, it didn’t even make sense to me.

He stared at the road, because options are limited for a man trying to be a good husband and dad when his wife looks like she is going to exit the car via window at 70 miles an hour.

“Okay?” I asked, in a tone that meant, “I’m not interested in you making sounds with your mouth unless the word yes is involved.” He nodded, because he was afraid of me.

Stupid fairy. I should have listened.

“OHHHHHH, Charlotte!!!” I said it with hopeful, dramatic animation and all of my kids looked up to see what was happening. “I found it!!! Mommy found your paci!!!! She stopped crying and stared at me. So did the other three.

“I thought we took that away from her, mommy!” Ellie shouted. Thank you, first-born, for being so very on top of things.

“Well, we have a new plan.” {mumbling} “So she can have it until…while we….when it’s…uhhhh.” {panic sets in} “Until the new babies at the hospital need one.”

Dang it.

Yeah, that would have been a solid Plan A right there.

They were not amused, and Ellie eyed me while putting her headphones back on, squinting suspiciously while reaching for her bag of chips to watch what happened next.

“Here you go, honey! YAAAYYYYYYY! PACI!!!!!” I think she was confused, and quite frankly, the maniacal overly-excited and breathy voice I had adopted was probably not helping.

She didn’t reach for it. She just stared.

So I unbuckled, leaned back to her and set it on her lap. I knew we were going to enter a bigger war, but the truth was, I was desperate for the end of the battle. The car was quiet for the first time in what seemed like eternity. She reached for it and then did something I have processed for weeks.

She picked it up and studied it like it was a foreign object. “Paa-thi.” She said, finally. And then she took it and rolled it around in her fingers, pushing it flat and then stretching it out again.

“What’s she doing?” Todd asked.

“I think she’s just remembering it.” I answered.

Truthfully, I was perplexed at how she could have forgotten the wonder-paci this quickly because it had been her lifeline since day one.

“Put it in your mouth, Char.” I said, nudging it toward her lips. I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is yes. I am a stellar parent.

Her eyes never left mine, but eventually she did put it in her mouth, where she moved it around awkwardly and took it out to stare at again.

After about 5 minutes of this routine, I heard her say, “Mommy, here go.”

And she handed it back to me.

Smiling.

She didn’t need it anymore, and she knew it.

She had been away from it so long that she didn’t remember why she ever did. It might as well have been a paper clip or a piece of clay. It was rendered useless to her by virtue of the fact that she had experienced life without it, and it didn’t comfort her anymore.

The instant it happened I knew I would write about it, because it’s how I see life. What I didn’t know is how profoundly it would speak to me in the days to come, as I considered my own crutches in life. The way I remove them, stagger away, only to return to them again in weakness. I don’t need you anymore. That’s what I should say. But even as a Christian woman, there are plenty of things to lean on when I know they shouldn’t soothe me.

What I have prayed many times over since that day is simply this: “I only want to need You. Take the rest away and make it foreign to my lips.”

Let me fumble with what once satisfied me and wonder why I needed it in the first place.

It’s the victory of defeat, and it’s ours for the taking. It doesn’t have to follow an elaborate plan. We simply repeat the phrase as many times as we need to. “Goodbye.”

No long-winded explanation or amazing story. Just the prayer of a desperate heart, hungry for peace when life won’t stand still long enough to catch your breath. I don’t need you anymore.

You cannot bring me rest…

I will never forget the way a 2 year old ministered to me.

Hours more of highway left to go, but so much ground behind us.

Lord, shake us free from that which can never satisfy. We will be steadfast in our faith and quick to give you praise…


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  • http://hallelujahanyhow.blogspot.com/ Karen

    Wow…profound! The most awesome messages usually come from the simplest of things…

  • http://twitter.com/mommachele Chele

    I never get tired of reading your writings Angie! Your heart is so beautiful and you minister to me so clearly every time. Thank you for the blessing you are! <3

  • http://twitter.com/jillianahill Jill Hill

    All too familiar with crutches. Fumbling too. Oh yeah. ;) love how our kids teach us the most. :)

  • Anna Stevens

    From the heart of a 23 year old, thank you Angie.

    • Helen

      Eek. I’ve just inadvertently clicked a little ‘v’ shape underneath your lovely encouraging comment and I think it means ‘vote down’ or something. I’ve never seen those before and I don’t want to vote your comment down! So I voted it up again, maybe twice, I’m not sure, but anyhow I wanted you to know that I didn’t mean to do any ‘voting down’.
      Sorry.

