From his second day of life, Ben has loved his pacifier. Loved it with all of his tiny being. Husband and I started calling it his “button” (short for mute button) on a whim and it stuck. For nearly two years, the button has been a part of him. At the hand-offs, caretakers always ask, “Do you have the button?” For nearly two years, he was his button and his button was him. Until today.
Generally, when I think of being inspired by a book, I think of great literature and people over the age of 10. Today, Ben was inspired by a surprisingly graphic and sad Swedish-translated-to-English book called Benny and the Binky. I picked up the book yesterday when we went to the library and I saw the title and thought it had something to do with giving up your pacifier. Seeing as Ben is sneaking up on two at a rapid pace, I thought I might get it and read it a couple of times to get him used to the idea of giving up his button.
I didn’t pre-read the book to ensure it for quality, but I thought I’d give it a go anyway. It was horrifying. The book, as a whole, isn’t about getting rid of your pacifier, it’s more about growing up once you have a new sibling (no new siblings for Ben for a long time!). This poor little pig gets a new brother, watches the brother get a binky, feels jealous, then takes the brother outside and steals the binky before going on a tour of town. On this tour of town, he gets mocked by a daycare saying that he is “too old” for a binky and then he gets punched in the nose by three bullies for having said binky. Then, when the pig (Benny), gets home, he gives the binky back to his brother and grows-up into not needing it. Horrifying. To make matters worse, in the course of the first reading, I changed the names to “Ben” and “button” to give the real Ben the message. Sadly (or, not so sadly), he got it.
When we got to the last page, his little face crumpled into the saddest expression you have ever seen and said, “It’s gone.” On the spur of the moment, I decided to go with it and said, “Yes, honey. Button is gone.” He was devastated and wailed. For the rest of the day, he has asked for his button a couple of times and I have informed him, “It’s gone.” His expression changes to sadness and he repeats, “It’s gone.” After a few minutes or so, he resigns himself to his fate and moves on. It’s both sad and heartening to see how resilient a kid can be.
So far, this has been one of the most devastating things I’ve had to do as a parent. I’ve had to take away something that he loves in order to help him grow-up. It has been one of those days that feels both like a triumph and a defeat. I’m helping him become a kid, but erasing some of the vestiges of babyhood that I held so dear. Being a parent is both beautiful and terrible. In loving someone, you have to do things to make them sad (at least temporary) and it breaks your heart to do it, but you know that when he’s seven and no longer using a pacifier, he’ll silently thank you.