Our grandson is turning 2 next month, and until yesterday he had a dummy. He had several actually, often at the same time. Sometimes he would walk around with one in each hand, one in his mouth and swap them around, as if somehow one of them could give him more than the one he already had. He is very expressive, but would speak with the dummy in his mouth so that we could not understand him, and when we asked him to take it out so we could hear what he was saying, he would get upset.
Our grandson was very attached to his dummies, and this was one of the few things we could use to discipline him, as he cared about them so deeply. He would get very agitated if he could not find his dummy, and at night, if he fell asleep and the dummy fell out of his mouth, its absence would wake him up.
We wondered how we were ever going to wean him off them.
Yesterday, he was playing around being his cheeky little self and throwing the dummy on the floor. He had been doing this quite a bit and he was down to his last dummy, as several had been thrown in the bin. We told him that if he did it again, we would put his last dummy in the bin. He did it again. His father calmly stood up, picked up the dummy and placed it in the bin. His mother and I gasped. His grandfather stood firm. He was in shock for a bit, then started screaming. This went on for a while.
He was put to bed, comforted and held, and the screaming went on for a while longer, until he finally fell asleep. We thought we were in for a wild night, but once he fell asleep, he slept soundly, and woke in the morning, shining and bright.
He came out to share a cup of tea with me and when the rubbish truck came, we went outside to watch it pick up the rubbish, with his dummy in it. He was so different. There was a calmness, an ease about him. Gone was the anxiousness, the plaintive wailing, the demanding, the insatiable desire for something to put in his mouth, whether it be food, drink or the dummy.
He was so expressive, chatting away clearly and interacting happily. It was as if someone had taken the stopper out of a bottle, and the contents were now free to flow. He went to day care for the day, and when it was time for his afternoon nap, there was no dummy. He giggled and said: “Daddy threw it in the bin!,” then went to sleep. No fuss. He had just let it go.
I learnt a few lessons from all of this.
Firstly, love is not always what we think it is. In these days of ‘helicopter’ parenting (parents who hover over their kids, attending to their every whim and desire), we think it is somehow a loveless thing to let kids feel the consequences of their choices. It is not. That is what love is. Holding another in the love that we are and allowing them to feel that they too are that love.
Secondly, we never know when another person is ready to evolve to the next level of their life. And we should never get in the way when the time comes. I felt he was actually wanting to get rid of the dummy, but did not know how to do it. It had become a burden for him, and getting rid of it has created an enormous sense of spaciousness and ease in his body.
Thirdly, we can use anything in an addictive way, even a bit of brightly coloured plastic. Anything that we use for relief, to numb ourselves, to not feel, to distract ourselves from what we cannot but feel, can become a crutch that we depend on. And knowing that we are dependent on it creates a contraction, and a sense of unease in us, for if we depend on it, what on earth are we going to do without it?
Fourthly, children are amazing, and we can learn so much from them. Their so-called bad behaviours are often their way of communicating to us what is not true, and offer us a way of bringing them – and ourselves – back to truth. We can listen to and honour these markers of what is and is not true… or not. When a child “acts up”, what are they communicating to us?
I love that I live with our daughter and grandson and get to witness and be part of raising another child, having learnt some lessons the hard way while raising my own.
I love that life is a cycle, how everything comes around, how we are all in this together, and how we are all growing and evolving, back to the oneness we are from.
Published with permission of my family.
By Anne Malatt, grandmother, eye surgeon, Richmond Hill, Australia