The signs are all there that my baby is no longer a baby.

He is starting to look big in his crib. The once tiny little pea that looked so cozy wrapped in his burrito-like swaddle is now this hulking toddler, with his foot sticking out of his sleep sack. I don’t know how my 2-year-old always manages to do it, but he gets the zipper up just a little bit to make room for one tiny foot to slip out. He fills the space in his crib almost from top to bottom, and every time I look down on him as he sleeps, I realize that we’re going to have to transition him to a toddler bed—whether I’m ready or not.

He has food preferences and is loudly telling me what they are. Gone are the days where my sweet little baby would eat whatever I gave him. He’s now replaced with a toddler who does not like peas thankyouverymuch and prefers blackberries over blueberries. As much as it makes me laugh and delight that he can now communicate with me so clearly, there is something I miss about the ease of our old meals. And please let’s not even talk about what happens when I choose the wrong colored cup to go with his meal.

He keeps outgrowing all his clothes. I just put away the last of the clothes I received at my baby shower. Everyone had given me clothes all the way up to 24 months and I thought for sure it would take us forever to get there, but now here we are, diving into the “T” sizes and I can’t even believe it. Where did my newborn go?

But the one thing I held onto was that my son still loved his pacifier.

We had been gifted all kinds when he was first born, but the one he latched onto (sorry, pun), the one he loved absolutely the most over all the others was his beloved Wubbanub. The tiny gray elephant attached to the end of the blue-green pacifier had been his companion since he was a month old.

Once we realized that this was the only paci he would ever want to use, we stocked up on about a half a dozen of them (we were worried the elephant would sell out—we tried the lion once and he absolutely wasn’t having it). So even though the one he carries around with him now is not the same one he had when he was a newborn (that one ended up getting lost in LAX when we were running to catch our flight), it’s still this constant symbol of babyhood.

It reminds me of that first day home with my newborn. How he looked so fragile and small and how the pacifier looked huge in his mouth. I remember thinking, “I’m a mama now. You are mine and I am yours. Sorry, kid, you’re stuck with me.”

It reminds me of when we used to take long ambling walks together around the park in a desperate attempt to get him to nap. He was tucked into his stroller with his paci and I would push hoping that he was getting drowsy. Every time I thought he was actually asleep, I’d see him pull his paci out of his mouth to wave and smile at the people walking by.

It reminds me of when I left him with my sister-in-law for the first time so I could go back to work from maternity leave. I stuck the Wubbanub in his mouth, showed her where the (two!) backups were in his diaper bag in case she needed them, and then sobbed as I held him goodbye before I made my way to the office.

It reminds me of the day he took his first steps. My son needed motivation to walk all the way across the room to me, so I held up his little elephant with the paci attached. I wiggled it back and forth and asked him if he wanted it, and he was so concerned with getting it that he had no idea he was propelling slowly towards me using his own two legs.

And so, I think I wanted him to hold onto his pacifier more than he wanted to. Because it is that last vestige of babyhood. It is memories and milestones and this symbol of littleness and growth that is sitting right there. I can see how much he has grown just in relation to how big or small the pacifier looks in his mouth. I can see the moments we’d had together in the scruffiness of the Elephant and how he looks so worn and so loved.

So imagine how it felt when I was putting my son to bed and I gave him his beloved elephant, and he stood up and threw it out of his crib.

“Oh no! Poor elephant,” I said. And walked over to retrieve it.

“Want nope,” my son said.

I tried to give it back to him.

“WANT NOPE,” he said again louder.

And then he rolled over and started doing the butt wiggle he does that signals that it’s time for sleep.

That’s when I knew the rejection—and the full transition to toddlerhood— was complete.

I took his little elephant with me to my room that night. It sat on my nightstand as I fell asleep. He had let go of it so easily, but I wasn’t ready to. Not yet.

Note: WubbaNub pacifiers can be used under observed napping and awake sucking. We’re advocates for safe sleep as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. For extended overnight sleep, use a pacifier without the plush.

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