Big Girls

My two-year old daughter reached with both hands for the baby bottle. Sitting down on her bed, I opened the book to begin reading her night-time story. Instead of reading, I lowered the book and said, “Niki, you’re such a grown-up girl! You don’t need diapers anymore and now you’ve even started to sleep in a big girl bed!”

                I wanted my baby girl’s babyhood to last longer, but after a week of internal debate,  finally had to reluctantly admit that Niki was too old to be still having a bottle at bedtime. One reason I was reluctant to take her bottle away, was because she didn’t use a pacifier nor had a special blanket. Would bedtime be too hard and comfortless without the soothing bottle?

                Niki basked in my compliments. She bit the bottle’s nipple and smiled. She knew she was a big girl and was happy that I recognized that.

                Before reading the bedtime story, I leaned forward and shared in a low, confidential tone, “Did you know that big girls don’t use bottles?” My daughter nodded, but I wasn’t sure she understood.

                For the next three days, I told Niki from time to time that big girls don’t use bottles. On the morning of the fourth day, I took a large, brown paper grocery store bag and used a black magic marker to write on one side, “Hide this in the garage.”

                That afternoon as I prepared the evening meal, I opened the bag I’d prepared and told Niki that she was a big girl who didn’t need baby bottles anymore. All of her bottles were on the counter and I had Niki stand on a chair to help me throw them into the brown paper bag. Rolling the top of the bag closed and taping it shut with masking tape, I said, “Come and help me throw these bottles away.”

                I opened the back porch door and stood facing Niki. I instructed, “Help me throw the bottles away.” Together, we swung the bag back and forth and at the count of three, let it sail out the door to land on the back lawn.

                When Arnie arrived home for supper, he found the bag and hid it in the garage.

                Everything went smoothly at bedtime until I sat down on the bed to read the nighttime story. Niki suddenly began to search under her pillow and sheets. I Softly questioned, “Are you looking for your bottle?”

                Niki nodded.

I reminded, “We threw them away this afternoon. Remember?”

                My daughter looked disappointed but didn’t make a fuss.

                As Tammie, Niki’s younger sister neared The Big Girl stage four years later, I wondered if she would manage the change as well as her sister did. Like Niki, Tammie had never used a pacifier, but she did have a strong bond to the silky edging on her baby blanket.

                I struggled with the idea of taking Tammie’s bottle away even more than I had with her sister, Niki. Tammie’s first two years had been pocked by emotional shell holes from major orthopedic surgeries, infections, blood transfusions and intestinal problems caused by TAR syndrome. Could I, or even should I, treat her like a normal child?

As hard as it was, I knew in my heart what I had to do. I began to point out to Tammie that she was a big girl. She liked hearing that. I also informed her that, “Big girls don’t suck on baby bottles.”

On the fourth day I prepared the brown paper bag with the message, “Hide this in the garage.” While preparing supper that evening, I helped Tammie put her bottles in the bag and used masking tape to keep the bag shut.

At the back door, Tammie and I swung the bag back and forth before letting go. It landed on the back lawn. When Arnie came home for supper, he found it and hid it in the garage.

Tammie missed her bottle at first, but like her big sister, didn’t make a fuss over it. I felt fortunate, but realize that the plan had worked out because both daughters had truly arrived at the big girl stage.

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