Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ready or not

    When I was little I sucked my thumb.  And even when I was not-so-little anymore, I still sucked my thumb.  I remember clearly when I finally quit.  I wanted a ten-speed bike for my tenth birthday and my parents said I would have to quit sucking my thumb before they would buy me the bike.   I slept with my hands under my pillow so my thumb would not find its way into my mouth out of habit.  It was hard but I succeeded and got my ten speed.  Though I loved my new bike, I really missed my thumb.   It had been my greatest source of comfort my whole life.  I knew, at ten, that it was time to let it go but if I could have, I would have kept on sucking it forever because it was so familiar and so comforting.  It seemed right to have it there in my mouth as I slept and something just seemed to be missing at bedtime, without it.
    My seven year old daughter and five year old son have followed in my thumb-sucking footsteps.  My daughter actually sucks her fingers- three of them, in an unusual sort of way with her wrist bent back in what looks like a terribly uncomfortable position.  We have an ultrasound picture of her, from before her birth, with her fingers in her mouth.   When she sucked her fingers as a baby I thought it was sweet.  She would snuggle her special pink blanket and slurp on her fingers contentedly.  In the middle of the night if she woke up unexpectedly, she could pop her fingers back in and drift back to sleep comforting herself as I listened to little sucking sounds through the baby monitor.   Though we have since restricted the finger-sucking to bedtime only, she still enjoys the comforting habit just as much as she did as a baby.  My son, like I did, sucks his thumb.  He plays with his ear as he sucks and, like his sister, is comforted and peaceful as long as he has his thumb wedged in his mouth at bedtime, as he has since he was just a baby.
    It has come up between Tim and I that our children are probably getting a little too old to still be sucking their fingers. I have always advocated for them, remembering my own sadness at the end of my thumb-sucking days.   The truth was, in a way, I was as attached to their thumb/finger sucking as I was to my own.  I knew the feeling of comfort they had when sucking and I knew the loss they would feel without it.  Tim never pushed the issue, and so it has continued.
    Yesterday we went to the orthodontist.  My oldest daughter had braces a few years ago and has been going for regular check-ups ever since.  My 5 year old has a few issues with his teeth that concern both me and our dentist so at her advice, he was being checked out for the first time by the orthodontist.   The news was not good.  Not surprisingly, my son’s issues are probably caused by the thumb sucking.  The problems will definitely not be corrected as long as he keeps it up.  So the thumb has to go.   And as long as he is quitting I figured it is time for his older sister to quit too.  So the fingers, all three of them, have to go. 
    Last night bedtime was pretty rough.  The five year old came out a few minutes after bedtime and said he just couldn’t do it.  He couldn’t sleep without his thumb.  The seven year old sat in bed crying hysterically for at least a half an hour.  But, as much as I didn’t want to be, I was firm.  They had to do it.  And, eventually they did.  They both feel asleep, mouths empty.  They woke in the morning, reporting only a few minor relapses in the middle of the night. 
    I don’t know who will miss this last little bit of their babyhood more, me or them but all good things must come to an end… and I guess it really is time.

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