Following on from the controversy surrounding David and Victoria Beckhams daughter Harper and her dummy usage at the age of 4, I had a little ponder on the issue myself …
My first 3 children refused the dummy as babies – Like a lot of parents, I tried and tried it with each of them during moments of newborn despair, but to no avail. Good, I thought … even though there were times when I reeeally could have done with all the help I could find with soothing them to sleep! Still, if they didn’t want to take it, then that was fine.
Then, baby number 4 arrives, and he laps the dummy up within the first few weeks of life. He loved it; couldn’t get enough of it. Great! it proved to be a really useful little helping hand when I needed it.
Fast forward 3 years and the habit was still going strong for him. Fortunately, it was only used at bedtime (A restriction I felt quite smug about) So no public judgement to worry about and our little secret was safe within the confines of our own home. No-one needed know about the horrible, plasticy, Disney themed, glow in the dark truth. (The glow in the dark upgrade was purely for our benefit of course, so that we stood a chance in hell of finding the sodding thing 6 times an hour during the night when it was inevitably dropped down the side of his bed)
Then, last year we started a big construction project on our home. Our once peaceful abode turned overnight in a full-blown construction site, bursting at the seems with big burley strangers wearing hardhats and no t-shirts, walking around my little boys home like they owned the place. The tranquillity my son knew until that point of his life had been replaced by a constant, head banging noise starting at 7am, accompanied by shaking walls and crumbling plaster; his belongings all packed up temporarily and taken away. Suffice to say that my little man at just 3 years old, found this incredibly unsettling and actually, pretty traumatic.
So, what could I do to soothe and calm him? to settle him as best I could and reassure him that despite appearances, everything was going to be ok?
Give him his dummy of course.
When I was busy talking to the strangers (builders) and I would notice him fret at my distance? I’d give him his dummy and his favourite bear.
When I would have to leave him in one room and walk into another, leaving him alone surrounded by un-nerving sounds all around, what would I do? Give him his dummy and his favourite bear.
When the disruption of his sleep routine meant settling him in an unusual place at an unusual time, whilst he was upset and overtired, what would I do? Give him his dummy and his favourite bear.
Of course I did.
Was this because I was a sloppy, lazy parent?
OF COURSE NOT.
At that time, it worked. It helped. And it calmed him. Consequently, I had no problem with it whatsoever. In fact, that dummy was a lifesaver on many occasion during the build.
But then the building work came to a close, and everything settled back down at home. Our lives returned to normal …. But, we were then left with a brand new problem – He was approaching 4 years old, and had a new constant dummy habit. He wanted it at every occasion throughout the day, and for a while there, we found ourselves obliging. Because its just easier to do that, isn’t it? And because you cant just take something special away from a young child without first working out some kind of strategy.
Now, I know for a fact that there were times when his dummy usage attracted some judgment from others. People remarked ‘lets get that horrible thing out, shall we’ and it would bother me, making me feel the need to explain myself as a mother. I never did though, explain I mean, because frankly, I knew that as fully devoted and tuned-in parents, we were just doing what was best for him and his emotional well-being at that time in his life. I knew it made perfect sense for him, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to explain myself to anyone.
So, dummies aren’t just given to babies and children for reasons of parental laziness as is often the general consensus.
It is simply a measure deemed appropriate for some children (not all) for comfort, which in itself stems from love and care.
For us and our beloved son, it worked wonders.
Suffice to say that in the end, just before my sons 4th birthday, I allowed our rotating stock of 4 or 5 dummies to run down to just 1. The rest were all lost, dropped, and bitten in half. So it was at this point that I told my boy that once the last one was gone, that was it. I wouldn’t buy him another – Because he was a big boy, and because I knew that in my heart of hearts, the dummy had served it purpose and could do with going.
He understood the plan though, and together, through mutual understanding (and total lack of replacements together with total avoidance of the dummy isle in Sainsburys!) the habit ground to a happy and timely halt.
So to surmise, parents and children will wean the dummies out of their routines in their own good time.
Some do it early on.
Either way, ultimately, does it really matter?
Habits of all kinds, by their very nature, are tricky little feckers, and we really shouldn’t judge.
What do you think – was I wrong to encourage and enable a dummy habit in my 3 year old last year?
Id love to hear your thoughts below.
Thank you for reading