Our daughter was a self-soother from the moment she arrived in this world. Born in April of 2020, we were hit on all sides with discomfort, fear, and loneliness. It was just us two, snuggled away in quarantine in a little hospital thirty miles from home. I did the very best I could to bond with and comfort her, but the delivery was cesarean, and I was in rough shape. With no family present to help shoulder the burden of constant diaper changes and feedings, I had to rely on the sparsely staffed nursing staff. Needlessly to say, it was a rough experience that I wish never to repeat.
The trauma of it all was lessened significantly by the fact that our daughter was a warrior. She cried a bit when hungry or wet but otherwise she just slept. Carefully, sucky on her middle finger she suckled her way to comfort. It’s like she understood that there was nothing we could do to remedy our situation but wait for it to pass.
Sadly, I have very little to say about the next nine months. Post partum depression claimed me and with the rest of the world locked away in quarantine, the chaos that is caring for a newborn fell squarely on my husband. He rose to the occasion, quit his job, and took over as mother and father while I recovered.
When the fog that prevented me from fully participating in my own life, finally lifted, I had a lot to learn about our little girl. One of the first things that became crystal clear was that our little bundle of joy LOVED her “Nini”.
The word “nini” is not a word we would have chosen for a pacifier. Our son had a teacher who called the pacifier a “nini” and it stuck. I did try and replace the word with something more familiar to us like “pasi” or “nuk” but I failed. The teacher, who’s name I can’t remember, bestowed onto our family the word “nini” for pacifier and that was the end of it.
Our daughter never lost her nini. She always knew where it was and would hold onto it in her hand when she wasn’t sucking on it. Compared to our son who had a period where he probably lost three ninis a week; her awareness of her nini was nothing short of a miracle.
In almost three years, I’ve purchased three packs of ninis, which were three different sizes. As far as I know, she’s only lost one nini and that wasn’t really lost, she just dropped in a full toilet, and we cut our loses.
Due to her affinity for ninis, she has had several injuries that were made much worse because she had one in her mouth at the time. I made rules like she could only have them at bedtime, in the car, or nap time, but my rule was inevitably eroded in a way that only a two-year-old can provoke.
We had a babysitter that “helped” the process by cutting some of her ninis. This resulted in our daughter feverishly hiding ninis all over the house. While she never used a nini at school because they are not allowed, she almost always had one in her mouth, hand, or nearby, at home. We talked about weaning her off by trying to temp her with gifts and praise. One time I told her that if she gave up her nini, she could have anything she wanted. She promptly handed me her nini and then said that for her “prize” she wanted “more ninis.”
Last night she fell and hit her face against the wall with a nini in. There was blood and loose teeth. Something that we are all too familiar with. With her third birthday less than a month away, I decided it was time to say farewell to nini. There were lots of tears and hitting and crying. But then finally there was acceptance and cuddles. She slept with few disruptions through the night. She did it. What a big girl!
This morning she proudly exclaimed that her mouth was all better now and that she wanted her nini. We explained that she would not be getting it back. It seems, at least for the time being, that she understands and accepts no more nini.
Reassurance. Security. Comfort. Those are just some of the things I imagine the nini gave our daughter. Independence. Self-assurance. Confidence. Are some of the things I imagine she will gain now that she has said goodbye.
This morning, I was in the car and mentioned something about the blog I wrote yesterday. My husband remarked that it was the first blog I had written, in almost a year, that I didn’t have him proof read before I posted it. He said that he thought I was finally confident enough to put my writing out there without needing his validation.
There was no plan to stop having my husband proof my blog. I have started writing at the library everyday to help with my focus and to reduce the amount of snacks that I seem to find while writing at home. Circumstance made the decision to stop having my husband proof my blogs.
Progress isn’t always linear. Had I set out to stop having my husband proof my blogs, I may have been anxious or unsure about it. I am dyslexic after all.
My husband was my nini in a manner of speaking. My reassurance. My comfort. My security. I trusted that if my writing was garbage or offensive or misleading or just plain ineligible, he would tell me. He would stop me. But as time progressed it just became more of a habit than a necessity.
So, it seems that yesterday, both my daughter and I, said farewell to our ninis. Leaving behind our illusion of reassurance, comfort, and security. We now venture out into the world with a new self-assurance as “big girls” with a boost of confidence.
Today, I will remember that going out into the world without a nini can be scary. But that it is necessary for growth. There will be times when life seems crooked and our insides don’t match our outsides, but these moments are fleeting if we let them be. Farewell Nini!