Goodnight and Good Luck

The end of an era.

Kaia is on day five of her seemingly uneventful binky weaning saga. Five days of no binkys! It has been a bit like a movie whose storyline gets you all worked up and then it just peters out in the end. No real action, no surprises, no graphic language or nudity. It just…ends. But always there is a lesson.

Granted, in place of binkys stuffed in her mouth (and eyes), more crying has ensued. But all in all she has done fabulous, only asking for a “B-I-N-K” (yes, Jason and I have to spell it so as not to let it befall on waiting ears) two or three times and accepting our long-winded response. We’d had been ramping her up for days about going sans binky, having gentle conversations about how all her binky’s were broken (she’s bitten holes in all of them, a rather clear sign she was becoming ready to let go).

I made up a story about how we would string up the broken binkies and hang them from the Christmas tree. And then at night, the binky fairy would to take her binkies to the fairy babies. In return the fairy would and then leave a gift for her under the tree. She listened carefully as I shared this story with her for a few nights and she became eager to place the first binky on the tree.

Her plump fingers wrapped the string around a chosen branch and she studied the placement with interest; binky lit from behind a tiny light. Content, she went to sleep that night without a peep. Upon waking the next morning, I pulled her to my chest in an ardent hug and took her to see the Christmas tree. “Let’s go see if the Binky Fairy came last night!” She looked curiously at the precise spot we’d strung it and her eyes opened wide, along with her smile. And then, she noticed the little green gift box at the foot of the tree and opened its lid prudently to reveal STICKERS!

A few nights ago, exasperated from the day, we closed the door and listened to her wail. For the first 15 minutes, I was too frayed and frazzled to take action, rubbing my temples as I tried to drown out her crying. But her sobbing became desperate as she choked on her breath and her loneliness. And then my mama heartstrings became mush. I snuggled up besides her in the “big guwl bed” and held her tight, smoothing the tears and damp hair from her face. She quickly calmed down, nestling her cold nose into my chin and clutching her “sikky cup”. She randomly gulped air and skipped breaths, in recovery mode from one of those really good cries. I know how she feels; I’ve been there many times.

And then it occurred to me that I’d utterly failed her. I felt like shit.

I’d left her in an unknown place of emotion to fend for herself. Thrown her to the wolves. The mama bear had left her cub in the den, with coyotes looming near. Yes, I’d prepared her with stories. Yes, I’d attempted to provide her with other forms of comfort such as dolls, books, and blankies. But I’d not opened my heart up to the knowledge that she would need to literally and physically learn a new way to sooth herself to sleep. I could not expect her to accept a replacement, or none at all, so easily. Those binkies had been her Trusted Cohorts in Sleep for 2.5 years. They had a spit-in-the-palms sort of pact: you take care of me, I’ll take care of you. She rubbed them, and touched them, pinched them, squeaked them, and caressed them with her mouth. Yeah, kinda sensual but who doesn’t like such soothing? And now her Friends were gone.

As she curled beside me, her hand cupped over her eye as she used to do with her “eye binky”, tears traveled from my heart to my throat and finally released from my tear ducts. They pooled near my nostrils as I mourned the loss of these binkys on her behalf. I felt ridiculous even thinking and feeling such a thing, but it was true. Kaia had experienced a rite of passage and I had done a less than stellar job honoring it; I hadn’t fully bore witness to her initiation and nor provided appropriate tools to aid her in her journey. Her armor was removed. A Binkyless Warrior she’d become. This was BIG for her.

Who was I? Where had my mantra of gentle parenting gone? Would I wean a child from the breast like I did with Kaia from a binky? Never. I would be lying beside that child, offering love in the form of extra special back rubs and deep hugs and lullabies and chants and the delicate breath of stories and love into her ear. And so in this moment of binky-epiphany, I told her how she was safe and that I would lay with her whenever she needed it. She drifted off shortly after, her eyelids soft and weightless against my brow, her breathing steady. From that night on, I have resolved to give her my physical presence for as long as she needs it.

Last night, I once again nestled beside her and chanted Om Namah Shivaya, one of her favorites. Over and over I kissed her eyelids, and then her lips as perfectly plump and toasty as a campfire marshmallow, and noticed the heat of her toes against my hairy knees. After numerous rounds of the chant, I pretended to fall into a deep, snoring sleep. I listened as she then sang the chant to me – her voice cracking from key changes and tiny-girl pitch – as she tenderly stroked my hair and face. And soon, the magic of sleep drew her into its spell. I’d been given the gift of her trust and a recipient of the effects of her Nest of Safety. What a lovely place to be.