  • Maxine

    Angie, I absolutely LOVE this. God uses the smallest things sometimes to make the biggest impact. Thank you for relaying the lesson you learned for the rest of us.

  • Scotty Sullivan

    I am always throughly entertained by your family stories and I love how you weave God’s story into all of them….ever thought about being a writer???? just a thought…blessings

  • Kristin Smith

    Once again thank you….this post is just what I needed today. Now I am off to figure out how to take my girl’s “pappy” away… :) She is 21 months….hasn’t used it at daycare for almost a year and yet I persist in letting/forcing her to use it here when she gets really upset. So I am will you on the stellar parent thing. sigh… :)

  • Julie

    Oh my goodness this had me in stitches. The good old Passey delimna! Handled gloriously if I do say so! The belly laugh as I read was worth some serious money. But the takeaway Give Me Jesus: He Alone Will Satsify was priceless. Thank you for using this all too familiar story (4 times over here!) to minister to my need to pacify with everything but the One thing.

    Much love to you- Julie in Sacramento

  • Traci Michele

    WOWZER Angie! You had me literally nodding my head and laughing out loud (as said Husband watching football looks over at me strangely) …. then you had me tearing up! What life lessons our children teach us! You write so vividly… I love it. I felt like I was along for the ride. I could totally see your older kids disapproving looks in that car, lol. Love, Traci Michele @ Ordinary Inspirations http://www.ordinaryinspirations.blogspot.com

  • http://www.theparsonagefamily.com/ Jessica Miller Kelley

    My older daughter was a HARD CORE paci girl. She kept it clipped to her, and you could see how when she started to get upset, she would grab for it, put it in, and instantly calm down. It was bedtime-only from 18 months on, and then I took it away on the night of her second birthday, just saying she was a big girl now, and it went surprisingly well! She essentially quit cold turkey.

    But then… (there’s always a “but then,” isn’t there?) when our second daughter was born and the pacis reappeared, she was like an addict who’d fallen off the wagon. She would snatch them whenever she had the opportunity, go hide in another room and suck it. If we saw a baby in a picture or in a store, she’d say lustfully, “he has a paci…”

    We tried the fairy thing. We tried the (obvious and true) “those are your sister’s pacis.” Nothing worked and we just had to put them away. So baby #2 just doesn’t use a paci! She nurses like a maniac, though, so we’ll see what happens when she weans in a couple months!

  • Jenifer

    Oh Angie, I love this article! <3

    Jenifer
    jenifermetzger.org

  • http://profiles.google.com/britineyj Britiney Slaughter

    Wow, Angie. Just wow.

  • http://profiles.google.com/katemariecraig Kate Craig

    this is how I feel about fear! Like I know “this is silly” and “I’m too mature for this” and “I really would be better off with out it” but I just can’t let go. I PRAY that God tells me my fear went bye bye I and know I don’t need it anymore.

  • marcy

    Wow! That is my prayer too! I am a mother and a nanny, so this totally spoke to me. Thank you for sharing this!

  • ginger

    I love how God uses the simple things in our lives to teach us something…. it happened to me last week ..i was washing the kitchen floor. The floor was clean but i still had the gross water to take care of. As i dumped the old water down the toilet, God simply said, that is what has to happen…You’ve cleaned up, done what I asked, now just get rid of it and flush it away. =0) love how God can confirm things simply by using the simple things of life! WE just need to be willing to listen. thanks for sharing your story with us and for challenging us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=712793391 Kristi Ottmar

    Dang it, you got me again. Through the eyes of a child we see the Grace and Mercy of God. Its amazing how we think we need something we really don’t. Im going to ask Jesus to take away something that for some reason I picked up…. I hope that He will show me just how to say Goodbye. Amen

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=712793391 Kristi Ottmar

      I just had to share that…. as I typed this response to your post I was so drawn to the Cross.. I knew it was time. When my husband was very ill a few yrs ago I used diet coke as my comfort. I knew if I had diet coke I could do anything, work long hrs, be a great mom, daughter, sister, friend, wife, etc. It got to the point that it was just a habit, no meaning just part of me. Thru this post I saw it. I picked diet coke up not knowing what I was doing. Just like that God set me free. I don’t have the desire, in fact it looks foreign to me in the fridge and even the sound of it turns my head. Two full days would have been one large fountain diet coke, and 3-4 thru the day. simply gone. today I enjoyed some iced tea, some cold water and then a seltzer. I savored the flavor of each and was thankful. My circumstances have not changed my husband is still very ill and so close to at times being gone forever… but I have Jesus. His Peace, His Mercy, His Grace will sustain me. I don’t need diet coke. There I did it. I shared what a good work He is doing in my life.

