Breaking Toddler Addictions

As anyone who read James Frey’s fiction-nonfiction “A Million Little Pieces” knows, breaking a beloved of an addiction is an ugly thing. It can rip apart families, destroy lives, and wreak havoc on the land.

Turns out, this is also true of toddlers who have an addiction. 

Before I even got pregnant this second time around, I knew that three things had to happen before I brought another child into this world:

1. DD needed to be potty trained. A gal can only change so many diapers.

2. DD needed to be sleeping in a big girl bed. Parents can only afford so many cribs.

3. DD needed to be broken of her pacifier habit. We only need one baby in the house.

And as I’m into my third trimester, I achieved the first two with relative ease. We all came away unscathed from the potty training not long after DD’s second birthday and now her third birthday is around the corner. Moving to a regular bed is really unmentionable. I saved the worst for last.

Except by the time we faced down breaking her of the passie, I had learned over and over again that nothing was really as bad as the anticipation thus far, and so instead of dreading this ordeal, frankly, I was naively optimistic about it.

Enter the word addiction.

Most people don’t think of the word addiction going hand-in-hand with a toddler. But indeed, it turns out, they can be BFFs.

We are about 10 days into our passie-free zone, chez moi, and I just now am feeling ready to discuss what went down.

First, a tip. A dear friend tipped me off to the “Passie Fairy” and she learned about it from watching “Super Nanny.”

So I quickly ran out and purchased two presents, one for after each nap on the first dark day of being a passie-free zone – with the idea being that the passie is left for other babies (note: not her future baby sister so as to not be unfairly placing blame on the unborn and defenseless b/c we know toddlers have the memory of an elephant) and in return, upon waking up, the passie fairy leaves a “special present” for brave girls and boys.

Let’s be honest, I’m always looking for an excuse to go shopping anyway, so the whole Passie Fairy ruse just gave me a good reason. Again, I naively thought we wouldn’t really need said gifts.

How many of you are laughing at me right now? Go ahead. Laugh away. I deserve it. Mock at will.

We had been talking about how big girls don’t need passies and passies are for babies for many weeks in our house, leading up to the big day. Friday September 5 was DD’s last night with a passie and I warned her of such, knowing that no toddler takes well to surprises. As I reminded her it was her last night with the passie and the passie fairy was coming tomorrow to take her passies away, but she wouldn’t need them because she is a big girl, she nodded enthusiastically (all the while with her passie in her mouth).

Like any true addict knows, you’ll agree to anything while still being fed your addiction. SURE – the passie fairy sounded like a good idea to her at the time because really, she still had her passie and “special presents” were offered.

So Saturday morning rolls around, it’s time to go up for our morning “quiet time,” therefore it’s time to part ways with the passie.

Note to anyone out there – make sure your partner is present for this initial scene. Mine was outside in the pouring rain from some Hurricane, emptying out our clogged drains and missed it in its entirety.

I took the passie from her and the screaming began. Horrible screaming, begging, pleading for the passie. Begging her mommy, “one more time” for passie.

I couldn’t break. I knew I couldn’t give in. Remember the three rules? We need only one baby in the house come late November.

So up the stairs we went, DD aggressively kicking, screaming and begging for passie all the while.

Much to my surprise, she would not even GO INTO her bedroom, let alone face her bed.

And the reality starting sinking in….in my fragile, emotional preggo state – this is going to be a rough weekend….

Long story short, I didn’t fight her and back down the stairs we went, kicking and screaming and begging for the passie, all the while.

DH enters the house about 20 minutes later to peace and quiet because we stopped begging for the passie due to the excitement over the “Special Present” the passie fairy left.

So we bought ourselves some time.

Then came time for the afternoon nap. This one, she needs. And by this time, she was tired.

Two hours kittens.

She cried, begged, pleaded and asked for her passie for TWO HOURS, fighting her nap all the while. We listened to it on the monitor and ignored it. She didn’t cry really hard, obviously we wouldn’t let that go on for so long, but she eventually fell asleep for about half hour. Then woke up sobbing, begging for her passie. I went upstairs and she could barely eek out the words. “mommy, can I please have my p-puh-puh….Mommy, can I please have my Pa-pu-pa..

in between the sobs

Finally the third time “Mommy, can I please have my passie?”

As she sobbed.

Heart is breaking into little pieces……

I dreaded bed time.

But we had another “special present” after that second nap, which bought us more time for distraction.

Note – I am not above bribery to buy time.

Enter bed time.

