The 'it' in question? Pacey.
The time comes in a young boy's life when he just has to let go. That time came for Peter recently, when he was able to ask for it by it's full name, 'Pacey-Fire'. Just like that. Two words.
In reality, this had been a long time coming. Sam had given up his pacey just as he turned two, right when Pete was born. He had been chewing on them and eventually he chewed holes in all of his pacies and just didn't like them anymore. I naturally assumed Pete would do the same thing. Boy, was I wrong. Pete wasn't going to give up on it that easily. He was going to need some help. We tried weening him from it, restricting pacey to the car and bed. But that didn't work. He whined for it relentlessly all day until we caved to two minute intervals. Our tolerance had been weakened by the arrival of a real baby, Clementine, and lack of sleep, and gradually pacey began to infiltrate more of the waking hours of the day. Pete was going to have to go cold turkey.
I don't mean to sound cruel. This was as hard for me as it was for him. He was getting bigger. When I told Pete he was going to be giving pacey up soon, forever, I got emotional. This was a big deal. No one knew that more than I. I could easily put myself in his place. Having something that brought him so much comfort taken from him wasn't going to be easy. We don't know yet how hard...or easy...it will be.
This was to be a monumental right of passage. And so it was.
I had heard somewhere--I don't have a lot of inate parenting wisdom, but a few kernals do seem to pop into my head every now and then--that you had to make a big deal of it. So, we did. I think it was my aunt who had told us that when my cousin Andrew was ready to give up his pacey they went and hung the pacey on the pacey-tree where the pacey-fairie would come and pick it up and pass it on to the next baby that needed it. So, I came up with a similar parable. Pete would throw his pacey over a waterfall (we are in Brazil after all). The pacey would float down the river to a new baby who needed his pacey.
Now, all we needed was a waterfall.
Enter, Salto do Tororó.
Again, fortunately, we live in Brazil and waterfalls are easy to come by. We drove about a 1/2 hour outside of town to a waterfall we had never been to before. It wasn't on any map and the directions I was able to get off the internet (in Portuguese) were vague to say the least. We were to drove down DF-140 for about 6 kilometers until we got a bend in the highway, then we would turn right onto a dirt road. Easy enough, I thought.
I warned Elise that I had no idea where I was going or how difficult the trail would be once we got there. But we were badly in need of adventure after being sick for the past two months (literally), a preposterous malady that went through all five of us two and a half times, finally culminating in a day when I literally slept 6 hours, which is not easy to do with 3 kids unless you have the most amazing wife in the world (thank you thank you thank you, Elise).
We drove down DF-140 until we got to the border of the Federal District and the state of Goiás and a small town called Alphaville, a residental suburb out in the middle of nowhere. We had obviously passed the waterfall, so we turned around and pulled into a gas station where I asked for directions. Somehow, we had passed it again coming back the other way. So much for my thinking there might be a sign off the highway telling us which random, nondescript red earthen dirt road we were supposed to bounce down.
We had to stop for directions two more times before finally finding the right dirt road. Of course, we knew it was the right one, because it was the bumpiest and we followed two mountain bikers down it because somehow I was sure they knew where they were going.
We pulled into a small grass lot. Finally seeing the small plaquinha that read, 'Cachoeira'. As me and my two boys tumbled out of the car. Two other couples who had followed us in kindly offered to help us down the trail. I told them we'd be fine and that, in fact, there was a third baby that we were going to have to somehow get down the trail, too. No, we'd be fine, I thought, as I waved them off.
We hiked, scrambling over rocks and down stone steps. Sam was a trooper. The trail descended into a broad valley that was greener than the surrounding landscape, parched as it was from the lack of rain; It was still the dry season. We stepped down into brush, and the trees grew thicker. We finally heard the rush of water. We came upon a narrow stream, and a bridge that was nothing more than three logs across it, with a tangle of wire for a hand rail.
We paused. I had no idea how we were going to get our three kids across it. A family caught up to us from behind. Six or seven strong, between the lot of them, they were carrying all the fixings for a churrasco, charcoal, a grill, a cooler, beer, etc. One by one they crossed the logs. It was like something out of Indiana Jones. Okay, if they can do it, I thought, we can do it. Elise went first, camera in tow, Clem strapped to her chest. I went next, fully planning to leave Pete on the other side and come back for Sam. But before I could, three shirtless brasileiros came bounding down the path. Without barely a pause, the burliest of the three, scooped Sam up and easily carried him across the stream. We'd made it! "How are we going to get back across?" Sam asked. I told him we'd worry about that later.
We continued down the path, loosely following the stream, until we came to the top of the waterfall. There were three guys wearing bicycle helmets standing on the edge of the waterfall. They were strapped into caribiners and had every intention of rappeling down the face of the waterfall. Awesome! I thought. I wanted to get their card or their number, but Elise had other intentions. Like not seeing her husband plummet to his demise, so we carried on.
Unfortunately, we never made it to the bottom of the waterfall. The path was too steep. We had made the right decision. As it was, Sam barely made it back to the car after his 2 km plus hike on undulating terrain in the hot mid-day Brazilian sun. We found a shady spot on the bank of the stream and stopped for water, bananas and pretzels. Sam and Pete took their shoes off and threw bits of pretzel in the water, watching the fish jump and nibble at them.
After a few minutes, I pulled Pete's pacey out of my pocket. I looked at Elise. With my eyes I asked, do we do this?
"We both have to agree," she replied.
"If we don't do it now, we won't do it until after your parents come," I cautioned.
Elise spoke up, "Pete....
"The time has come. It's time to say goodbye to pacey and give pacey to a new baby that needs it, okay?"
Pete's pitching arm was warmed up from feeding pretzel sticks to imaginary piranha, so he barely hesitated when I handed over pacey. I knelt down. I wanted him to appreciate the gravity, the finality of the situation. Pacey would be gone forever.
Elise offered him one final suck, but he didn't take it. He held the pacey high over his head. The sun filtered down through the jungle trees. The stream babbled in front of us, running over rocks for the precipice ahead, the water, and everything in it, racing for the edge like so many lemmings. He threw it.
Pacey sailed through the air and landed with a plop in the stream. It floated. We all waved. Then it got caught in an eddy and started floating back toward us. It was as if it didn't want to leave. It curled back toward the bank before it was caught in the downflow. It bobbed in the foam, banked back toward us, disappeared behind a rock, before finally floating downstream. Once the downflow caught it, it raced away.
Pacey disappeared beyond a crook in the stream. We knew it went over the waterfall, even if we didn't see it.
Then, Pete tried to go in after it. I held his arm and pulled him back up onto the rocks. We packed up our things, put our shoes and socks back on and started the long, hot trek back to the car.
Once there, we all piled in. In his car seat, with his blankie....now, only his blankie....Pete cried, "I want pacey back! I want pacey back!"
He cried and screamed on the way home. Elise and I questioned if we had done the right thing. This would either go down in history as the most brilliant parenting move, or we had just scarred him for life. The jury is still out. He cried until he passed out.
When we got home, Elise sat and held him until he fell asleep. This will be hard on all of us. No one more so than Peter, but never let it be said that it is easy for parents to watch their kids get older. Because no matter what happens from today forward, one things remains unmistakable.
Pete is a big boy now.