  • Jessie Hillinger

    He is such a good and gentle Shepherd, isn’t He. I’m in tears thinking of how much He loves us.

  • Jen Sparks

    I agree about the thumb sucking!! Drew quit last year sometime, but Beth is still shocking for it. Amy was the only one of mine who was attached to the paci (or dummy, as we call them here.) She would have three on her at all times… One in her mouth and one in each hand. It took two goes to get her to leave them behind… The second time I decided that enough was enough. Of course that meant three full days of bed time hell, but oh the bliss when we didn’t have the bedtime panics anymore!!

    Gorgeous realization in this story, Ange. Thank you for sharing xx

  • hart_larissa

    Oh luv this Angie!!! … And I agree about the thumb sucking!! I am *SOOOO* thankful to God that my daughter never became either a thumb sucker or took the pacifier … because I was still sucking my thumb at night in my early teens!!! Was sooo hard to stop – and yes, I know how crazy that sounds now … but I don’t know, it was a comfort thing. Hoping and praying my future children never catch on-to either habit too!!! … Thanks for sharing – your words touch & speak to me every time I read them!!

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  • Kat

    We went cold turkey on the paci when our daughter was 1 and really didn’t have to explain much to her. This article was so profound on so many other levels though. Thank you Angie, I always enjoy the thought you put behind your messages!

  • Liz

    Oh Angie. I love this!

  • e. jean

    ack! Crutches! How I try to grab the worthless things back & stick them under my arms… stumbling instead of running as I was created to do. Thank you, Angie (ouch!) for helping me see,

  • JennyBC

    Hours more of highway left to go, but so much ground behind us.
    Lord, shake us free from that which can never satisfy. We will be steadfast in our faith and quick to give you praise…

    GENIUS…profound lessons in the simplest form. I want to remember the sentences above, when I have made progress and then think about going back to my old ways.

  • Sarah

    Wow. So good to hear this message today. Thanks Charlotte! ;)

  • sfretwell

    First, I just love how you made this story relate to life! Second, it was so encouraging to hear as we are about to have the Great Paci Disappearance at our house with our 18 month old. Not looking forward to it, but you’ve inspired me!

  • http://thankfulandthoughtful.com/ Rebekah Wallace

    crying while reading during naptime. trying to stay afloat (alive?) today with lots of toddler tantrums and not knowing what she needs. FINALLY stopped to read “jesus calling” which is what I needed all along. thank you for this. for being real about motherhood.

  • CoreyH

    “Mommy, here go.” I think I’ll be holding that sentence for awhile. What a great story, the rest of which I will be dwelling on for quite some time. But from that sweet little girl, those few words really got me.
    I will say, however, that I have a really good picture of her mommy sucking her own thumb! OK, it was a Kate story, but still…!! Row 4 with a zoom lense has it’s advantages for the good pics!

  • Coby

    I love how the Lord uses simple things for teachable moments in our lives! I read this last night, and today have been searching my heart for things that I’m holding onto that I just don’t need anymore, things that I allow to comfort me when really I need to go to the Lord.

    I’m also laughing as I remember my middle son’s first night in his crib without his paci…the whimpers and whispers of “pease” that turned into an angry roar, which turned into him smacking himself on the forehead out of frustration. He’s 5 1/2 now, and still a very oral child…as in now we’re trying to break him of licking his fingers and shoving his whole hand in his mouth. I’m considering giving him back the stinking’ paci! ;)

  • jody

    I have never dealt with the paci situations, but if you have any ideas for the thumb sucking – please share!

    • Marcia

      Sucked mine until I was 16 years old. The only thing that stopped me was the difficulty of trying to drive and suck my thumb at the same time. I figured it was time. HA!! At age 25, I had four teeth extracted and wore braces for 26 months as a result. I am now 54 years old and I must say, I don’t miss my thumb at all. HA! Just a little humor to say, if all else fails, wait a few years (in my case, many years) and things will change automatically. HA!

  • http://www.facebook.com/DeJayne Debbie Gordon

    Oh Angie I just love this.. you make me laugh and cry with tears of joy and relief that someone else just gets it… I feel so less alone and I’m so thankful for your honesty x

  • Margaret

    This is just beautiful! Oh that we could do that with so many things in our life that we don’t “need” anymore. Oh that we would cherish the things that we do need. Thanks for sharing this, it was just what was needed!

