Life is full of transitions. Babies transition from nursing to bottle to sippy cup; milk to pureed food to big ole people food; diapers to pull-ups to skivvies; bassinet to crib to big kid bed. Children transition from home to school to college; addition to long division to algebra; chutes and ladders to connect 4 to chess; trike to bike to car. We continue to transition through adulthood...married to married with kids to empty nest syndrome; aspirations of traveling to aspirations of buying new brakes for the mini van to aspirations of getting a nice area in the assisted living place; hanging out with friends to visiting with other PTA parents about the cool new running track the school is getting to talking about what dose of Benefiber gives the best and quickest results.Yes, life is full of transitions.
In the midst of all of this, there seems to be one right of passage that most babies and toddlers seek and enjoy...the finding and intense adoration of a transitional object during the tough time when they realize that mama or daddy will not be by their side or at their beckon and call at all times. During this time, most children gravitate to something they can hold onto...something that gives them comfort: a pacifier, a blanket, fingers or a thumb to suck, or a stuffed animal.Meet Emma's transitional object:
Bear-Bear has been a fixture in our home for over 4 years. When Emma was about 5 or 6 months old, I broke the cardinal rule of parenting and put a few stuffed animals in her crib. One of those stuffed animals was a white bear wearing a pink outfit that someone had given to Abby when she was a baby. And for some reason, Emma picked that bear up and held on to the tip top of its hat while she sucked her thumb. After a few days of the exact same routine, we realized that she had found her "lovey"...her item to give her comfort in the times that her parents were not there to love and dote on her.Bear-Bear became a permanent fixture in Emma's hand. He followed her in play in addition to sleep. He "pretended" to go potty in the midst of potty training. His hat became snot-covered and utterly disgusting during the winter cold and flu seasons. He was cried over during each and every 2 hours he suffered through the washer and dryer. He learned to deal through the many nights he fell off the bed, only to be found by a parent sometime in the middle of the night. He was stuffed in trash cans, dresser drawers, closets, toy bins, tricycle baskets, baby carriers, strollers. He visited the hospital a couple of times to see to the needs of a little girl who needed him more then than ever. He endured a parting from the ball of his hat to the disappearance of his nose...all while noticing that the fuzz and color that he originally wore proudly was being worn away day by day...by the close contact of a little girl who loved him like no other.Bear-Bear was not only a transitional item for Emma...he became her best friend. She talked to him daily, telling him about the adventures the two of them would encounter together. She dressed him into delicate dresses and tuxes that were meant to be for other stuffed animals but fit him so perfectly. We learned about 3 years into Bear-Bear's existence that he was indeed a BOY bear, though he often donned beautiful wedding dresses and gowns because we were short on boy bear clothes. Jay even conducted a Sunday afternoon wedding for the two of them a few months ago, in which the BOY bear wore a gorgeous white wedding dress because that was the best clothing he had. Bear-Bear earned the main role in many plays, showcasing his talent on the make-shift stage behind the living room couch. He pretended to be a "fetus" on the numerous occasions that Emma pretended she was pregnant and was succumbed to the natural way of feeding a newborn baby...right under Emma's shirt.
He was her very best friend. Not only the one who was constantly shoved under her nose for a "quick fix" of sucking her thumb...he was real to her.But unfortunately, Bear-Bear was an enabler. Emma has always sucked her thumb while holding onto his hat. That is the only time she sucks her thumb. Most of the time Bear-Bear was around, she was taking mini-breaks to suck her thumb...the poor thumb that is now flat and soft from 4+ years of sucking. We knew that if we had any chance of breaking her from sucking her thumb, we were going to have to put Bear-Bear away. We have know this for a long time now, but it has been so difficult to go ahead with this plan due to her intense relationship with this stuffed animal...with her best friend.
Originally, we started telling her that we had to give up Bear-Bear when she turned 5...but that back-fired when she started dreading her 5th birthday. She didn't want her birthday to come. She didn't want to turn 5. So, we decided to move the date up a few months, unbeknownst to her at first. With just a couple of days to go until "give up Bear-Bear day", we let her in on the plan...with a twist. Once this tough transition was final, she would be accompanying her family and some great friends from Indiana to Disney World for a big girl celebration. This was the catalyst that helped move her to this new life without bear-bear...this new life without the need to suck her thumb...this transition into being a "big girl".
Today was the day...the day that Bear-Bear would make his way to a memory box on the wall of the girls' bedroom. Poor Emma has been an emotional wreck all week thinking about this day. To say that this week has been heartbreaking to watch for all of us has been an understatement. Bear-Bear has become part of our family. I know that we will all miss seeing his worn-out hat pressed to Emma's nose as she sucks her thumb. But I also know that we will not miss him nearly as much as Emma. Seeing your child's heart hurt is one of the most difficult things to do. However, as a parent, we must always think about the long-term...Emma needs to stop sucking her thumb for many reasons and it is our duty to help her through this difficult journey.Today was definitely Bear-Bear day! He accompanied Emma to pick Abby up from school, where she sucked her thumb the entire time, pausing briefly to tell all her friends and friends' moms about him and that she was putting him in the box today. I had one last hurrah of rocking Emma while she held her best friend tight and sucked her thumb...I can not tell you how many hours this scenario has played out in the past 4 years, and I wanted one more chance to put it away in my memory banks. We held a little going away party for Bear-Bear, where Abby and Emma sang a going away song to the sweet guy...complete with Emma falling apart in sobs at the end of the song. Bear-Bear had cookies with frosting as his last supper before being put in the memory box.
It was a tough day. There were many tears...both from Emma and myself. It's funny how we get attached to the things our children love. It is almost as if our hearts seem to unite with those so close to us in even these genuine ways. Tonight, Emma looked at Bear-Bear through tear-rimmed eyes as he sat in a glass covered memory box and decided to take a stuffed giraffe to bed. She did not suck her thumb, as we knew she wouldn't. Jay is sleeping with our middle child to give her the additional comfort she may need through the night, but all in all, it has been a better transition than we imagined.
Sometimes parents have to make hard decisions in order to direct our children in the ways they should go. This was indeed one of those hard decisions. But in the long run, we may have a non-thumbsucker now.