It’s taken us too long, really, to be firm. To take a stand. To say enough’s enough. But to be honest, we were resistant to making the change because we were both a little afraid of what taking it away might mean for the balance in our lives. We pictured bedtimes of wailing, naptimes gone, perpetual whining in between for a week. He’s that kind of kid: stubborn when he wants to be. Also, he has unbelievable eyelashes and the biggest,
Unlike his big brother, Sprout totally loved his pacifier as a baby. It was a great self soothing mechanism, which, while he was small made all the difference in lulling him easily to sleep. But somehow he’s not small anymore. He’s lanky-legged and solid, and when we’re driving somewhere, just the two of us he’ll tell me silly stories about bears and foxes and coyotes that almost inevitably end with all of them putting spaghetti on their heads and tails, and then he devolves into laughter.
And still, the paci has stuck around. It became a habit long past when instincts linger, and lately? The more he’d use it, the more bratty he seemed to become. Whining at everything. Yelling. Throwing fits when he didn’t get his way.
Still we hesitated, and the truth is I don’t think either of us made the connection entirely between his behavior and our reticence to help him give up that final habit of babyhood. We had a lot of conversations around his fourth birthday. There was mention of a “Paci Fairy,” whom he seemed to marginally believe might really come to collect all his pacis and send them off to a baby who needed them. And there was the suggestion that his baby cousin might need it instead and we should ship them to him instead.
I admit the logic was warped in all cases. But I know you've done this. Made some halfhearted attempt to see just how gullible your kid is, in hopes of being able to make a point or change the course with the least amount of resistance? Wool over eyes. An impossible suggestion to make a point. Knowing the entire while that it won’t really work unless you get behind it too.
All this to say: We were afraid of his resistance and because of this we were halfhearted. Our lives have had all kinds of curveballs lately, and every time we ran the scenarios through in our heads, and we’d end up shrugging and giving up saying, “Well, he’ll grow out of it eventually” or, “He won’t go to high school with it.”
But then this past weekend he was a whiny monster all of Sunday, and at one point when I removed him from some utterly nonsensical embittered argument with Bean over legos or blocks or whatever it was that had devolved into yelling, and while I was carrying him downstairs he wacked a block towards one of the newly painted hallway walls. And somehow that was it. My resistance to change was shaken. I was really in.
I plunked him in a chair for a time-out. He wailed. I resisted, and when repentance crept into his voice, he started asking for his pacifier, out of the blue I said simply, “No, you’re too old for pacis. You’re done. Your behavior has been showing me that it’s making you think like a baby when you need to be thinking like a kid. All done.”
It wasn’t a threat. It was completely the truth. That is the phenomena that I’d been noticing. And when T heard me say it, he nodded and said, “You know, you’re totally right. That’s exactly what’s been going on.”
And just like that, we were both in, and he cried for a while and asked for it about seven hundred times and then he finally climbed down from the chair and ran off to do something else and that was that. That night I heard him muttering “Oh, right, no paci.” And it took him all week to figure out exactly what to do with himself at bedtime—but he did, and we did, and it was almost entirely a nonissue.
His resistance in our heads was so much worse than the actual event.
Which got me thinking about how this isn’t just true with parenting. Watching Sprout ajust to new habits made me realize how often the narratives we tell ourselves resisting change are more difficult to overcome than making the change itself. This is certainly true with my own life too. The starting of a creative habit—the waking up daily, the building of an unbroken goal streak*—it’s actually harder in my head in the moments before I commit to it, than when I do.
So I'm wondering: How many times have you resisted making a change because there’s some story you’re telling yourself in your head? How many times has your own inertia that kept you from swerving off the course you’re on, even if the swerve would inevitably lead to growth? How often do you resist, simply because the story of your resistance is stronger in your than your commitment to change?
What if I told you that all that resistance is far worse than the actual event of change? What would you let go of? Stop doing? Start?
*More on goal streaks & creative habits in my next newsletter coming out on April 1st! SIGN UP.