We walked through the store at the Bronx Zoo and sat my son’s pacifier on the shelf. Gripping his new stuffed gorilla tightly and sporting a quivering lower lip, he waved goodbye to the thing that had comforted him on so many nights and so many upsetting moments. And with a sad heart, I too turned my back on my old comforting friend and walked towards the cash register.
If you have a child that uses a pacifier, you know that it can be the greatest tool you have in your parental utility belt. But in life, all good things must come to an end. Overuse of pacifiers can cause dental issues down the line or even delay speech. That and nobody wants their kid to be the one showing up to his first day of school sucking on a pacifier.
All 3 of my kids used a pacifier. My oldest loved it so much that he would steal his sister’s pacifier when she was a baby. He even came up with a name for it — “Papoo.” I’m not sure why he called it that, but he did so often that my other kids, family, close friends, and neighbors even adopted the term. He was never without his pacifier and he would stash them around the house in secret hiding spaces so that he always had one nearby. We finally broke him of the habit by concocting an elaborate story about how the crows at my mother’s house had swooped in and taken the pacifiers for their own little babies.
With my first two kids, I wanted to break them of their pacifier habit early. But with my third, it was different. A pacifier is closely associated with babies and number 3 is my last baby. Every day I feel like I’m saying goodbye to another aspect of his tiny years. He potty-trained early, so he’s been out of diapers for a while, and even though he’s only two, he prefers his bike to a stroller. We’ll soon stop his nighttime bottle, and then that will be it. There will not be anything left of his babyhood.
But again, all good things must come to an end. Which is how we found ourselves in the store at the Bronx Zoo. It was important to me that the papoo be replaced by something special, something he (and I) could hold onto. With help from his older brother and sister, we let our toddler pick his favorite animal, a stuffed gorilla. I stood nearby trying to control my own quivering lip. I was saying goodbye, not just to a pacifier, but to a papoo. An affectionate term for an item of great affection. A symbol of my child’s baby years. And something that brought peaceful moments in the midst of frustrating and sad times.
Every passing day is a day that I can no longer share or relive with my toddler. I get emotional about these things. I cry when I sort clothes they grow out of and sit misty eyed looking back through Facebook pictures. I love being a dad of big kids, but I also love being a dad of little ones. And to think that soon I will no longer experience life through a young child’s eyes saddens me. And all that was brought on by waving goodbye to a pacifier…. a papoo.
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