I am in mourning, folks. It's a bit premature, but I think I need to start dealing with my grief in advance.
In a few weeks, I will lose one of my dearest friends.
He's been there for me through thick and thin, through good times and bad times. He gave me peace in the midst of life's storms and happiness in turmoil.
He was great with my kid. He soothed her. He calmed her. He was always there when she needed him. He helped her deal with her shyness, her anger, her sadness.
You guessed it. It's Michaela's pacifier, fondly known as her binky or her paci.
You see, Michaela has loved her paci since she was just hours old. A lactation specialist used one to teach her how to suckle after we realized she'd been sucking on her tongue while in the womb. The paci -- and a syringe -- taught her to separate her tongue from the roof of her mouth so she could drink her milk.
About a week after she was born, we were both re-admitted to the hospital -- me with eclampsia and and her with jaundice. For about two days, I was on one floor of the hospital and my baby was on another at Central Baptist and I couldn't get up to go see her. I found comfort in knowing that she had her Aunt GiGi and her paci to comfort her in my absence.
I remember the frantic hours after we got back home and couldn't find that big green pacifier they gave us at the hospital. Michaela screamed and puckered her little lip and nearly broke my heart. I went to the hospital the next morning to get a replacement, then we worked on weaning her from the hospital paci to one that we could buy at Walmart.
And nearly three years later, the love affair continues.
She has about three pacifiers at a time. One in her mouth, one in my pocket in case she loses the one in her mouth when we're out in public and one other that we keep in the car for traveling emergencies.
And I'm certain she has a stash of her own somewhere in the bottom of her toy box.
Of late, I've been challenged about giving her a paci, mostly by strangers. One woman -- a complete stranger, mind you --walked up to us at Kroger, pulled the paci out of Michaela's mouth and told her she was way too big to have a paci.
I was stunned and speechless for about 30 seconds, while Michaela gave her the evil eye.
"She's only 2," I told the lady and took Michaela's pacifier out of the woman's hands. "She's tall for her age. And her doctors says it's okay for her to have it."
The woman walked away, shaking her head. I wanted to clobber her.
Another women standing nearby advised me: "Next time, tell her to mind her business!"
I felt somewhat vindicated until she added: "My son sucked his thumb until he was 10."
But now my mom is on me about the paci. She's a speech therapist, so she worries that the paci will create a speech impediment or keep her from talking. Or cost me thousands of dollars in orthodontists bills.
Of course, I get pretty defensive about it.
"She needs it," I say.
To which my mom replies: "No, I think mommy needs it."
To which I reply (in my mind, of course): "Do you have to always be right?"
And she is absolutely right.
I learned early on that the pacifier is a great mouth plug. I can pop it in her mouth and get almost instantaneous quiet. It comes in handy at church when the preacher is in the middle of his sermon, or at the check-out counter at the toy store when she realizes that most of the stuff in the cart isn't going home with her.
I also learned that it makes a long car ride more bearable, and it helps her fall asleep when I can't rock her.
But the time has come. Michaela will start preschool in the fall. And while they told me that the paci wouldn't be a problem, I don't want her to be the only kid with plastic in her mouth.
I have to teach her how to self-soothe without sucking. I have to find some other way to calm her.
Some of my mommy and grandmommy friends have given me lots of suggestions for weaning her or making her give it up cold turkey.
Among the suggestions:
--Box them up and ship them to Santa, or the paci fairy, or Elmo on Sesame Street.
--Box them up and give them to her baby cousins
--Cut the nipples. Apparently, this renders them useless.
--Hide them, one by one, and declare that Santa's elves or some other fantasy creature has taken them to the princess castle.
--Tell her she can only have the paci at certain times of the day, like night time.