One of the clearest things about being a parent (other than the life-changing magic that happens), is that you’re – for some reason – open to incredible amounts of judgement from other parents. It’s like, even though we’re all doing our best and what we think is good for our kids, judgement is thrown around like confetti, even though we all know how hard it is to be a parent.
It’s actually amazing how you can instantly start doubting yourself once the judgement creeps in, when five minutes earlier (pre-judgement), you felt like a superstar parent. All of a sudden, you start to question the decisions you’re making for your child and wondering if you’re doing the right thing.
And I won’t lie and say it’s NEVER affected me, but to be honest, I’m pretty good about ignoring the judgement. How? Because in my heart of hearts, I’ve just decided I don’t care what others think of my parenting methods. As long as I’m raising my child to be kind and loving towards others, then I’m happy.
That said, in the parenting world, there are extreme, and I mean EXTREME opinions on certain subjects. If you’re a parent, you know this. If you’re not doing it a certain way, you’re judged. If you are doing it a certain way, you’re judged, too. And in the first few years of life, the opinions/judgement seem to come in heavy around two things: breastfeeding and soothing mechanisms.
Luckily, I’m out of the breast feeding judgement zone, but Zelda has still been using a certain soothing mechanism that I’ve heard A LOT about. We all know how it goes—every child has something they love that calms them. Whether it’s a blanket, a pacifier, a toy—something that makes them feel calm and happy. For Zelda, it’s her “kitty” as she calls it, but it’s actually a WubbaNub pacifier. These are incredibly overpriced pacifiers that have tiny stuffed animals attached to them and Zelda LOVES hers. I was willing to pay the ridiculous price every time she lost one because for some reason these pacifiers are what stopped her from crying and made her so incredibly happy. And she’s been attached to them for years now as her way to soothe.
After a certain point though, as a parent, you start to wonder, “When are they going to move on from this?” Especially if it’s past a certain point. I was having these thoughts about “kitty” and even asked the dentist if it was causing anything negative to happen with her teeth and mouth. After getting the green light from the dentist but with the suggestion that Zelda should probably be done pacifiers, I decided the ball would be put in Zelda’s court on this one—that she would move on from it when she was ready.
How did I come to that decision? Funny enough, my own mom had a lot to do with it. My mom actually told me that I loved my pacifier as a child as well, and that one day she decided I was old enough that I didn’t need it anymore, so she took it from me. She told me that I would cry and cry and ask for my “paci” constantly and that it broke her heart to watch me go through that. Ultimately, my mom said she wished she would have let me decide for myself when I was done with it. So with Zelda—I’d be doing just that, letting her decide when she was done on her own.
And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t starting to worry about my decision as Zelda reached three-and-a-half and looked like a five-year-old with the style of an 18-year-old, but I tried to go back to what my mom had said. But as worry kinda crept more and more in (and I tried to ignore it), something amazing happened. We went on vacation!
I think vacations and traveling are major times of growth for kids. Whether they become stronger swimmers, learn new words and expand their vocabulary or have new cultural experiences, travel is awesome for hitting new milestones. And we had a MAJOR one with Zelda on our recent trip to Punta Cana.
She had accidentally bit a hole in her “kitty” and just kind of looked at me and said, “Kitty’s are for babies.” And I said, “Oh, are they?” And she said, “Yes and I’m a big girl. I don’t need a kitty anymore.” I was floored. I even asked her if she was sure and she told me again that she was done and was a big girl. I then asked her if I could tear it (because of the hole she had bit in it, it was really falling apart), and she said yes, so I tore it in half right in front of her. Selfishly, I will say this kind of broke my heart because it really symbolized the closing of a chapter and that Zelda wasn’t a baby anymore. But she had decided! I had to respect that.
So that was the end of pacifiers. She hasn’t asked for her “kitty” since and has really let it go because she decided she was done. I think had I forced her to be ready for this moment, it would have been so much more of a struggle. I know you can’t always do things this way, but when you can, let your kids make decisions independently and grow on their own. It’s such an important lesson for us as parents.
At the end of the day, my suggestion to any parent going through the pacifier struggle right now, is let your kids love it away and be done with it on their terms. It’ll likely end up being a much happier situation for all involved. Also, ignore the judgement. Do you!
Photos by Hallie Duesenberg