Dodo. Susu. Soother. Pacifier. Paci. Dummy.Whatever you call it, they are all the same. A rubber teat on a piece of hard plastic that can make or break your day.
We call it a dodo here in our house.
It seems fitting. An extinct bird that features in imaginative worlds. Lewis Carroll life. Having a child is a bit like falling down the rabbit hole (or through the looking glass) so a dodo, to me, is an apt title for the manmade comfort.
My eldest was first offered a dodo when she was seven days old. I was of the No Soother (unless neccessary) Brigade. I wasn’t activist or anything. I wasn’t vocal. I had not noticed them in other children’s worlds. I hadn’t bought one. I hadn’t thought of one. I just hadn’t realised we needed one. I had never had had children and my own Mother said that my sister and I rejected ours so I wasn’t aware of the comforts for a child. My mother in law loves dodos and can remember how much sucking her own thumb was a pleasure. She was right. Gigi was in ICU when she was seven days old (another hairy tale for another day, just know she is all good now). She had a large operation and her nurse asked if we could give her a dodo. Having no other way to spoil or treat her at that age, I fervently nodded through tears, yes, yes please. Anything.
It began there.
I find that a tiny child with a dodo is nodded at and cooed at like any other until they find their feet. Then Judge Dodo arrives.
The Judge is a look. A frown. Pursed eyebrows. Thoughts without words. Eye talk. Eye judgement.
Gigi will be three at the end of this month. She is taller than many four year olds. Her favourite dodo (the only one she wants) is a pink butterfly Tesco brand one. We have five. She has it for sleep and often in the car. She calls for it when times are tough or when she is tired. We have a pot where the dodo lives and the dodo must be put there when not required. Often Gigi tells me that she is not a baby and dodos are for babies but this is usually when she is full of energy. If it disappears, she is devastated.
Gigi was sick a few months back- a common virus. On the Sunday of that illness (day five of the bug) we left the house for a trip to a local castle and grounds. After a walk, Gigi wanted her dodo. She was drained. We let her have it and then it was sandpit time. I saw a little girl (aged about four) spot Gigi. She pointed and shouted, ‘Look Mammy that big girl has a dodo’ . The mortified Mammy of the little girl loudly talked about her own little girl ‘s dodo-love to ease our comfort but it was there. My tall child looks five and not two. The social stigma had been acknowledged. The other Mother had not judged me and was far more uncomfortable than I but her child’s proclamation had uncovered her as a Judge Dodo victim. My Gigi is tall. She will gather stares for having a dodo. Should her height mean she shouldn’t have one? Should I be removing it cold turkey? Cold dodo even?
Judge Dodo has become very prominent only recently to me. He has probably been around for a long time but I wasn’t aware of his presence. My cousin and her husband are doctors and have a four year old cousin’s husband is a paediatrician. Their boy had a soother until recently. They both talked to me about the judgement they felt in the town they lived in (in the UK about one hour from London) if their boy was out with his soother. It was a grievance between them. Judge Dodo was pacing the streets with a gavel and they were in the dock.
I remember the online barrage the Beckhams received for an image of a four year old Harper with a soother. I think being in the public eye can be a personal choice but I did think this was very unfair treatment of the family. Judge Dodo, you see. Context plays no part.
My youngest has copied her sister. She loves her dodo more than anything and spends her day asking for ‘my dodo, my dodo’. At 18 months, Judge Dodo has left her alone so far. She is walking and running about so it won’t be long. If I don’t take it away, she will be in the firing line. My dilemma.
I feel awkward about it all. I know that I shouldn’t care but I do. The Judge has gotten to me. My child’s crèche were very shocked to know Gigi still had a dodo at night. She has it in the car too but they don’t know that. I ask her for it before we go in the door. Gigi hands it over happily. The oldest minder at the crèche tells me she hates seeing a child in public sucking a soother. Oh it looks terrible she pronounced as if the child was nibbling on a hand grenade with lewd images etched upon it and sentenced all errant parents to ten years hard labour being a social stigma.
I know she was telling me this as she knows. She knows our secret. The moment my child is in the car, comforted by the presence of her Mammy and homeward bound, she wants her dodo. And maybe her blankie.
It puts me in mind of how I feel putting on my jammies when the evening jobs are done. Happy. I am not refusing her that secure feeling. She looks so content.
Social pressure is alive and strong in the parenting world. It spans far and wide beyond dodos but today I focus on the dodo. I hate admitting this too but it is also gender based. A dad with a toddler and a dodo often gets less judgment than a mum with a toddler and a dodo (unless you are David Beckham).
We are so hard on mothers.
Mothers are so hard on themselves. We make each other feel dreadful.
I am sure we will have dodo fairies and all coming one day to take the offending items away but until then, my tall almost three year old and I will face the objections of Judge Dodo.
Should we be caught.
Our dodo lives on.