Naps and night times may be this way for awhile as she learns to allow healing sleep to settle in her restless muscles and growing bones. And I’m learning, too, that I’d be pretty damn cranky if something as important and soothing to me – like chocolate or chamomile tea – were pulled out from my daily routine without sufficient replacement.

I will selfishly admit that binkyless days and nights are full of such grand freedom.

So, for posterity, enjoy this hilarious photo that I had meant to post with her last update in which I wrote about “the infamous “eye binky”, and this month you demonstrated a New and Improved!, More Complicated! and Daring! version of it…”

She came up on this entirely on her own. I discovered the trick one night as I peered in on her during a nap, both binkies stuck to her cheeks and she snoozed. After that night, she happily and silently performed this trick for each of my family members over the holidays, methodically perfecting a combination of suction and tension. Copperfield has nothing on her. I call it the iBinky:

That kid. She is sometimes – ahem – strange.

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11 thoughts on “Goodnight and Good Luck

  1. My second was a binky boy…we tried to wean him, but he resisted. Stubborn, that kid. Like his mama…

    Someone suggested cutting off the tip, so he would no longer suck on it. Worked like a charm. Except that he still insisted on sleeping with them. So now we resigned ourselves to finding them for him 4 or 5 times a night. He’d cry, “BINK” in his sleep and we’d stumble in, locate it, he’d clutch it to himself, and we’d stumble back to bed. Until he’d lose it again. Repeat ad nauseum…

    One night it got “lost.” Permanently. I think he knew it was coming…it wasn’t nearly as painful as I’d imagined it would be. But it was still hard for him for a week or so…

    Good for you for being the mama that she needs right now…and the image of her chanting to you and stroking your face? Absolutely priceless…moments like those are the parenting moments I’ll cherish forever.

  2. You are so damned lovely, I can hardly stand it. I adore you. And yes, your kid is as weird or only slightly less weird than my very own Anna Sofia who, these days, will only wear one of two Minnie Mouse dresses we own. I’m seriously considering buying a 3rd. Maybe even a 4th or 5th! lol Seriously, she wears them every. single. day. It’s kind of hilarious. Kind of.

  3. Oh, the tears are in my throat too now for you and the little one. And happy tears for the little fairy babies with their new binkies:)

    I am so right there with you, both surprised at the ease with which my little Bird is taking to night weaning, and filled with ache when she wakes and asks desperately for “num.” Honestly, if she were more needy, I’d cave. Did totally that a few months ago.

    It’s overwhelming to mourn for little babyhood and simultaneously marvel at big-girl-ness. (tiny jealous voice whispers, at least leigh has a new one to ease the passage.)

    You’re a great mama, and don’t listen to your inner critic:) But you know that. Also, I love that someone else chants to her daughters. I have this goddess names chant that I have always sung to Molly: Isis Astarte Diana Hecate Demeter Kali Inanna…

  4. you are just awesome.
    And I want you to come wean me off a few things I could handle losing in my life. 🙂
    THat picture rocks!
    I love it when they show such humor from such a young age.

  5. What a great picture! I totally don’t understand how she does that.

    I love the fairy babies approach. I will try to remember that.

    You’re a great mama, but you don’t need me to tell you that. 🙂

  6. Well, I never posted for you my binky weaning story…but we did just that–the binky fairy. Except our son called them paahhcifiers like he’s an aristocratic Englishman or something. We went around the house and collected them in a gift bag and then hung it from a tree that hangs over the deck. In the morning there were tub toys and little things in a bigger gift bag.

    And wow, you’ve made me feel better about laying with him every night as he falls asleep. We first started it when baby sister was born last March, then continued as he moved to a big boy bed when he turned three in August and then continued when he quit pacifiers a few months ago. My mom makes me feel bad about it but now I’m sure it’s the right thing to do.

    And, by the way, your post was fabulous and daughter sounds so cute and sweet and adorable.

  7. Oh Leigh, I love how you shared your own learning through this ordeal. This is what I need, and crave, from other moms. How do we do it even when we don’t do it just right? It asks us to question what is right…and I think you nailed it spot on here – right is some combination of listening to our hearts and loving our children however this unfolds. Even when it means going in after the fact and revising our plans.

    Thank you for this story.

    And I have to say, the eye-binky is hilarious. The rituals these kids develop!

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