Saturday, March 8, 2014

Three Cheers for Thumb Sucking

My two youngest children somehow turned out to be award-winning thumb suckers.  I know there is some controversy about the habit.  Will it make their teeth grow crooked?  Will they be sucking their thumb as they walk down the aisle at their wedding?  Is it an indicator of some deep, unmet, psychological need? 

I don't profess to be an expert but I think we should all just CALM DOWN about the thumb sucking.  Really.  We have enough to worry about as parents.  Can we just agree that your kid sucking their thumb doesn't really qualify to be at the top of our worry list? 

In my experience the thumb sucking is nothing short of a miracle.  Both kids pretty much only sucked their thumb when they were tired and/or in the process of falling asleep.  For us, thumb sucking was a big, bold neon sign saying, "I'M TIRED AND IT'S ABOUT TO GET UGLY IN HERE."  And really, when you're raising an infant with severely limited communication skills, that kind of clear, direct message is a God send.  Got it!  You're tired!  I can help you with that.  Let's get you in a comfy place for a nap.  Phew.  Problem solved. 

My daughter first found her thumb when she was  few weeks old.  As she was flailing her arms around aimlessly, as babies tend to do, her hand slapped down right in the middle of her forehead.  She stopped and sloooowwwwlllyyyy drug that little hand down the front of her face until it hit her lips, and then wrangled her thumb into her mouth.  For a while, this was her routine.  Flail arms.  Slap forehead.  Slide hand.  Find mouth.  Insert thumb.  Eventually she mastered the finding of the thumb and was able to connect it to her mouth without all the extra steps.

My son was a little quicker on the uptake.  I think he may have been practicing the thumb sucking in the womb.  He was only a few days old when his thumb somehow found its way into his mouth without all the awkward flailing, slapping and sliding. 

I'm a fan of the thumb sucking for a few good reasons. 
1.  It helps my kids fall asleep.
2.  It's always available.  No chance of leaving the house without it. 
3.  If it falls out, it's easily located. 
4.  It's free.

Recently our home has been going through a serious transition out of our baby phase.  My little guy just turned three, which I think now bumps him out of the toddler category and into the preschooler zone.  He decided it was time to give away all his diapers to a family at our church. And I sold the stroller that had been gathering dust in our garage for the past year. 


As much as I love the idea of being done with all things baby....the midnight feedings, nursing bras, spit-up stained shirts, the diaper changing, the backwards car seats, and constant, exhausting neediness of an infant...there is a part of me (and I'm guessing every mother that ever lived) that mourns this transition. 

It is this wistfulness that leads to my last good reason to relax about the thumb sucking.

5.  It reminds me that they're not so big and grown up after all. 

1 comment:

  1. I loved this article! Thank you for sharing. :)