Rose wants an American Girl doll. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re high-end dolls that can be customized to your tastes and there are tons of expensive accessories to go with them. They’re really not that different from regular dolls, except that they have that je ne sais quoi (French for marketing) that makes every girl want them.
I had no intention of buying one. I really didn’t. But then came the pacifier challenge. Rose had to quit using her pacifier, and I happened to discuss the issue with one of the country’s leading childcare experts (one of the perks of writing magazine articles), and he suggested we use an incentive program. What did Rose want more than anything? That’s right. An American Girl doll. Normally, I wouldn’t buy my four-year-old a 105-dollar doll, but given a choice between her and orthodontia, the doll, although not covered by dental insurance, seemed much more economical.
So we began the process of quitting the pacifier. We did not make her cut down on use. We’d already gone down that road and we’d already backslid, so we really needed to cut out the pacifier altogether. The only real problem area was sleeping. Rose really needed the pacifier to fall asleep, but we dug in our heels and she went to bed without a paci. The first couple of nights were hell. She cried and whined, “I want a paaaaaciiii,” but we didn’t crack.
I kept going into her bedroom and saying, “Do you want the American Girl doll?”
She’d creak, “Yeeeess.”
“Well, if you go two weeks without a paci, then you can have the doll,” I’d say.
“Ohhh kaaaay,” she’d say, frowning.
Once she got over the initial shock of it, she was doing really well. The last time we’d tried to give up the paci, she’d steal her brother’s pacifiers, out of his mouth, waking him up in the middle of the night. This time, we put a child lock on the outside of his door so she couldn’t get in. We also told her that Christian would be giving up his pacifier too.
“Christian doesn’t get a paci either?” she asked, worried about her source, but pleased that her brother had to suffer.
“No, he won’t,” we said, and we fully intended to wean him off of his pacifier.
But we didn’t. Christian isn’t the good sleeper that Rose was. He’s fifteen months old and his sleeping pattern goes through cycles. He’ll sleep through the night for a week at a time, and then he’ll get a new tooth and he’s back to waking up at 2 or 3 a.m. We are desperately trying to train him to sleep through the night and to take away his pacifier during this process would be devastating to all concerned.
For a while, we told Rose that Christian would indeed give up his paci, and we meant it, but then he got three teeth at once and we needed that sucker so badly that weaning him was out of the question. Rose was on top of this and she began to steal pacis, just like last time we tried to quit.
She’s a really smart kid, but she’s not very good at deception. Every time she had a paci, she’d tell me, “I don’t want songs or a hug,” before bed. Or “I don’t need a book” before her nap. And up until just recently, she’d hide the purloined pacifier under her pillow, every time, making it pretty easy to find when I went in to take it away. Did I take it away every time? No. I did at night, but naps were so tenuous that sometimes I just let her fall asleep with a paci and pulled it out of her mouth when she was sleeping. Sometimes I didn’t even do that. But when I found her with a paci, I’d tell her, “Well, now your two weeks for your American Girl doll start over.”
“Nooooo,” she’d cry.
“I didn’t make that choice. You did,” I’d say, as she burst into tears.
Well, after a month, Rose is still stealing pacifiers every chance she gets, but we’ve gotten sneakier about hiding them. So I’d say she sleeps with a paci about 20 percent of the time now. We know that until Christian quits using his paci, Rose won’t quit either, but we just cannot afford to interrupt his sleep right now, or ever, unless he somehow develops a consistent sleep pattern. At first, Rose was angry that he still had his paci and she couldn’t have hers, but she quickly saw the advantage. So she won’t complain about the inequity anymore. What bothers me is that we lied to her. We didn’t mean to. We really thought we’d wean Christian off of his paci too, but given a choice between sleep and no sleep, we just couldn’t.
When Rose was younger, I always kept my word to her. It was a point of pride to me. I said I won’t lie to my little girl. Now it’s “I wanna hear the SpongeBob songs!” and “I’m sorry, Sweetie, that CD’s not in the player right now and I’m driving.” It is in the player. I just don’t want to hear it. But that’s a lie she believes. When we failed to wean Christian off the paci when we swore we would, we went back on our word, and she knows that. I want her to trust us, and how can she if she knows we lie?
Maybe it’s not such a big deal to her. Maybe this is that earth-shattering moment when she realizes that we’re not perfect, although we’ve given her countless opportunities to learn that already. It had to happen sooner or later, right? I just hope that since our lie works to her advantage, she won’t focus on the fact that we lied. Instead, she’ll focus on the fact that she can still have a pacifier once in a while. That’s not such a bad compromise, is it?