We did it. We finally worked up enough courage to take a big step in our house. We were scared of how it would go so we’d been putting it off.
This weekend we took the big step and transitioned Delaney to a life without her beloved binky. I’m not joking, or embellishing when I say this binky was beloved. She loves her daddy and mommy. Her sister is her favorite person in the whole world. But for the whole of her 40 months of life this rubbery thing attached to the hand of a soft yellow ducky was her greatest source of comfort. She would plop into her bed, snuggle the duck onto her chest, pop the binky into her mouth, and stroke the tags on the duck. The whole thing was a ritual and that ritual soothed her when she was tired or emotional, feeling sick or sad. Dinky Duck the Binky Duck was her first friend. Honestly, her best friend.
We’d been able to limit her binky use to bed only, naps and night-time for quite a while now. At nearly three and a half though Luke and I knew it was time for her to move past using a binky and for us to move past relying on this pink thing too. On Sunday we spoke with her about how proud we are of her for becoming such a big girl. We shared with her that because of becoming a big girl she would get to go on a very special and exciting shopping trip to a local toy store and use her binky to buy a special big girl toy. We explained that she would still have her Dinky Duck to cuddle with at night. Dinky wasn’t going anywhere. At first she was thrilled. She thanked us over and over.
“Thank you for taking me to buy a special toy, Daddy!”
“Mommy, thank you!”
She was just killing us with her sweetness.
Then we got in the car. As we pulled out of the driveway she said she was excited to bring her binky with her on special this shopping trip. Luke and I looked at each other and knew she didn’t quite understand what was going on. Luke looked back at her and said “Delaney, you’re going to trade binky to get a big girl toy.” This seemed to sink in. The look on her face. I will never forget the look on her face. She got quiet and stared down at the binky in her hands. A few moments later we heard a small sad voice from the back seat. Delaney doesn’t really have a small voice and rarely is it anything but happy or silly but in this moment it was small and sad. “Daddy, I’m gonna miss it.”
And at that moment I nearly pulled the plug on the whole thing. Luke and I looked at each other and I could tell he was thinking the same thing. What’s the big deal with a binky? She’s not even three and a half yet. Why not just let her have this binky until she goes off to college? What’s the harm, let’s just go get some ice cream and forget about this silly plan instead?
Our shopping trip was nice. The toy store is a cool local shop with all sorts of fun things. Delaney picked out a lovely wooden high chair and a small plastic doll potty for her babies and headed for the register with Luke. As I snapped a quick picture of Delaney with the new toys and the binky Luke gave the lowdown to a the cashier. Delaney was going to pay for her new toys with her binky. The cashier nodded and smiled as if this was totally expected and normal. Delaney stood right up next to the counter and handed over the binky after the cashier had scanned the big girl toys, Luke secretly paid for the toys, and then we were on our way. By on our way I mean Delaney had her new toys in hand, Luke had a slightly melancholy look on his face, and I had a lump in my throat threatening to turn into tears.
She thanked us over and over for her new toys, and for taking her shopping. Basically she thanked us over and over for tricking her into handing over her single most important possession to some lady in a toy store.
Delaney loves her new toys. She spent the whole afternoon Sunday playing with them. Madeline – the wonderful big sister she is – showered Delaney with praise for being a big girl. Then came bed time. Delaney pulled on her pajamas and moved to the bed to grab her Dinky Duck and begin her bedtime ritual. She stood there with him in her hands flipping him over and over looking for the binky and then it hit her and she bust into tears – real, sad, brokenhearted tears – and we knew it had finally clicked. Now she understood the enormity of handing her binky over to that cashier. All I wanted to do was give her another round rubber soother. I felt so guilty. I knew moving on from her binky was something that needed to be done and something she would have to do anyway. Growing up happens no matter how much we all try to fight it.
Luke sat on the floor holding her tight and letting her feel her grief. I’m not sure how we got her calmed down and tucked into bed. I do know that in the end she snuggled her Dinky Duck on her chest up close to her chin and stroked its tags. The look on her face told us she was trying to be brave and strong, and that she didn’t like this sad situation one bit. After reading her a story and saying our good nights the way we always do Luke and I walked to the hallway, closed her door behind us and stood there staring at each other both feeling guilt, huge waves of guilt. We made our sweet little peanut so sad. Not just sad, but grief-stricken.
A few days out she is doing okay. Bedtime and nap time still bring on sadness, but the grief is waning bit by bit. Being a parent is hard. It’s hard because although we spend every waking moment trying to protect our child – to keep them safe, healthy, and happy – sometimes we have to be the ones to break their heart.