It was time. It had gotten out of hand.  She’d grown dependent. It started to trump everything; it was on her mind at bedtime and first thing in the morning. Sometimes in the night she’d wake and call out for it. “I need it,” she’d shout. “I NEED IT!” There was desperation in her voice. It was scary.

 

The pacifier had to go.

 

My husband and I decided to stage an intervention, “What if she’s sixteen and still sucking it? What if for her sixteenth birthday instead of asking for a car she asks for a diamond-studded binky? And her teeth…her poor teeth! It is undoubtedly doing damage by the minute. But worst of all is the fact that we spend seventy-five percent of our day looking for the damn thing. Just think of all the free time we’d have if we weren’t constantly on all fours searching for the pacifier.”

 

We were agreed. We would break her of the habit before Thanksgiving.

 

We just needed a plan, a way to extricate the paci without scarring our dear daughter who had come to love it so much.  We Googled “paci intervention”, we checked the papers for “binki quitting support groups”. Nothing came up. It was looking bleak. Then one day as I was pulling out the car seat and lifting up the floor mats in hopes of locating a lost Nuk, I had an epiphany. The pacifier elimination plan came to me all at once, it was like a dream.

 

It was flawless! Through a delicate mix of self-empowerment and bribery we’d rid her of the binky in no time.

 

The following day, after a particularly frustrating paci search that ended in tears (my tears) we began to implement the plan.

“Gosh”, we mused right before bed, “did you know that Nola, and Jo, and Abigail have all given up their pacifiers. That’s a pretty big kid thing to do.”

“Yeah,” she agreed.

“Do you think it was hard? Do you think they miss it?” We asked.

“Yeah,” she said.

“Well, some day I bet you’ll be ready to give up your paci too. You’ll really be a big kid then.”

“Yeah,” she said, “but I’m not ready yet.”

 

So we backed off. We were going for the win, to defeat the all-powerful paci we had to be patient.

 

We continued to celebrate Sage’s paci-less friends on a daily basis. It became a ritual. “Tell me again who has no pacis,” our daughter would ask every night before bed.

 

Then, after a few weeks, after a particularly brutal paci search that led to us upturning our mattress and accidentally breaking a coffee mug, we began to raise the stakes.

“You know,” we said. “It will be a really special thing when you give up your paci.”

“Do you think you’d like to pick out a treat when it happens; like a toy that will always remind you of the occasion?”

“Oh yes!” she nodded eagerly, “but I’m not ready yet.”

We kept our cool, we did not push…days passed. We watched our daughter for signs of readiness. We presented her with a Toys R Us catalog and she identified a little panda family that she decided would be the toy of choice on that big no paci day.

“But I’m not ready yet,” she said, clutching the catalog.

 

We continued to wait patiently.

 

But one night a few weeks later, all the pacifiers went missing- really and truly missing. We searched on our hands and knees. We called to them. We pulled cushions off every piece of furniture in the house. It was like the Universe was conspiring to expedite our plan.

As we lay on the floor our heads deep under the living room couch, I wriggled towards my husband until we were nose to nose.

“If I spend one more minute looking for a fucking pacifier I m going to lose it.” I whispered.

“Me too!” he hissed. “Let’s go for it now. Let’s take the leap.”

We emerged from the floor, picked the cobwebs out of our hair, took a deep breath, and braced ourselves for the worst.

“You know,” we said. “It seems like all the pacifiers are gone. Maybe it’s time for no more pacis. Maybe tomorrow we can go get those pandas.”

“Okay,” she said, like it was absolutely nothing, like the pacifier was as insignificant as a sock.

 

Just like that the pacis were out of our life.

 

My husband and I walked around aimlessly that night. It felt so strange to not spend the evening buried under the furniture searching for rubber soothing devices.

 

“What should we do with our free time?” I asked.

 

“I don’t know…read books maybe, watch a movie, invent something. What DO people do with their free time?”

It felt weird.

“Maybe we should crawl around on all fours and stick our heads under things just for old times sake. Hey I know, let’s have a scavenger hunt.” I suggested.

 

That night we slept like kings.  With no midnight searches, no desperate calls when it fell out of our daughter’s mouth. We got twice as much sleep.

 

It was bliss.

 

The next morning we all woke full of energy and headed to the toy store to collect the panda prize.

 

Just like I had seen it play out in my mind, our daughter rushed to the little fur family cooing, “I don’t have a paci because I am a big girl. I have pandas instead.” It was all going so well. My husband and I exchanged a high five. We were so excited by our success that we even offered to buy our daughter the miniature twin baby pandas that went along with the panda family that she had chosen. One of the twins had his very own miniature pacifier. It seemed so symbolic, it seemed so right.

 

We left the store all aglow.

