Opinion

How we got rid of the pacifier in our house

Ian Mendes admits to a unique tactic to get his almost four-year-old daughter to stop using her pacifier.

1iStock_000010498752Medium

Photo: iStockphoto

Follow along as Ottawa-based sports reporter Ian Mendes writes about the joys of raising daughters Elissa and Lily with wife Sonia.

I’ll never forget an interaction we had with a nurse just a few days after Elissa was born.

Elissa was screaming during one of her rounds of testing at the children’s hospital and one of the nurses asked us, “Does she take a soos?”

I remember looking blankly at her — having no idea what a soos was.

Turns out, that suce (pronounced “soos”) is the French translation for pacifier.

The problem with pacifiers is two-fold.

First off, nobody can agree on a singular name for the damn thing.

It’s a pacifier. It’s a soother. It’s a suce. It’s a binky. It’s a nook-nook. It’s a nip-nip. It’s a plugger-doodle.

And when you hear somebody else’s family refer to it by a strange name, you can’t help but laugh.

“I can’t believe they call it a noo-noo. What a bunch of losers. Anyway, I can’t find our nummy in the diaper bag.”

But the bigger problem with soothers is that they are one of the toughest habits to break. Like cockroaches and Dora — once they are in your house, it is darn-near impossible to get them out. We had this problem with our youngest daughter Lily, who was hooked on the soother until well after her third birthday.

Read more: The great pacifier debate >

You cannot go out in public with an older child who still uses a soother. You become like the person who walks around the neighbourhood with a cat on a leash. Sooner or later, the neighbours are going to start talking about you.

It’s like your kid is wearing a big flashing sign that says, “My parents don’t really run the show. That’s why I’ve still got this in my mouth.”

We tried so many different methods to break her of the habit. The cold turkey approach never worked because when she was screaming in her bed in the middle of the night, we always gave in. (Spoiler alert: You will always lose a battle of wills with a toddler at two a.m.).

We also tried using the classic approach of telling her that big girls don’t use soothers. We would say things like, “Your big sister doesn’t use a soother. Your friends down the street don’t use a soother. And hey, look at the TV — that’s Oprah Winfrey. Take one guess as to why she’s able to speak so clearly.”

But alas, our attempts to shame her into getting rid of the soother didn’t work. I guess three year olds don’t quite grasp the concepts of role models.

Read more: Losing the pacifier >

We finally reached our breaking point before a family vacation to Florida. I didn’t want to be subjected to the judgmental stares of fellow passengers who were incredulous that our three-and-a-half-year-old was still using a soother. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned with all of my airline travel is that there will be judgmental stares.

So I decided to sit Lily down on the couch and explain the situation to her. It was time to be truthful and honest about why she couldn’t use a soother any more.

“Lily, did you know that they don’t allow soothers in Florida? It’s actually against the law.”

She stared at me blankly. So I proceeded with my impassioned lie.

“Look, if they see you down there with a soother, they are going to get angry. And a policeman might take Daddy away. Is that what you want? To see Daddy taken away because of your soother?”

She adamantly shook her head no. There was a little bit of fear in her eyes, which is what I wanted. I felt a little bad about lying to her, but some of the laws in Florida are so ridiculous that this soother thing didn’t sound that inconceivable.

So just like that, we got on the airplane and flew to Florida and said goodbye to the soother forever. While we were walking around Orlando, she was oblivious to the fact that hundreds of other kids had soothers in their mouths. She never connected the dots to ask, “Hey, how come those kids get to have soothers down here in Florida?”

(If she had called me on that bluff, I would have concocted an additional lie about a Temporary Soother Waiver form that we would have to apply for. And clearly these kids all had their TSW forms in order, so that’s why the police weren’t harassing them.)

Having to outsmart a three-and-a-half-year-old takes a lot of work and creativity — and it usually involves a little lying as well.