I will spare you the details in case you are facing down this reality in your house, but let’s just say she sobbed for  ONE HOUR. This time she wasn’t talking, asking us for anything, she was just crying. It was like she knew it was just gone, so she just cried. We debated going upstairs but we knew she was only crying for one thing and we threw that one thing out.

Or so we thought.

After a horrible hour of listening to sweet DD sob and sob, she fell asleep and stayed that way until about – 4am.

When she woke up, realized she didn’t have her passie, and instead of falling back asleep, she started crying and begging for her passie.

Mommy and daddy wanted to cry because it was 4am.

She quickly bounced back and stopped asking for the passie. I thought we turned the corner, we were through the worst, we were all going to survive.

Hours went by with no mention of the passie. Things were looking up.

Then I left before afternoon nap time to run an errand. DH assured me that he had it all under control. I had this sinking feeling that I shouldn’t be leaving but what could possibly happen?

I was blissfully unaware, shopping, when my phone rang and it was a call from Home.

My stomach hit the ground.

DH was amused, telling me I was never going to believe what happened. He took DD upstairs for her nap, she tripped in her room, fell, and under the bed, spotted a PASSIE.

And apparently her face broke out in a huge grin and she was over the moon and so he let her have it “one last time.”

I started crying in the store.

Had we just reverted back in time? How could he let her have it? What did this mean for bed time?

And how could we have been so sloppy as to not make sure there were NO PASSIES left in the house?

This was all too much for a fragile and tired preggo to take. My shopping excursion was ruined.

I was dumbfounded on so many levels and felt beat down by this cruel fate. And sloppiness on our part. Fortunately I was able to purchase MORE presents from the passie fairy, unsure if that was really helping but not knowing what else to do.

After returning home, I angrily informed DH that he was going to be the bad guy. After her nap, he got to take that last passie away from her and explain that if she is a brave big girl tonight, the passie fairy will come again, and leave a present, etc etc.

Back to square one. And the f’ing passie fairy. Weren’t we supposed to be rid of her?

My stress level was through the roof the remainder of the day.

Dread filled my stomach as bed time approached. My chest was tight.

Would she cry for another hour? Could we take it? Maybe I would just leave? Was it all too painful? Was the passie so bad, I wondered?  Does it really matter if she still has it as a three-year-old? Should we just drop it? Was this a sign that she should just keep her passie?  My mind raced. My heart was pounding.

Though she cried after her nap when DH took it away, she cried only for a few minutes. Then bed time came, she asked for it a few times, but no tears. She just went to sleep. We couldn’t believe it. Were we passie-free? Were we through the worst?

As it turns out, we were. Here we are 10 days later and no one talks about passies anymore. DD hasn’t mentioned them. She also doesn’t sleep as much. Though she is sleeping past 4am now, she’s still waking up around 5:30am every day. Clearly she is still working on learning how to wake and then settle back down at that time without her passie. We don’t love being up that early but it is what it is.

With the Sunday afternoon surprise of finding the other passie, what I realized was I totally underestimated not only DH’s judgment call but also DD’s ability to understand his reasoning that this was the last time and we meant it. I really underestimated them both.

Now if only she’ll get back to sleeping past 6am.

5 Responses to Breaking Toddler Addictions
  1. punditdad
    September 15, 2008 | 10:46 pm

    I’ve been wondering when the passie fairy should visit my house — thanks for this post. Do you think you should have done this sooner or this was the right time? Nothing horrifies my more than going to the store and seeing a effing 5 year old with a pacifier in their mouth (swear to god saw it at IKea the other day — I thought the kid was old enough to drive). I think we should end the bottle/passie at the same time at one year and be done?

  2. Asti
    September 16, 2008 | 1:23 pm

    Bravo to you for keeping strong during the crying.

    So my DS is not a passie baby but a thumb sucker. I have some time, but what do you do to end thumb sucking?!

  3. This is Daniel Cook
    September 16, 2008 | 1:54 pm

    Being the capitalist that I am, instead of the fairy we brought both of our boys to the toy store where they were allowed to pick out a toy. We had pre-arranged with the cashier that they would “pay” for the toys with their pacifiers. For the most part it worked like a charm – instead of going to bed with pacifiers they went to bed with big ‘ol firetrucks the first couple nights (amazingly they both picked the exact same firetruck a year apart). I think we read somewhere that this makes it there decision and gives them responsibility and control over the issue. I’m no psychologist but I suppose that’s good.

  4. mother of one half asian kid
    September 16, 2008 | 9:03 pm

    I felt your pain as you went thru this process.. we “emailed” his to his baby cousin.. kids are weird..

  5. kotakeripik
    September 16, 2008 | 10:54 pm

    Thanks for sharing great article!

    Keep posting,


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