Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A sucker born every minute

I think I now understand why so many people get addicted to cigarettes, snack foods, and Facebook. The problem might not stem from nicotine, salt or other habit-inducing chemicals. In fact, its roots may reach as far back as infancy, and we parents may be to blame for it. We’re the ones who introduced our children to their first addiction: the pacifier.

Kyle won't admit he has a pacifier problem; most babies don't. Yet he can’t go through a day without sucking on the thing. He needs it to relax. Each day, usually in the afternoon, Kyle must have a pacifier break. Without it, he gets restless and irritable. He wants to nap, but he can't unless he gets in a few sucks. Every day he tries to quit, but once he feels those powerful, daily stresses of being a baby (and there are a lot - from dropped toys to taxes), Kyle just caves in and demands pacifier relief. It's sad, really.

It wasn't always like this. A long time ago - say, early summer - we would let the kid cry until our eardrums would explode. We'd try to quiet him down by rocking him, swaddling him, or having him watch C-SPAN. These methods would work for a time, but eventually he'd start blowing out the windows again with his wails.

So we sought out new ways to calm our kid. Some people recommended soothing music. Others bought us toys or videos that gave off calming sounds or images. The most unique suggestion came from an older friend of ours, who told us that, when he was little, his mother would get him and his six brothers and sisters to be quiet at church by feeding them NyQuil beforehand (this is true). While we didn't question the effectiveness of this option, we did feel that maybe it was a bit illegal. And as we watched our friend leave us and walk right into a wall, we also wondered about the long-term effects of giving such a drug to a child.

We knew of the pacifier option, but we were hesitant to try it. Yet as time passed, we started to feel a greater pressure from others:

"Pssst. Have you tried one of these?"
"These will make you feel so good."
"C'mon, everybody's doing it. Don't be a wimp."

And that was just from my mother. Other relatives, parents, parenting blogs, neighbors, store clerks, and our landlady also pressured us to use a pacifier. Kyle's pediatrician wasn't too keen on the idea, but what does he know? It's not like HE has to listen to a crying kid all day!

So we tried it once, and there was instant silence. Suddenly I could hear things I wasn't hearing before: birds chirping, leaves rustling, the fire alarm. Kyle sat there with a smile on his face - or, at least it looked like a smile, since the pacifier covered his entire mouth. We had a pleasant afternoon, and then we used the pacifier again the next day for kicks. Within no time, Kyle was hooked, and now he often can't take a daytime nap without it.

Now our kid has the same addiction almost every other child has, and, from the looks of it, he could have this addiction for years to come. Then what's next? I'm not saying drugs. After all, I was given a pacifier when I was a kid and remain clean (unless you count the time I was in Texas from 2001-2003). However, I often have trouble stopping when I'm stuck next to the bowl of chips at some party. Candy's also a weakness of mine (I'm eating some Mike & Ike's as I write this), and I highly doubt that would be the case if I wasn't trained to rely on something at such a young age.

I suppose we could have tried to prevent Kyle's addiction by not giving him the pacifier, but eventually we'll be going to the playground or daycare, and then the baby gangs no doubt would have tried to give him one. There's no guarantee that he'd even know how to say "no" by then. So it's probably still best that we were the ones who introduced Kyle to the pacifier, and his first addiction.

And it's hard to argue... it certainly makes him look cool.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, Kyle. Your cousin Liam is a bink-meister. He's been weaned as far down as "binky in the crib for nap and bedtime", but man oh man he's gotta have it (as Spike Lee's kid might say).
We had to go out and buy a replacement bink after he bit through one....it wasn't safe, so we took it away. He was heartbroken. He'd look at it and say "bink boo boo" and give it a pat-pat.
So savor the pacifier while you can, knowing you're in good company.