Monday nights and Thursday nights are big homework gigs in our home.  It makes sense, of course, the kids come home with their week’s curricular load Monday afternoons, process it throughout the week, and study for Friday assessments on Thursday evenings.  The pace is brisk as I switch hats and offer the support they need.  I help check, edit, copy and find stuff.  I am the last refuge of lost things.  I lost the battle to socks long ago, but I can usually help excavate the missing book, file or coveted item.

Tonight while I was searching for a Spelling assignment, I came across a piece I wrote about my son for a magazine long before I began to blog.  It creates such a provocative juxtaposition to the texting-all-but-teenager (62 days, and yes, he’s counting,) that I wrote about in TXT Spells Love and Trophy that I thought you might enjoy a Flash-to-the-Past peek at The Boy’s first love.

The piece is something of a time capsule.  Written 10 years, 3 children, and 120 mortgage payments ago, it’s part of our family archives.

Poppy Love

My son recently recovered from his first case of puppy love. He’s three, not thirteen, and the subject of his affection was his beloved Poppy (pacifier), not a pretty girl.

My husband argues that it’s not an entirely fair comparison to liken our son’s love of his pacifier with the fleeing infatuation commonly associated with puppy love. This was neither a brief nor fleeting affair; this was a loving, and long-term relationship.

It all started innocently enough. At seven weeks old, The Boy had an insatiable need to suck. Assured by our pediatrician that as a well-established breast feeder he was not at risk of “nipple confusion,” we introduced him to the pacifier. Initially, the chemistry between them was lukewarm at best. He spit it out a lot. He seemed frustrated that no matter how hard he worked it that it yielded no milk. His exploring fingers would dislodge it or spin it upside down. In fact, it was during this initial getting-to-know-you period with all its popping it in and out of his mouth that we began to call his pacifier a “Poppy.”

It wasn’t long before things got pretty serious between The Boy and his poppy.  They soon were going steady and no car ride, nap or bedtime was complete unless they were together.  The Boy would hold his poppy, stroke it lovingly along his cheek and fall asleep happily every night with it in his mouth.

My husband and I were pretty pleased with his catch.  What else could provide him that kind of priceless comfort, pleasure and security for our baby- let alone for $1.69?  We encouraged them as a couple.  If The Boy was crying and I needed to get dinner done, I gave him Poppy.  If he was fussing and we were only half way through the grocery store, we pulled out  Poppy.  As parents, we had a relationship with that magical piece of plastic too.  It was a quick, easy, fix that he truly enjoyed.  Poppy soothed him.  It soothed us.

When The Boy was about to turn two, we realized we needed to come up with a plan to wean him from his beloved Poppy.  We had already restricted its use to only naptime and bedtime, and knew that soon we would have to eliminate it entirely.

Our intentions were noble, but my spirit was weak.  I loved Poppy as much as The Boy.  I had just had my second child and was beginning the process of potty teaching The Boy, and simply did not have the courage or energy to take from him such a primary source of comfort.  Truth be told, I did not want to take it away from me either.  I counted on Poppy.  It helped me make my little boy happy.  It reversed tears to contented smiles in nothing flat- much often faster than I could do on my own no matter how animated my face or tone or warm and tickling my hugs.  The Boy’s mama was as much a Poppy junkie as was her son.

Potty teaching The Boy was not difficult, nor was I at all sorry to see the diapers and wipes and messy ointments go.  Poop in the potty meant less work for me.  It was The Boy’s accomplishment, and for me, a declaration of independence of sorts.  Giving up Poppy, however, well that was another thing entirely.  That simultaneously increased my burden as it took from my little boy his last vestige of babyhood.  On a deep and unconscious level, I was hanging on to Poppy in a futile attempt to hang on to my baby boy.

Such was the maternal ambivalence that found my three year old, “baby boy”, potty trained, reading and Poppy dependent.  I soon realized that my relationship with Poppy had become dysfunctional.  The Boye had outgrown the need for Poppy and needed my resolve to let her go.

We used a gradual approach.  It began with the Poppy pinned to his pillow, then his blanket, then mattress, and finally the Poppy sat alone on his dresser.  We explained to him that when he was ready and could go three nights with the Poppy on his dresser, the Poppy Fairy would come and exchange Poppy for a toy certificate that he could take to the toy store in exchange for a new toy of his choosing.

Every night during this week-long process, The Husband and I would go up to watch The Boy sleep.  We would hold hands and laugh quietly as we watch his craned little neck stretch to hold Poppy in his mouth.  When he could no longer reach it, he slept upside down so he could touch it.  It was painful to watch.  It was the first thing he loved that we had to take away from him.  Our first parental betrayal.  During those nights we reconsidered the wisdom of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.  Giving up Poppy was his loss, but we grieved too.

Gone was the infant who suckled with such intensity.  Gone was the baby who loved to play hide Poppy under the blanket.  Gone was the medicine that was a sure cure to the scrapped knee of the toddler whose fledgling steps missed.  Our baby was gone and this bright, beautiful Poppy-free boy had taken his place seemingly in a beat of my racing heart.

I couldn’t part with Poppy forever.  It lives now in my hope chest next to the shirt I brought him home from the hospital in and my positive pee stick.  As long as I’m living my baby he’ll be.

I am resolved to the sobering prospect that his hurts will now always be harder to fix.  Behind us are the simple days when a $1.69 purchase would guarantee comfort and the notion that I can protect him from all hurts.

His delight as he picked out a talking Tonka truck at Toys R Us with his Poppy Fairy Gift Certificate was complete, but for me, the journey was bittersweet.

****************************************************************

Glory, I was naive.

Now The Boy is almost 13 and not 3.

We’ve both got some scars to prove I can’t protect him for all hurts.

I love my man-boy.

I miss my baby boy.

I hope for the man The Boy will become.

Well there was a time when you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show that to me do you?
And remember when I moved in you?
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah