It's not every day that Cinderella walks through our front door, but here she is, stopping by to pick up the soother for Snow White's baby... I should maybe back up a little...
Months ago, when we had lessened Clara's soother usage to only while she was in bed - and when we wanted her to sleep in the car - we informed her that when she turned 3 years old, she would no longer get to have her soother at all. This was in the far distant future, and since she no longer had her soother in her mouth when she was out in public or even most of the time at home, we didn't think it really mattered to let her keep it under her pillow for awhile longer.
Now, typically, I'm a fan of getting rid of 'baby habits' (things that you don't want your kids doing when they start school like being in diapers, drinking from a bottle, using a soother, etc.) as soon as possible because the longer a child has these habits, the more difficult they can be to 'wean' from. I also typically have the mentality that 'if you have to do it eventually - you might as well get it over with'. So, I would not probably have allowed Clara to use a soother up until her 3rd Birthday if she hadn't become a big sister at under 2 years old, which meant she was moved to a toddler bed at about 19 months and was toilet trained at 22 months. Since so much changed for her in such a small time, and she was so dependent on her 'gummy', I allowed her the small indulgence of keeping it for awhile longer.
Shortly after the agreement to remove the soother at 3 years was made, she experienced a few things that made us a bit lazy about the whole thing. She became quite sick at one point, and since she was almost always nearly sleeping - we let her keep her 'gummy' while she was sick. Then, it became a means of comfort for her if anything in our life was amiss - such as a huge renovation - and over summer we went on a couple of trips with at least nap-length drives and so she seemed to be using her soother more and more. As she had it more and more, she began to try to keep it in her mouth more and more - even when we had no 'good' excuse for her to have it. For a week, I tried to stay strong about the 'only in bed' rule, but Clara's determination won over when she decided to then spend every waking moment in bed. I suddenly had a toddler who would spend more than half of her day in bed - lacking energy or joy - because she didn't want to be without her gummy. Since I had already made the promise to take it away when she was 3, I didn't feel like it would be fair to take it away sooner.
So, I gave up. I let her have it all the time. Her 3rd Birthday was only a couple of months away, and I decided it would be easier to end her dependence cold turkey.
As her Birthday neared, we continued to remind her of this promise. She knew the story, and when we asked what would happen when she turned 3 she would recite "I won't get my gummy ANY MORE!". But this statement didn't bother her at all until a few days ago, when we began counting sleeps. She started to avoid the subject, and when we were down to two days, she started seeming visibly stressed. I knew we couldn't back down, so I tried to think of ways to make the transition somehow easier for her.
I recalled hearing about something that Disney would do in a circumstance like this - where you could write a letter to your favourite princess, and she would write a letter back. I heard about this being used somehow in the context of a child 'growing out of' something, but I couldn't quite figure out what the letter would accomplish. Would it be simply congratulatory? Would it be a deal made between princess and child? Also, I was skeptical that it would work - a letter in the mail? How real could that seem to a 3 year old?
Anyway, her birthday snuck up on me anyway and in the end I wouldn't have had time to contact Disney.
This brings me to the morning of December 10 (the day before her birthday) when I decided to tell her this story to go along with the gummy-taking event. I wanted to give her some reason to WANT to go along with it:
Clara, when you are 3, you can finally be a REAL princess. But princesses can't have gummy's, so you can't have your gummy any more.
She seemed happy enough with this story, and then I overheard her repeating it. "When I'm 3, I'm not going to have my gummy any more - and a REAL PRINCESS is going to come!!"
I quickly jumped in to explain that a princess wasn't going to come, but that she would BE a real princess - but as I was explaining this, I realized that I could probably make a real princess come after all...
A nearby business in our city, called Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo that hosts birthday parties - complete with Disney princesses - or you can hire a princess to come to your home if you are having an at-home birthday. When Clara was watching her afternoon quiet-time TV, I called them up and asked for what may have been an unorthodox favour - would they be willing to send a princess (Cinderella) to our house to talk to Clara in person and to take away her soother? I was extremely flexible on the time, so we were able to work out some time in the afternoon.
Clara knew nothing of this plan until the next morning when I told her that Cinderella would be coming to take the soother for another baby somewhere who needs it. Clara was animatedly playing with her small plastic princess figurines, and she suddenly seemed very stressed about this situation.
"No! Cinderella can't take the gummy! Snow White needs it!"
So I asked Clara if Snow White had had a baby, and when Clara nodded, I explained that Cinderella was going to come and get the soother for Snow White's baby. We continued to play with the figurines, and I suspect she didn't actually think Cinderella was going to come...
But she did! At 12:30pm, Cinderella walked through the door. Clara reacted with a bit of awe, confusion and excitement. She ran from Cinderella to Brian and back a few times over, exclaiming randomly that 'That's Cinderella!!'.
Cinderella gave Clara a gift that the mice had made for her...
Her very own Cinderella ball gown! (That we had purchased at Target a few days earlier, and I had set it in the closet and told the woman at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo where 'Cinderella' could find it)
Cinderella then told Clara that she could stay for a little while, and so Clara got out her Disney story book and immediately had Cinderella read Cinderella to Cinderella. As she read, Clara would point to the pages at the cartoon Cinderella and say 'That's ME!!! And You!!! We're BOTH Cinderellas!!!'
I informed Clara that she could take Cinderella downstairs to play with all of her toys, but I don't think she was a little bit afraid that if she dared move that Cinderella might disappear. She said 'No! I want to stay right here!' I felt bad for the older Cinderella, since 'right here' was basically at the front door where she walked in, but no one complained.
After reading Cinderella at least once, and I also heard Alice and Wonderland being read, the Cinderella's began to play in other spaces of our (new) main room. They played with the princess figurines on the living room floor, and then the 'real' Cinderella painted Clara's nails. I think Clara was in heaven.
Of course I made them pose...
And they each had one of Clara's birthday cupcakes. Cinderella stayed longer than I paid her for, taking time from school to be with Clara. I am so unbelievably grateful that this worked out, and for this teenage girl who took time out of her day to spend time with a 3-year-old. I can't imagine how magical it must have seemed to Clara to see her hero in person, and be able to spend one-on-one playtime with her!
It was a fairy tale dream come true!
I was going to post about how her first gummy-free day had gone, but I'm already at 1500 words and I'm sure we don't have any idea how Clara's first few gummy-free days will be, and after a few days I'm sure I will have more to tell. So, for another post...