 

But later that afternoon as Sage was playing with the panda babies we heard tears coming from the living room.

 

We rushed to the scene and found our daughter in hysterics. “The panda paci…” she moaned. “The panda paci is gone. It’s lost.”

 

My mouth dropped to the basement, I went numb, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought to myself. “How could we have let this happen? Of all the millions of no paci prizes that we could have awarded to our daughter, we went and replaced her pacifier, with another pacifier.”

 

But this one was microscopic! It was smaller than a raisin, smaller than the head of a nail, smaller than the ear buds for an ipod nano!   It was practically invisible. It could easily get swallowed by a dust bunny and never be seen again. And there was only one. We couldn’t pull off the late night run to Walgreen’s to get more. This paci was irreplaceable.

 

We were doomed.

 

“Whose fucking idea was this?” I hissed at my husband. “It’s like we cured an addiction to caffeinated soda by replacing it with an addiction to single malt scotch.”

 

So now we’re right back where we started, crawling along the baseboards, pulling up cushions, desperately searching for that paci. It’s just that now we’ve got to use a magnifying glass. Someday we’ll break her of the pandas and this time we’ll replace the fix with something huge, something with a tracking device- like a giant on home arrest or a satellite.  Someday. But for now…. she’s “not ready yet.”

 

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Once when I was seven my goldfish jumped out of his tank and committed suicide. He actually thought to himself, “I would rather suffocate on that pink shag carpet than spend another moment living in the care of this kid.” When I found him I was devastated.  There was no note, of course, and so I was left to assume that it was all my fault. Did he not like the seashells I’d brought back from Florida especially for him? Was he dissatisfied with the neon rocks that lined his floor? Was it the food? Could it be that I was feeding him the wrong food? I felt so misunderstood. Did this fish not know how much he was loved? Did he not hear the fish songs that I composed for him? Did he not know that when I stroked the side of his tank I was actually attempting to pet him the only way I could possibly think to pet a fish? He had no idea. It was terrible.  So terrible, in fact, that I vowed to never to purchase a fish for my offspring. I did not want any child of mine to suffer the same rejection. I figured stuffed animals were the way to go. I just assumed a synthetic creature would never hurt you the way a real one might. After all, they are not living. Sure, the ones with batteries could maybe run away, but I was going to steer clear of those altogether.

 

I’d find the most inanimate of all inanimate objects and encourage my daughter to fall in love with it.

 

That’s how “Corduroy” made his way into our lives. It started with me reading her the book Corduroy- it’s a story all about a girl who saves up her very own money to buy her very own bear who becomes her very best friend.  My daughter and I read it over and over again and then one rainy day I presented her a dollar. “This,” I said, practically stealing lines directly from the story, “is your very own money. Let’s go to the thrift store and maybe we can find something special to buy with it.”

 

She lit up with excitement. “Maybe,” she stammered, “I will find my very own bear.”

 

Together we rushed to the stroller and trotted off to the store. It was magic.  And it only got better…

 

When we arrived it was as if the universe had conspired to make this moment happen. Right there on the shelf was the very prefect bear- he was scruffy and lanky- he could sit up on his own! He had this look in his eyes like he had lived a thousand lives and was just full of stories to tell.  My daughter was in love. She took him into her arms and said, “This is it mommy. This is Corduroy. He will be my very own bear.”

 

And just like that Corduroy joined our family- he ate meals with us, he slept in my daughter’s bed, he joined us on road trips and accompanied Sage to all traumatic events like haircuts and trips to the doctor. He was great- better than a pet- way better than some old fish. He was dependable.

 

But then…something shifted. Corduroy started trying to ditch us.

 

It started on a trip to the park- he actually had the nerve to jump out of the stroller and attempt to take up residence under a tree on the side of the road. Then he hid under a stack of books at the library and spent several hours living the high life with the local children’s librarian. One time he even spent the night at a toy store- was he hoping to get re-purchased by some other cooler family? He’s really unbelievable, we’ve had to retrieve him from buses and grocery stores and restaurant lavatories (god only knows what he was doing in there…something illegal I’m sure. I’ve lived in New York. I know what happens in bathrooms).  No matter where we go, no matter how much fun we are having, he tries to abandon us.

 

I cover for him of course. I don’t want my daughter to know what a drifter he is. When she discovers he’s missing I tell her, “Oh he’s just on a little vacation, he’ll be back as soon as he enjoys some down time.” or “Corduroy… I think he’s at school. Did I not tell you he recently enrolled in community college…he’s probably in class.” I just do whatever it takes to buy time while my husband races around town trying to find him, searching park benches and alley ways…it’s just so upsetting. Corduroy has no idea how good he’s got it.  My daughter is the most loving attentive caregiver you could ever hope for. She is tender and loyal and funny. She dances with him every night. She tucks him into bed and serenades him to sleep. She shares her food with him and rocks him when he is feeling down. He’s the luckiest damn bear in the world.

