Why it’s weally important the dummy goes

Ellen Widdup’s escape to the country

MY son is mourning the end of sports season.

He is only two-and-a-half but this summer he has joined his father on the sofa most evenings and weekends to watch the European Championships, Wimbledon, the Olympics and finally the Paralympic Games. He has memorised the names of some of his favourite sporting heros – Wayne Wooney, Andy Muwwy, Mo Fawah.

And yes, he also appears to have developed a speech impediment along the way.

This is my fault, because I am the terrible mother who still can’t bring herself to take away his most prized possession – his dummy.


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I introduced the soother when he was just a few weeks old because he was constantly hungry and it gave me a break from breast feeding. I was also told that having a dummy significantly reduced the risk of cot death.

But last year I read a report which claimed that having a pacifier seriously hindered a toddler’s development, making him three times as likely to develop a problem with his speech. Talk about mixed messages.

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By then my son had already formed a deep attachment to his, but I vowed I would be rid of it in time for his second birthday.

I’ve tried. I really have. But the wailing, screaming, sobbing and refusal to sleep which followed each miserable attempt has made me give up on my quest.

And now I appear to be paying the price – despite my doctor’s assurances he will grow out of it – with all his Rs replaced with Ws.

This type of speech quirk actually has a proper name – rhotacism. It seems a little unfair on the people who have it that it starts with the very letter they have a problem with.

Famous people who have this impediment include Jonathan Ross and Roy Hodgson (again, unfortunate names) and Looney Tunes character Elmer Fudd of course – “be vewwy quiet: I’m hunting wabbits.”

I shouldn’t make light of it. Instead I should concentrate on getting rid of the soother and giving my son a chance to ditch the problem.

This week I have made a few feeble attempts to broach the subject. “Big boys don’t have dummies,” I began tentatively on Monday morning. “No,” agreed my son.

“You are a big boy, aren’t you?” I replied.

He screwed his eyes up and smirked. “No,” he said. “I’m a baby.” On Tuesday I saw a news story that said more and more parents were shunning traditional methods to soothe a child and instead reaching for their smartphones.

“Do you want to play with my phone?” I asked my son. “Yes please,” he said eagerly.

“You can only play with it if you hand over your dummy,” I said. “OK,” he said.

An hour later I was desperate to check my emails and he was still engrossed in a game of Tetris. This wasn’t going to be a long-term solution.

On Wednesday I took him to Woodbridge to buy him some new shoes. “You can pick whichever shoes you like if you give me your dummy for the rest of the day,” I told him.

“Can I have twainers?” he asked.

“Deal,” I replied. In the shop he picked out a pair of trainers and tried them on. “I just like Andy Muwwy,” he said proudly. OK, we were on to a winner. Bribery was clearly the only way forward.

On Thursday I told him he could have chocolate buttons after supper if he didn’t use his dummy all day. He agreed, as long as he could have it for nap time. I acquiesced, impressed with his skills in negotiation.

On Friday we agreed he would hand over the pacifier in exchange for a playdate with his best friend. He was so busy on the climbing frame he didn’t even notice it was gone.

On Saturday things shifted up a gear. He had clearly cottoned on to my ploy. After breakfast he came to me, dummy in hand. “I give you dummy if we can go on Gwandpa’s boat,” he said. Luckily for me, that was already the plan; so, deal struck, we set off for Ramsholt.

On Sunday morning, my husband suggested we all go down to Melton to watch the Tour of Britain go past. My son was very excited. “Bicycles,” he squealed. “I love bicycles.”

“You can only go if you hand over that dummy first,” I replied. “OK mummy,” he said. “No Pwoblem.”

We stood on the grass bank opposite Five Winds Farm shop in the sunshine to watch as the police motorbikes zoomed past.

My husband explained to the children who was riding the bikes. They waved their union flags cheerfully, giddy with anticipation.

And then we saw the cyclists take the bend, careering towards us in a glut of wheels and metal.

My son, sat on my husband’s shoulders, let out a whoop of joy. “Go Bwadley Wiggins!” he shouted at the top of his voice.

It was over in a flash.

We hopped back in the car, heading to the beach to enjoy the 26C heat.

But as we drove over Sutton Heath on our way to Shingle Street, my son piped up from the backseat.

“Mummy?” he asked. “Yes,” I replied.

“If I give you my dummy for you to keep, can I have a Bwadley Wiggins helmet and a Bwadley Wiggins bike?”

He has got me now. Looks like the dummy will remain a fixture in the Widdup household. Well, at least until Christmas Day.

Email me at porrittwiddup@btinternet.com or find me on Twitter @EllenWiddup

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