Everyday life, Faith, Family

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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