|self portrait, Cheech|
Last week we started the process of slowly getting Cheech off of bottles and as a result, we've had an emotional few days in this household. Taking her after-dinner bottle away, although challenging, had gone well enough that I decided to skip her first bottle of the day this morning. She got through breakfast pretty cheerfully, and I began to think that this process might end up being much easier than I had earlier anticipated. But then, as the hours went on, and we got closer to her midday bottle, she started to rapidly fall apart. I had the option of giving her her, now, one bottle of the day a tad bit earlier than normal, but seeing as the whole goal is for her to stop thinking of bottles as a form of comfort, I decided to hold steady.
Cheech also uses pacifiers, but I'm pretty strict about letting her only use them for bed and nap time, and for longer car rides (which she still has a pretty tough time with). Occasionally, I'll get preoccupied and do a shit job of hiding them, and she'll find one and sneak it in her mouth while I'm not looking. And that's exactly what happened today amidst her midmorning-missing-her-bottle meltdown. Once I caught on, I did what I always do in this situation, and took the pacifier out while reminding her that she's only allowed to use them for sleeping purposes. Typically, this scenario causes a minor tantrum, and she's over it in the five seconds it takes me to distract her with one of her favorite books or toys. No big deal. But today, for the first time ever, she wasn't just mad at the fact that something had been taken away from her, she was very visibly mad at me. She crawled onto Joe's lap, crying, and when I went to hug and console her like I always do, she pushed me away and firmly shouted no. And my heart SUNK.
I felt the walls of my throat close in on each other, and my eyes well up with tears. My first instinct was to hand the pacifier right back to her, maybe even with a little song and dance, desperately hoping that she would forgive me and all would be well in the world again. But I have learned that when it comes to being a parent, more often than I ever would have thought, you have to fight what you want to do with what you have to do. Sometimes, I find that doing what's best for Cheech is so unbelievably challenging that I am positive my head is going to explode. I have to constantly remind myself that giving her boundaries and setting rules isn't hurting her and doesn't make me a bad person. In fact, doing the opposite would hurt her and would somewhat make me a bad person, or at least a bad parent. I have to remember that it's not the end of the world if she cries, even if I'm the one who's caused the crying, and that it's Ok if she puts up a fight. I whole heartedly believe that these little fights build character and that they will one day teach her to fight the big fights for the things that are truly important to her... not just some stupid pacifier. And so I put the pacifier out of her reach this morning, and I let my heart [and hers] hurt for a while because it really was what was best.
I spent most of the rest of the day feeling pretty beat up and bummed out by my first official fight with my kid. Considering she's not even two years old yet, I can't exactly talk these things out and reason with her, you know? Shortly after the big pacifier freak out, she went down for her nap and later woke up in a pretty fantastic mood. We even had a great afternoon and evening despite the fact that she didn't get any more bottles, and as we were cleaning up her bedroom before bed, she leaned in and hugged me, and for the first time ever said, "lub-ou". I hugged her tightly right back and replied, "I love you, too, Cheech... so, SO much."