Young Rome (Panama Jackson archive)

Parents, stop me if you’ve heard any of this before. Of my three children, my youngest, Rome, is by far the biggest spark plug. He’s a living, breathing 100 emoji. When he’s asleep, we take pains to make sure he sleeps as long as possible, shushing any and everybody in the vicinity making noise—not because we don’t enjoy his company, but because Rome without enough sleep is a Rome to be reckoned with. He’s a lot of fun, but he keeps us on our toes. He’s the most affectionate and, similarly, most likely to let you know when he is not happy. The boy is a nonstop thrill ride of adventure.

We recently took my boys to a birthday party for a little girl turning 4. Upon entering the facility, my other son, Bash (who is about to turn 3), wanted to play with his mother. But Rome? Rome immediately started pointing at grown-ups and saying, “Youuuuuuuu!” Why? I don’t know. That’s just how he rolls.

Rome rolls. He’s the cutest thing, but he also has this screech thing he likes to do when he’s not thrilled with how some shit is going down. He’s done it since the day he was born. Rome is Rome; strong-willed, vocal, loving and ’bout that action.

Once, his big sister took something from him; he sized her up, timed her, and when she attempted to walk by, he lunged at her and tried to take out her legs. He wasn’t able to, of course; he’s only 1. But, man, did he try.

Rome is, again, about that action.

One area where Rome has asserted himself is in the battle over his pacifier.

On the day Rome was born, the nurses plugged him up with a pacifier in attempts to stop that screeching thing he does. Since then, trying to remove Rome’s pacifier has been a constant in our house.

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At one point, we bought a bunch just to have backups because when he lost his pacifier—say, he dropped it and it rolled under the couch—he’d throw the world’s biggest and most emphatic tantrum. He would get so pissed, and stay pissed even when he got it back, over the loss of the original. He’s super strong-willed.

His grandmother hates his pacifier. She wants it gone. And over a week sometime last year, Roman went to hang with his grandmother and came home a rehabbed and pacifier-detoxed child. The pacy was gone, and he wasn’t looking for it and he wasn’t crying for it. He went to sleep in his crib without it and slept the whole night.

As opposed to all of our pictures with him featuring that tiny little pacy, now we had pictures of Roman smiling and doing the thing he does best, lighting up a room with his personality and smile. Remember that stockpile of pacifiers? We tossed most of them. We kept two. Backups. Reserves. Just in cases.

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What a bad idea.

I don’t know how it happened, but this little detective managed to find a pacifier and then we lost all of the hard work we’d done keeping it out. Now he’s back to being a nicotine-laced-with-crack head for his pacifier. His whole day can be affected by whether or not he has his pacifier when he wakes up in the morning. At night, I try to sneak in and take it from him. But I almost think he has a stash spot.

This past weekend, I put him down for a nap. When he was sound asleep, I took the pacifier out of his mouth and hid it in his room. I went up to check on him about 45 minutes later, and lo and behold, he had a pacifier in his mouth. The one I hid was STILL in its hiding place.

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On mornings when we manage to remove it and he forgets, we’re smooth sailing. But if he doesn’t have it and realizes it, the day will be long. If you give it to him, he gets immediately happy and feels like he has his friend. If he drops it, you will hear a little voice say, “Where it go?” with shoulders shrugged and hands out in a curious fashion.

It’s become a constant struggle in our house.

On the one hand, we want that thing gone for teeth and speech reasons (depending on which research you read and subscribe to). He communicates very effectively, but we can’t help wondering if the use of the pacifier has slowed that progress.

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On the other hand, when Rome doesn’t have his pacifier, Rome makes sure we all know and feel it. Granted, he’s 1, and we’re all very clear that our children are not the bosses of us, but some kids don’t read yet, so those memos are lost on them.

The pacifier struggle is a real one. My other two kids weren’t really pacifier kids, or at least the pacifiers weren’t long-term accessories. Sure, we kept one or two on deck for soothing purposes. But Rome ... Rome is like, “Naw, that pacifier is my homeboy.”

Sometimes we try to go the cold turkey route, and some days it works. Other days it ends up being akin to winning the battle to lose the war and freedom and everything at the same time.

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He’ll be 2 in May, and come hell or high water, his little friend, the Blue Infant Pacy, is going to make its way out of there again. We did it once; we shall rise again. And Rome will be fine.

Honestly, I don’t even mind the pacifier thing too much. I fight the battle because it’s one we’ve agreed to fight as a house and because Rome seems to fight SO hard to keep it. It’s a test of will at this point, and no 1-year-old should be winning tests of will against a parent.

But I’ve spoken with other parents who have a similar battle. According to many sites and organizations that probably also have many leather-bound books, kids are fine on pacifiers until they’re around 4 for dental purposes, which is comforting. But with my kid in particular, his attachment to his pacifier isn’t even soothing; it’s legit his homey. Which is part of the struggle. It seems messed up to take his friend. He’s so loyal.

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One day, we’ll win this battle over the pacifier, and I’m sure some of my other parents can feel me. But for now, Rome seems intent on keeping his homey around for as long as he possibly can. And when he goes to sleep tonight, I’ll try to take it again.

And, tomorrow, we pray we get to live to fight again.