Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010...8:17 pm

Thumb-Sucking

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“Does that thumb taste good?”

“How’s that thumb?”

Nora is a thumb-sucker. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked her about her thumb, I would be a rich woman. Last summer, my first toddler summer, I heard these questions way too often. I started to fret about what 12 step program Nora would need to enroll in to break her of this addiction. Visions of one of my outcast 9th grade student who still snuck a suck when she thought no one was looking haunted me. I worried Nora would become that kind of “freak.”

I’d share my concerns with friends and family, who in return would confess their own thumb-sucking addictions. When you are 30 it never occurs to you that your peers could have been hooked on sucking on that squat digit, but it’s true. I know many recovered thumb-suckers.

“My parents told me when I was four that I was getting a wart. I stopped.”

“My mom just told me it wasn’t allowed at school before kindergarten started. I didn’t want to get in trouble.”

“My mom promised me I could get my ears pierced before my older sister if I stopped.”

Not one of these women still sucks her thumb. All of them are successful, well-adjusted individuals. I stopped worrying about Nora becoming a freak and started to wonder when and what I would say, lie, bribe to get her to stop. Some day.

On Monday I picked Nora up from daycare and she walked over to me, thumb held out for show, and told me she had an “owie.” “What did you do?” I asked. And that’s when Miss T stole my parenting thunder – a risk of sending your child to daycare – and said, “I told her she was getting an owie from sucking her thumb too much.”

I hadn’t given Nora’s addiction much thought, honestly, since the summer ended many months ago. At home she rarely sucks her thumb, always too busy with play-dough, dress-up and stickers. She pops her thumb in her mouth to sleep, and when she is tired, cranky or bored in the car, but it doesn’t bother me in the same way that it did last summer.

But it bothers Miss T and it began, apparently, to bother Nora. In the car on the way home Monday she talked incessantly of her owie. She requested permission to put her thumb in her mouth at bedtime. On the way back to school the next morning, I watched in the rearview mirror as Nora put the tip of her thumb up to her lips, worrying about letting it slip further. She whined; I gave her a pouch with a zipper on it to keep her occupied.

She ran into the room at school, announcing to Miss L that she had an owie, but wanted to suck her thumb. Miss L gave Nora a big bear hug and said it was okay with her if she sucked her thumb. With that giant hug, a giant weight was lifted off both Nora and me. We weren’t ready yet, either of us, to face this change.

I had to remind Nora in the car again, as her whining gained strength, that it was fine if she sucked her thumb. She was pulling at her ponytails, her other self-soothing technique, but it clearly wasn’t working. She requested some medicine for her callous, her owie, last night, and we rubbed it in together.

In the car this morning, I glanced again in my rearview mirror. She sure enough had that thumb lodged happily between her lips. “How’s your thumb?” I asked.

“All better,” she said.

One day, in the not too distant future, she will have to stop. One day we will both be ready. But for now, I stole my parenting thunder back from Miss T. Nora and I will get to decide what the habit-breaking lie will be. And when it is told.

What is your thumb-sucking story? When and why did you stop? How did you get your child to stop sucking his/her thumb? Help me brainstorm my plan.

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5 Comments

  • I do believe this kind of hobbit is just normal specially for toddlers, time will come and she will overcome this mannerism. Don’t worry about her becoming a freak because it is just normal and she will outgrow it.

  • I think I sucked my thumb at bedtime until I was about nine or ten; while it led to some pretty bad orthodontia problems, I am otherwise a pretty well adjusted adult. Before that, there were all sorts of attempts: there was a book about a kitten who tried a million ways to stop sucking her thumb until she just grew out of it, there were bribes. (I got a doll; I think it was for not sucking my thumb in public/ in the day, which I stopped around age 5 probably. Maybe a little later, because I was jealous my sister could still suck her thumb). There was nail polish, and, there were probably other reminders or attempts. By the time I stopped, I really WANTED to stop. I slept with enough stuffed animals under each arm so that my thumb couldn’t reach my mouth. I did that for a few nights, and that was that. I gave up sleeping with a security blanket around the same time.

  • We used “Thumbuddy To Love” to help stop our child’s thumb sucking. She loved it! you can get it on Amazon or thumbuddytolove dot com.

  • You don’t even want to know about me!! It’s too embarrassing…

  • [...] favorite comfort object, aside from her thumb, is my hair. She loves to run her fingers through it and has been frustrated as of late as I grow [...]

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