While standing in line for coffee, the older gentleman in front of us notices Lila. Crouching down, he smiles kindly and waves. Lila would usually wave back or say something charming, but since it's close to naptime, she's just not in the mood. Wrapping one arm around my leg, she sticks her thumb in her mouth and turns away (her normal “I’m sleepy so, leave me alone” body language).
To my surprise, the man straightens up and says—“Now, you be a good girl and don’t suck your thumb.”
Um, excuuuuse me?!
Appalled and annoyed, now I turn away. Seething, I rub Lila’s back and stare at the menu above the register. How dare he?!
Yes, my daughter sucks her thumb. I am well aware of this and all that comes with it. Every time she gets a fever (and winds up in the hospital from a febrile seizure) I visualize every door knob, railing, counter top, and toy covered with germs that she has touched before putting her thumb into her mouth. With each visit to the dentist, I am reminded of the potential of buck teeth and braces she inevitably will have.
Well-meaning strangers sympathize and share personal stories—“Oh, I used to suck my thumb too. I didn’t stop until I was twelve.”
“ Twelve!? Are you serious!?” My inner voice screams as I smile politely. I cringe inside. “Oh, the horror!!”
Some suggest what could be viewed as cruel and unusual methods— “Just cover her thumb in hot sauce. That’ll stop her.”
Others warn that if I interfere she will suffer long term psychological damage or perhaps begin to stutter.
|Lila as an infant discovering her thumb.|
I didn’t think about what would happen four years later—that Lila would struggle with sucking her thumb. She is now old enough to know it is an issue and has announced many times—“I’m a big girl. I don’t suck my thumb anymore.”
But despite her strong will, she still does.
I have glanced at her in the rearview mirror as she pulls her own thumb out of her mouth and then, frustrated and defeated, puts it back in. Sometimes her eyes get teary.
Recently, I told her that we will celebrate the day she stops sucking her thumb. This idea has inspired her.
“Really, Mama?! When I stop ‘thucking’ my thumb I will have a big party with all my friends and cake and a movie and games and it will be so much fun?!”
I was thinking something much smaller (like me and Daddy taking her out to eat). But, hey, perhaps when that day comes it will be cause for a huge celebration!
Just how will we word the invitations?