  • http://www.LifeintheWhiteHouse.com/ Jess @ Life in the White House

    Oh man. I loved this! Our (soon to be 3 year old) daughter still has her “george”, but only when sleeping (nap and night). 2 of our triplets (9months old) have to have their “george” too. It makes me really, really nervous. I’m figuring they’re going the end of the year…not sure how though.

    What a great analogy for our relationship with the world and God!

  • Dawn

    You will not believe this. Literally 2 seconds…I’m talking 2 SECONDS before I looked at this post I was mourning the fact that I had wasted an hour, the hour set aside for doing my bible study homework, on an old habit that has been haunting me now for months. This ministered to me in a way that I needed exactly when I needed it. Thanks so much for posting!

  • melody olson

    This was beautiful. You had me smiling at the humor and remembering oh, too well what it felt like to wean a thumb sucker…and then you wrapped it up in a lesson for us ALL! blessings.

  • Sara

    This cracked me up, Angie!! A few months ago we went through the EXACT same thing with Brady – only after the confusion of why we would have purposely given him back a paci that he had not had for months finally left him, he put the paci in his mouth and was very satisfied (and very quiet!) for the remainder of the trip! It doesn’t make for quite the same beautiful spiritual comparison, but wanted to let you know that you aren’t the only paci taker/returner mom out there! Miss you, friend! :)

  • http://twitter.com/bigfatmessylife Cortney Schwalbe

    what a beautiful lesson from a 2-yr-old. thanks for sharing.
    i took kennedy’s away with a big production when she was 21 mos old. we attached it to balloons and sent it to her big brother, Matthew, in heaven. nevermind, that at first attempt, the balloons wouldn’t take it away. paci, too heavy. i’ll cut it. nope, still nothing. so i went back to the store to get more balloons and finally we had lift off. she waved it goodbye and dove into her big girl present of a dora something. the first night she screamed for her paci for 1 hr and 40 mins. i thought i might not survive another night. it was awful. but after a few days, it got better. months went by and one day she pointed to the sky and said “my paci, my paci.” i thought…oh no. why the ceremony? i should have just gone the simple route and lost it. but alas, we were ok. just a couple days ago at almost 2.5 years old, 8 months after the big send-off, she said, “mommy, is that an eagle?” i enthusiastically answered “yes, i think it is!. “does it fly in the sky with paci and matthew in heaven?” this time with tears, “yes, honey it does.”
    every day (in the moments i’m not pulling my hair out because my 2.5 year old has yet again hit or knocked down her 11-mo-old sister), i am thankful for the things God teaches me through the eyes of innocence. the simplicty of a child is something to value. their way of looking at things is a direct glimpse into what God wants us to learn.
    thanks for writing this. God speaks to so many through your gift of writing.

  • Carrie Hays

    Angie just wanted to pass on that I SO appreciated you this last weekend at Women of Faith in Denver. You were SUCH a blessing and just challenged me in so many ways. Really appreciate your vulnerability and humor. Praying God will continue to bless you and your family!

  • Sandy

    I am reading the responses from the moms with little ones and I think back to the time of both of my children in those stages. I did so many of the things I vowed I would never do (before I had children) with my own. As I look back I realize that most of the time my motivation was “pride”, “what would people think”, “what kind of mom lets her 3 y/o still such a paci at night or her 3 y/o have a bottle at 3″. I let my son suck every paci until there was a hole in it and then he threw them in the trash. After the last one when he asked where is his paci was, I was able to remind him that HE threw it away and my daughter’s bottle was left in the house we stayed on vacation. All of this to say…They are all grown now and God has set me free from worrying about what everyone else thinks, or might thing or say. Oh how I wish I could have focused more on the needs of each individual child, as they are all so different, and their needs are all met in such different ways. I am still practicing this message…Lord help me to not concern myself with what others are thinking..if they are doing this then there is judging going on and that is not my problem, but theirs and Yours. Thank you Lord for your grace that covered my mistakes and I promise you that when they grow older and you ask them about these different events, most of the time they do not even remember. What a blessing to live under His grace!!!

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  • Jamie Ross

    Hi Angie,
    I love this story! I laughed out loud. And I loved the way your 2 year old ministered to you. I was at Women of Faith this past weekend in St. Paul. And I just adore you! The group of girls I was with also loved you! You speak so well! And I think you are AMAZING!!!! Such an inspiration. Thanks Angie!!!