I have to say, I have come up against a lot of challenges as a parent and yet none quite as challenging as my mission to remove that revolting piece of plastic from the leech like suction of my eldest daughters mouth. Dummy, you are my nemesis!!
Lewis never had a dummy, despite those times at 3am when he screamed and screamed and I desperately tried to shove one in his mouth, he was just never interested. When Eva came along I had no intention of giving her a dummy either and yet almost twelve months in, when she just wouldn’t take her bottle and started crying relentlessly through the night, I remembered the dummy lurking downstairs in a cupboard, included as part of a “Tommee Tippee starter set”, and I had ran upstairs holding it in front of me like the Holy Grail. And by some miracle, it had worked!! She had lay there, happily sucking away, and slept the whole night through. And we had thanked the Lord for dummies, congratulated ourselves on our full nights sleep and high fived ourselves for being so clever to have discovered the answer. Or so we thought.
Because it turns out that actually, not only does a dummy look terrible (not to mention ruin so many good photo opportunities!), it brings a whole host of problems with it. I think that we have collectively wasted several weeks of our lives just looking for the dreaded dummies, desperately rummaging down the side of the sofa or under the bed while Eva alternated between screaming hysterically and sucking on her fingers as some kind of desperate dummy substitute. We have spent an absolute fortune on dummies, all kinds of special orthodontic ones for fear of ruining her teeth, dummy clips, different sizes, and a whole host of creams for chapped skin from the inevitable “dummy drool” down her chin. And you wouldn’t believe that one child, particularly when she was still just a baby, could differentiate between ten identical dummies, and yet her preference for that one particular dummy would cause us to tear the house apart on a daily basis or make an emergency dash to the shop in the hope that one of them would stop the incessant whine. And when we found the perfect dummy, we would snap up as many as possible for fear of them going out of stock and the melt down that would follow should we lose them all!
We have lived in constant fear of leaving home without the dummy. There would be dummies in every pocket of every coat we have ever owned, in my dressing gown pocket, the nappy bag, my handbag, the glove compartment in the car. We would fathom contraptions to attach the dummies to her cot, her pram, her clothes. We would tuck her into bed at night surrounded by dummies, one in her mouth, one in each hand and several under her pillow, all too aware that should she wake in the night and not find it, she would scream blue murder. We have spent car journeys from Hell, swerving across the motorway, one hand on the steering wheel, the other rummaging desperately in the nappy bag, the hysterical screams from the back seat for the Goddam dummy pushing us to our very limit. There have been times when we have foolishly left the house without a single dummy, spent hours hunting down a supermarket or a gift shop where we could buy one, resulting in an eclectic collection of the tackiest novelty dummies ranging from vampire fangs, tongue piercings and a whole host of personalised dummies, none of which say Eva.
The older she has got, the more attached she has become to her dummy. And it has taken a huge amount of willpower but we have managed to whittle down the times that she is allowed her dummy so it is now limited to bed time, nap time or if she is poorly. She knows that there are rules, no dummy for nursery or playgroup, no dummy when we leave the house or on days out. She knows to leave the dummy on the window sill in the porch as we leave, safe in the knowledge that it will be there when she returns home, or on the side in the kitchen where she can see it throughout the day. She still asks for it, several times each day, but with distraction she can go a full day without it until she starts getting tired and the cries for, “Dummeeeeeeee!!” will resume.
And we have tried everything. The dummy fairy, Father Christmas, reward charts, bribery, you name it, we’ve tried it. We have told her far fetched tales of how she will turn into a bunny rabbit if she continues to have her dummy or warned her that her teeth will fall out. We have resolutely told her she can’t have it, have hidden the dummies and left her for hours crying, pleading and clawing at us like an addict climbing the walls. We have ordered countless books from the Internet, books that claim to “Ditch the dummy in just seven days!” or boast a “100% success rate”, and nothing, I mean nothing, has worked. She will happily tell us to take away her toys, to tell Father Christmas not to bring her any presents, tell the fairies not to stop by our house. And she will sit there with that dummy, the pink one which is her all time favourite, and she will literally beam with happiness and tell you, “I love my dummy more than anything else in the whole wide world!!”.
And I expect that many of you are reading this, absolutely horrified, thinking that we should just lay down the law and tell her, no more dummy! But the hardest part for me, as a parent, is that regardless of the fact that she is far too old to have a dummy, she does love that dummy more than anything else in the whole world. It is so much more than just a dummy to her. It’s her comfort blanket, her favourite teddy bear, it’s the mask in which she hides behind when she is feeling insecure, when she is scared or feeling un-well. It is the one thing that makes her feel safe and comforted, the tiny little piece of her baby days that she just isn’t ready to let go of. And in that way, I just cant bear to take it from her just yet.
I expect that there shall come a time when we realise that a night has passed without her asking for the dummy, when a week has gone by and the dummy lies abandoned on the bedside table. I expect that as times goes on, as her confidence grows and she finds other ways to seek comfort, she will depend on her dummy less and less. It’s hard for her to understand why we want to take away something that gives her so much pleasure and yet it’s so hard for us as parents to feel under this huge pressure to take it from her, to be judged by those who comment, “What? She still has a dummy?!” or make un-helpful comments about the potential damage to her teeth. It’s hard being a Mummy, but it’s hard work being an almost four year old, and if that grubby little piece of plastic is making my little girl happy, then so be it.
So for now I admit defeat.
Dummy 1, Mummy 0.