There are two types of people in this world, process people and goal people. Danny is a process person — he enjoys the process of doing things and learning things, and even if he doesn’t achieve the objective can see what he gained from going through the process. I am not such a person. I enjoy accomplishing things and meeting goals, but do not generally enjoy the process of something for its own sake. This can be very frustrating when it comes to something that is more process than achievement, like learning a language or, as I’m learning, raising a child, and I’m trying to overcome my tendency to fixate on the goal to the exclusion of the process.

This week, for instance, I’m trying to help Stephen learn to self-soothe. I’ve always hated his love affair with the pacifier, not because I feel so strongly about pacifiers per se but because I want him to learn to calm himself down and get himself to sleep, not to be dependent on this bit of plastic that can be lost. Especially with all the traveling we’ve been doing and will continue to do, I don’t want to be worrying about whether we packed enough pacis or constantly attaching the pacifier to his clothing so it doesn’t fall on some gross airline floor or sidewalk somewhere when we don’t have a spare. I also don’t love that he’s just figured out that if he spits the pacifier out, we have to come back into his room to put it in, thus granting him a temporary respite from sleeping alone in his crib. He’s finally to the point where he can get his thumb into his mouth, and loves to suck on it, but has not yet figured out that he can put it in his mouth when he’s upset or tired and wants to suck on something to go to sleep, he’s still looking for us to stick his paci in his mouth for that.

I know there are downsides to him sucking his thumb as well, but the way I look at it right now he’s going to suck either the pacifier or his thumb, and of the two of them I personally would rather him be able to calm himself down without needing an external prop. It will be another few months before he can pick up a pacifier and put it in his mouth, but his thumb he always has with him and he can do it himself right now, so for me it’s the lesser of two evils. I sucked my thumb as a baby (I think) and so did my sister, and both of us turned out to be healthy responsible adults. We both needed braces, but that was not related to the thumb-sucking.

So today begins the training. For the first time in a month, I put Stephen down for a nap without swaddling him. I noticed that after the first few times I put the pacifier back in his mouth when he inevitably knocked it out, he started moving his hand toward his mouth to grab my hand (which was holding the pacifier). So the next time, I didn’t pick up the pacifier but rather just put my hand near his mouth, and when he grabbed for it I moved my hand out of the way so that he could get his hand into his mouth. He sucked happily on his thumb for a few minutes, and then flailed his arms as he is wont to do and lost his thumb. I again put my hand down near his mouth as if to insert the paci, and with a little gentle nudge he got his thumb into his mouth again. We’re now going on ten minutes of silence, so maybe it worked this time!

To bring this back to the process/goal thing, I had to realize that if I want Stephen to learn to self-soothe, I’m going to have to temporarily accept that it will take longer for him to fall asleep at naptime (thirty minutes this morning versus the standard ten or fifteen) but that eventually it will pay off. This was initially a little hard for me to swallow as it’s been a struggle for the past week or so to get him to fall asleep at naptime without histrionics, so part of me just wants to get him to sleep as quickly and painlessly as possible, but I really think the drama has been because he’s outgrowing the swaddling/pacifier routine and needs help to figure out a new routine that will work now. So we’ll see.

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