Wednesday, June 26, 2013

breaking habits... the hard way

I've been wondering just what to title this post. It's about those "little white lies", the ones that parents give to kids. It's also about Growing Up. So it's untitled right now and hopefully I'll have something to say when I'm done typing!

Rhys has given up his "Suckies". AKA pacifiers. AKA soothers. AKA dummies. AKA plugs. Whatever you want to call them. When I was a little girl, I called them  "my batoo". I was seriously cute. I call them "suckies" with my kids. Abi never used one, neither did Kai, and come to think of it, neither did Bryn (other than as a newborn). And as silly as it sounds, I was sad. They didn't have special blankets or stuffed animals (which I learned are actually called "Stuffies" now) or a favourite toy they couldn't part with either. I suppose that's a good thing, considering how un-prepared I can be sometimes for life! We didn't need to worry about accidentally leaving behind a treasured item, and we didn't have to frantically search for a missing one at bedtime.

Until after Eden arrived. I don't remember much of Rhys having a suckie for his first 2-3 years of life. I mean, I know he must've had one as nurses give them to all babies after birth (which I find surprising since so many doctors don't like them and say they damage growing mouths), and in the NICU, and he was in the PICU for a while so I'm sure he had one then, but I don't remember when he stopped using one. I guess he just out grew it and it wasn't something he had to have.

Until Eden arrived. She had her special green suckie from the hospital, and suddenly Rhys remembered what life was like as a baby! Suddenly he wanted to do a bunch of things that he hadn't been doing in a long time, like the one time he attempted to breast feed and I gave him a look and he smiled and pretended to do something else, and like when he found suckies again.  *sigh*  And this time, the habit stuck!  He had to have his suckie in All. Day. Long. Like it was forever in his mouth. He'd take it out to eat, then he'd stuff it back in his mouth immediately after. It was such a part of him that I got used to it and very rarely saw him without it. He was even learning how to speak around it. Or, rather, attempting to. It made his words garbled and spit-y, but that didn't stop him! 

But Hunny and I started to despair! Our boy was 4 and still had an incredible attachment to this! Was he ever going to outgrow it on his own?  It was getting to the point that I actually was looking frantically for it at bedtime, dealing with his howls and tears and tantrums when he couldn't seem to understand that he had lost it and I didn't know where. :(  I also was starting to get that "mommy guilt trip" the doctors they'd mention it, at speech it was reminded how it was bad (I'd take it away from him for that hour, but he'd request it back as soon as we got back into the van to leave), family would point it out... it was difficult. It had to go.

When he had a check up appointment at the dentist, one of the great hygienists mentioned that if we just snip the ends of his suckies he can still suck but the hole would start to grow and he would be able to recognize that the sucking wasn't working as good as it was before, and he'd notice it was ripped and oops, now we can discard them! It sounded so simple.  We had already managed to get him to go without his suckie on his own for 3 days, but he'd find it again and in it would go, and I wouldn't even notice, (like I said, it's been this way for over a year, so seeing a suckie permanently in his mouth was normal to see) and then we'd be back to the start again. Ugh. We could get him to put the suckie into the drawer though for a few hours at a time (he seemed to be able to give it up easier in the evenings when he played with his brothers and the neighbour kids) but we needed something else. So one evening I went into that drawer and pulled out his 2 suckies and snipped the ends off!

I returned them to their places and just waited. Sweaty palms. Heart racing. Hoping he'd grab one at bedtime, find it strange, but continue on. Oh how foolish of me!  He noticed right away!!!!  He was so suspicious! He looked at them, with their jagged ends, and you could just see his mind working away, trying to figure it out.  It was funny but also made me feel so bad! And then I lied. Right to my child. At first I acted like I didn't even notice or see anything different with them, and I acted surprised when he showed me them in complete disbelief. Then I told him that sometimes things break after time and over use and his suckies were old.  I am a bad mom! He cried and kept saying, "nooooo!"  I offered he could still use them, but he refused to.  He went to bed in tears, all confused and suspicious. He knows that he put them into the drawer just fine earlier... how could they just break like that?  Oh, it was hard. :(  But it worked. Sort of.  He would ask for his suckies, and he'd see them in their snipped jagged ends, all "old and broken", and he'd be so sad. But he refused to use them! Woohoo. Aside from the guilt, I was happy at how smooth it went.

That is, until he found a lost suckie! Dangit!!! All our hard work of deception was undone in mere minutes!  I knew I couldn't snip this one though. I felt terrible when he noticed it so fast the first time! It's as if his whole little mind was processing it, trying to establish a connection between putting them into the drawer fine and coming back a few hours later and finding them ruined.  I decided that I wouldn't snip off the ends this time, instead just put snips into it and let it develop into a big rip! (but I also knew that he may not be bothered by that as one suckie was already tattered and he used it still, to my disgust!)  But fate worked in our favour again. He lost his replacement suckie!!! On his own! Woohoo! He cried and he cried and he cried and then he threw fits, and I searched and searched some more. And then I started to despair. What to do! I didn't want it replaced, but how was I to calm his little sad heart? When he cried for it, and he did that nightly, I'd have to remind him that he lost it and I couldn't find it, but he still had two in the drawer... but he still refused the snipped ones.

It took a few days, but eventually he stopped asking. And then Hunny found the suckie behind our bed. I guess it fell down there when Rhys was bouncing on our bed (as he likes to do). We didn't give it back to him, but hid it on a high shelf that even I can't reach without using a stool and climbing on the counter to retrieve. But when he's hurt and tired and needs comfort, he'll ask for it in his tears....and sometimes I feel guilty, knowing that I'm lying to my 4 year old, when I tell him that I don't know where it is. But then I tell myself it's for his own good. We are trying to help him here.

But that doesn't make it easier. :(

It's been three weeks now. Yay.  I can see that he's found other things to do now that his mouth is more free. He loves to make spit bubbles (which is only cute in a baby, eww!) and he's given himself a few hickies on his arm (nice) and he likes to lick people. (eww, that just grosses me out)  But seeing a suckie in an almost-five-year-old's mouth is less acceptable, you know?

So, seeing how our lying paid off in the end, I have been wondering if it's justified. Are "little white lies" ok? In my head all lies hurt. And, yes, if he were to figure out what I'd actually done to his "old and broken" suckies, it would hurt and cause distrust,'s so easy for me to say the benefits outweigh the means, that it was done for his good, and I was only trying to do good. After all, letting him choose on his own to end the habit (which is how I intended to deal with it and I had no problems telling people who asked) wasn't working and we could be sending him to school with that silly suckie well into the new year! :( 

I still feel "mommy guilt"....
But hey, on the good side, he's suckie free!!! to work on his little sister! Now, she has a bad suckie habit!!!


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