 

The next time he tries something funny I’m going to put my foot down. “No Corduroy! Not on my watch! This ends now.” I’m going say my piece, not only for my daughter but for all children, all children who have been taken for granted and ditched and by their stuffed bears, and velveteen rabbits, and plush lovies, and…and…YES! THEIR FISH!!!

 

A doorknob, it’s such a little thing. I never really gave it much thought. It just sits there hanging out. Maybe it’s brass, maybe wood. It’s almost ornamental. You turn it around when you want to get in or out. It’s an automatic thing. It’s like blinking. Basically, a doorknob is a nothing.

But just the other day my daughter figured out how to open one.  I was in the office, pecking away at my computer, trying to find the exact right words to describe the way a turtle looks when he’s thinking really hard, when all of a sudden I saw the doorknob slowly start to turn. I jumped from my seat. Was it a ghost? Surely it couldn’t be my daughter, not my two-and-a-half year old, she doesn’t have the fine motor goods to pull that off!  But much to my surprise, like a gust of autumn wind, who should push the door wide open but Sage.  My mouth dropped.

“I did it!” she shrieked in delight. “You did it!” I clapped echoing her enthusiasm. And I was genuinely happy for this milestone moment.

But then… it hit me.

This changes everything! For starters I can now forget about working at home and occasionally peeing in privacy. That will now be completely out of the question. And beyond that I expect that I will now wake most nights to a toddler who has snuck out of her room, crawled into my bed, and planted herself conveniently on my face. So, sleep is out too. And discipline… well that is going to shift forever. Now when I send my daughter to her room the only reason she’ll agree to stay in there is if she respects me or fears me… I lose on both counts. And what happens when she gets a sudden craving for an ice-cream cone? She won’t even bother asking me to take her. She knows where I keep my wallet. She’ll just take out my credit card and head out for a chocolate Sunday. The cashier won’t know what’s going on when out of nowhere a tiny hand appears over the counter holding a visa and a little voice whispers, “chocolate please.”  And soon I expect she’ll be sneaking out in the middle of the night too. She’ll have little meet-ups. She’ll start a club with other local toddlers who can open doorknobs and they’ll rent out a warehouse and have raves where they rock out to Dan Zanes, eat candy necklaces, throw off their diapers, and pee willy-nilly on the floor. The neighbors will complain of the noise, the toddlers will rebel. They’ll go around town opening every door they can. They’ll break into law offices and gobble up important documents. They’ll break into the police station and let out all the prisoners, they’ll break into the motorcycle shop and go for a joy ride. They’ll go around turning doorknobs for no reason at all… just because they can!  They’ll travel from house to house opening and closing door after door! Folks will think there’s a poltergeist on the loose. The city council will meet; they’ll declare an emergency. The FBI will get involved. The door opening toddlers won’t pay them any mind because they don’t know who the hell the FBI is. They’ll just continue wrecking havoc. The town will have no choice but to remove all doorknobs from all doors. And with no doorknobs, none of us will have a way in or out of our homes.

We’ll just be stuck, right where we are, forever and ever and ever.

Suddenly I start to feel bad for all those years I just walked around opening and closing doors and not paying any mind to those little doorknobs. I’m sorry, doorknobs! I’m sorry. You really do make the world a better place. You are important. You make me happy. You give me the boundaries and the freedom that keeps me sane. I need you doorknobs… I need you!!

picture of bear with mysterious appendage between legs “Mommy, mommy!” My daughter runs into the room, “The bear’s got poopies! The bear’s got poopies” (her word for the male genitals).

I take a look, sure enough there is a furry appendage dangling between his legs. “What’s going on?” I muse, “This bear did not have a penis yesterday.”

My mind is blown.

I have always suspected that stuffed animals become real in the night but this is actual proof. My daughter’s lovey must have     come to life, driven our Volvo to the nearest hospital, received anesthesia and undergone a sex change operation. I can see it all play out:

Bear: It’s time doctor. I just can’t go on like this. It’s as if I’ve been sewn into the wrong body.

Dr. Well let’s make things right.  Nurse, hand me the stuffing.

Nurse: Yes doctor.

Dr. And the fur.

Nurse: Yes doctor.

Dr. And the needle and thread. Bear, this next part is going to hurt a bit…

I’m just about to alert the press and possibly animal control (this bear is liable to be in great shock when the pain killers wear off) when suddenly my daughter tosses him into the air. He lands with a thump, “Sage” I reprimand. “You do not throw a bear who has just undergone surgery.” I run to his side, ready to comfort him and assure him that we will love him no matter who he chooses to be when I notice that his head has rotated ever so slightly to the left.

