I am about to hit another motherhood milestone! I have finally, almost reached the end of my gigantic supply of Dum Dums. I know this may sound like an unconventional method of marking time as a mom, but when I originally came home from a grocery outing with a 1000 count Dum Dum tub several years ago, I really had no idea where I’d be when I finished it…and now, I’m nearly there.
Though I can no longer recall the exact time or circumstances, I can safety say that it was probably about 3 years ago when I made the fateful purchase. Back then there was only one child in the picture. He was just entering toddlerhood, really not much older than a baby. I remember a friend of mine giving her child a Dum Dum as a reward for some sort of desired behavior and me thinking that would be an excellent idea to try as well (plus it just seemed a bit exciting to me that my little guy was now old enough for a big boy treat!)
Fast-forward several years and our family, along with our supply of Dum Dums is in a completely different place. The Dum Dums went from their original tub, to a huge glass (very candy-table on Pinterest inspired) apothecary jar, to a large, but more practical plastic container, to their current home in a medium size glass Ikea storage jar. The original toddler starts Pre-k next week and we added another son, who is now just about the age our first was when I purchased the lollipops. As I stand on the edge of the Dum Dum milestone, I’m also just weeks away from a much bigger one in our family: we’re about to have our third baby, and for the first time, a little girl. The only question now is which will come first, the arrival of our daughter or the end of the Dum Dums?
As I get ready for this new little baby, I find myself busy with all the practical preparation. Order crib bedding and set up the spare crib, get the breast pump out from wherever it was I stored it, borrow a friend’s bassinet for our bedroom, research double strollers because I know I’ll need one. As much as there is to do, this is the easy part. The harder part is imagining all that for which I can’t really prepare. The rush of emotions I’ll have at meeting her, the exhaustion of those first sleepless weeks coupled with the recovery of a c-section, the relief and possible remorse over finally saying goodbye to my wardrobe of maternity clothes, the way her arrival will suddenly make my two boys seem so much bigger and more grown-up. The busy to-do lists of setting up another car seat and buying pink pajamas are the things now filling my days; but wondering about how much my family will change is what really consumes my thoughts.
I ponder these things as I reach into the backseat to hand my boys their Dum Dums. We’ll be home in 10 minutes. Just ten more minutes to keep the little one awake on the drive and the certainty of a good naptime will again be assured. Keeping him awake on the long drive home from swimming has been my challenge of the summer and sometime in early July, I discovered that Dum Dums were my secret weapon in the fight. Yet another use I had just uncovered!
My older son has also proved to be a big help with this task; the same boy I once had the same trouble keeping awake while driving. I would sing to him and toss toys at his car seat and reach back at him at every red light to tickle his knees and make him giggle. I did everything I could to keep that little boy awake and now he is my ally while I do the same things with his brother. This big-boy, charging me only the price of his own Dum Dum for his services, (which he even unwraps himself!) has become my helper.
Whatever behavior I was originally trying to reward years ago when I first purchased the candy has been achieved. So much so that I can’t even remember what it was. It has been checked off the list and other problems, challenges, and worries have come and gone in its place. Concerns that I agonized over, issues I read about in parenting books and brought up for advice in moms’ groups; all of them, conquered, passed over, grown out of, done. I’ve been a mom less than 5 years and already so many stages are over. And that’s all they’ve all been, stages, phases, an all-consuming obstacle that appeared as suddenly as an unprovoked tantrum and disappeared as quickly as a child finally learning to speak the word he was searching for. So, yes, our family is changing, and this next change will be big. But the only real difference is that I go into it expecting change, expecting that in the world of small children, there are no seasons that last very long.
In the last few months I have watched my Dum Dum supply dwindle and found the only flavors left were those being continually rejected: butterscotch and coconut. Just as I thought it might probably be better to throw them all away than to hunt through the stack of brown wrappers looking for one lone surviving cherry flavored sucker, my older son discovered that coconut was his new favorite and I was able to buy myself a few more free weeks flush with Dum Dums. Another challenge conquered and the family moves on.
As all this was happening, our family was settling into a good routine. The boys are at ages where they cooperate reasonably well. They nap when they’re supposed to, eat when they should, play nicely together, go to bed without a fight, and eagerly accept their Dum Dum rewards as a fair payment for their compliance. It only makes sense that it would be time for something to change.
So will I buy another bag? Will I again mark milestones in high fructose corn syrup? I actually haven’t decided. In the spirit of embracing our changing family, perhaps it’s time for a new treat to fill our pantry shelves. Sometimes, when I think too hard about where the Dum Dums and I started out, I get a little sad about how fast my little boy has grown up and long for a time I know I can never get back. Maybe a new candy could be the start of new memories.
I’m not sure, but a decision must be made soon. I am down to only a handful of lollipops left. Most of them are butterscotch, a flavor we all still agree is terrible. But mixed in the jar are a few mystery labels offering a bit of excitement and holding out the promise of the unknown. I get really annoyed when those end up being butterscotch as it means it’s basically one less lollipop. But then a great surprise comes and every once in a while, we discover hidden under the question mark wrapper is a favorite flavor we thought we had finished long ago.
It is naptime now and I will use the quiet moment to resume my preparations for the new baby and all the changes she’ll bring. I pull out a hand-me-down red gingham dress from her cousin, not yet knowing the new little girl who will wear it. I try not to cry as I put away navy whale jon-jons and dump truck socks for what will most likely be the last time. I take a break and help myself to one of the mystery flavor Dum Dums thinking I’ve clearly earned myself a treat. I’m beyond pleased to find a shiny bright pink sphere flavored like bubblegum. My children sleep and I hide it away. I enjoy my pink treat secretly, not knowing what’s coming next, but calm in the moment as I remember that each stage we leave behind clears the way for a new stage to begin and one that is usually full of its own joys and wonderful surprises! My next one will be in pink.