Yesterday, I took a big parenting leap of faith. I was petrified, but I knew it was time. Our summer gallivanting had come to an end. And we had about a week and a half left of summer. That's a big enough buffer for big bold parenting moves and enough days to absorb the after-shock that, in theory, all could return to even keel before school began. So, yesterday, we decided to go soother-free.
I had heard so many strategies from different parents about how to get rid of the soother. I considered telling my daughter about a soother fairy who would give her a present if she left her soother under her pillow. I considered walking her down to the dental office and asking if a dentist was available to just tell my daughter very authoritatively that she could not use her soothers anymore or her teeth would go crazy and grow out her ears. I thought about taking her to toysrus and having her pick any toy and forcing her to pay with her soothers.
In the end, a few weeks before our trip to England, we began to tell Amelia that one day she would put the soother in her mouth and it would taste bad. Really bad. This meant she was a big girl and she'd outgrown her soother. Then, on the day we returned from England, we reminded her of this phenomenon. And yesterday, when she woke up, I took all the soothers and soaked them in a bowl of white vinegar all morning. At lunch time, she was upset about something, and so I offered her a soother. She put it in her mouth and made a face and took it out, examined it and exclaimed, "Tastes bad!"
A little later in the day, at nap time, she tried several soothers and they all tasted bad. She asked me to wash them. I rinsed them very quickly under the faucet and she put them in her mouth and declared again, "Tastes bad!" She cried and screamed at nap time and wanted out of bed and finally we gave up and let her forego her nap.
In e-mailing with my friend Ann, she gave me another idea. Maybe it was upsetting to have soothers right there in reach but have the disappointment of them tasting awful. So I said to Amelia, let's put the soothers outside for the birds to give to their babies. (Yes, our house was a den of never-ending lies that day). Cole looked at us dubiously, "That's bad, Mom. Birds don't eat soothers." But Amelia seemed excited. She put on her shoes, and held the little bowl of soothers and we went into the back yard and she hung them on the lower branches of the cedar bush by the vegetable garden.
Then I took her back inside the house and I sneaked back out in a few minutes to throw them into the garbage. As I put them in the big stinky black garbage bag in the garage, I felt a sense of dread. What had I done? We were all-in now!
Bed time ticked closer and closer. We went outside for a walk and Amelia wanted to show Cole where her soothers were hanging. We pushed open the gate and they were gone! Cole again shook his head with worry and said, "Birds don't eat soothers, Mommy." Amelia got sad and went to sit on her Daddy's lap. She said she was sad that the birds had taken her soothers. I braced myself for hours and hours of tantruming at bed time. I braced myself for repeated wake-ups and lots more tears. I wondered if I should close Cole's bedroom door so he wasn't disturbed by the drama.
At bed time, instead of reading books separately to the kids, I took them both into our big bed and said that Amelia was now a really big girl and we'd read books all together. When stories were over, she looked rather subdued and forlorn with her sootherless mouth pulled down slightly at the corners.
I put Cole to sleep and then Amelia. I reminded her she was a really big girl and I was proud of her. Then I left the room.
And a few minutes later, she was asleep. Not a peep. Not a wimper.
This morning, I can honestly say that there is life on the other side of sootherville and, as my sister so wisely told me last night (and several times before), the trip is often not as hard as one might imagine.