Wait just one minute…

I cup my hand on his skull and twist. Just like that his penis is gone. The bear is gender neutral once again-eyes in the front. TAIL in the back.

I’m mildly disappointed that the great bear sex change adventure was all a mere fantasy but ultimately glad that the much loved animal will not be shipped off to the zoo or toted around as Hollywood’s next big attraction.

Note to all toy makers: If you are going to create a bear with a rotating head, do not also give said bear a tail!

When you take your child to ride a merry-go-round you generally assume merriment will ensue. Your kid will rise up and down upon that graceful synthetic pony while happy organ music plays in the background. Maybe you’ll get some popcorn, maybe snap some pictures, and you’ll all walk away feeling pretty fucking good. So, as we stood in line at The Carrousel we talked of all the fun that Sage would have. We scanned the horses and menagerie of other animals and picked the one she would ride. We hummed along with the music. We prepared our daughter for how she’d have to hold on tight and stay mounted till the song was over. Unfortunately, what we should have been doing was watching to make sure the carrousel operator was not a psychopathic baby hater.

No, sadly, that reality did not set in till my husband and daughter boarded the ride. They chose a dappled swine that was out of my view so I fixed my attention on two adorable sisters while I waited for the ride begin. The sisters were dressed in long flowing skirts and they were screeching with delight at the prospect of finding two horses side by side.  When they finally mounted their twin steeds they reached their arms across to join hands. It was so picturesque that I had to stop myself from getting out my camera. But just as the sisters were intertwining their fingers, this angry stomping woman beelined for the scene, “NO HOLDING HANDS!” She shouted. “You’re gonna fall and your head’s gonna be bleeding and I’m the one who’s gonna have to clean it up. Me! It will be ME! LET GO OR I KICK YOU OFF YOU HEAR!” The girls were stunned. They broke their hold and immediately gripped the ponies desperately searching for any bit of comfort. I tried to think of something to say to these befuddled siblings like, “Sometimes grownups get bitten by bats and they turn in to evil creatures who prey on small children but it’s OK . Soon she’ll go back to her lair and you’ll never see her again.” But as I was composing my speech I noticed the beast was pursuing a new victim.

She’d spotted a tiny little boy who had slid off his horse and was calling out for his mommy. This kid was apparently ripe for the picking. The lady looked elated as she walked his way. When she got to him she just crossed her arms and took a wide stance “ON OR OFF!” She shouted and then repeated “On or off! On or off! On or off!” until this kid was in tears. I could see his mother take notice of the scene and quickly tear through the crowd to rescue her son. “Finally!” the lady shouted at the mother, “Make your kid decide! What’s his problem?” she chided.

Following this scuffle Meanie McMeanerson headed for a boy who looked to be about ten. He was holding onto the pole with two firm hands and making jovial horse noises. He had clearly heard this woman shouting and was doing his best to be the model carousel rider. The lady was not buying it. “You’re going to be the kid who tries to climb the pole and who rides with only one hand.” She predicted aloud.  “DON”T YOU DARE! DON’T YOU DARE DO IT!” She warned.

All the parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles who had come to watch their little ones glide round and round in enjoyment began to look at one another like maybe we were going to have to do a citizens arrest on this crazy witch. And just as I was imagining how I’d be the one who would take her hands behind her back and say, ” You are under arrest for the being a terrible human,” the lady rounded the corner and though I could not see because the giant pole was blocking my view I could tell she was going for my husband and daughter. Suddenly I heard clamor and confusion and then before I could leap to the rescue with my posse of outraged parents and relatives the music started and the horses began going round. When my husband and daughter came into view I knew they’d been the subject of great wrath. Sage was white faced and my husband was shaking his head like, “Holy shit some lady just rammed a tire down my throat.” They did their best to enjoy the ride. Eventually my daughter even smiled. But after, when I asked her how she liked the ride all she could report was, “The lady say NO, NO, NO.”

When I asked my husband to elaborate he pretty much shared the same details. “Sage was scared so I got on the horse with her. I figured it would help. But then this terrible lady rounded the corner and shouted NO, NO, NO. She didn’t even tell us what we were doing wrong. She just screamed and screamed until I got off the horse.”

That night as I lay in bed I tried to think of some moral to this story; something I could tell my daughter to help explain the cruel behavior of this woman. I thought maybe I could say that sometimes grownups have really bad days and take it out on the wrong people or sometimes people yell when they are really sad and unfulfilled. But somehow these explanations suggested way more compassion than I was willing to offer this nasty child hater. Instead, I landed on the only possible moral that I could extract from such a silly and upsetting situation:  “Sometimes mean people who hate children take jobs operating carrousels. And that’s just…

really fucked up.”