Sunday, July 16, 2006

Suckah

stroller snooze
At eight weeks old, Jo found her thumb. They’ve been inseparable ever since, even becoming a party of three when, at 16 months, she began poking her finger into her bellybutton anytime her thumb was in position.

assuming the position
In those days, I was thrilled. If her thumb was in her mouth, part of my body wasn’t. And she slept a fraction better, too, with her Thumbelina to help her. The bellybutton also became a critical part of the equation, to the point where we couldn’t ever put her in one-piece pajamas. Except the one pair that her aunt and great-grandmother actually tailored to allow navel access.

So now she’s four years old and she’s still a determined thumbsucker. Anytime she’s tired, pop goes the thumb. If she’s feeling anxious or ill or just out of sorts—cue thumb (and bellybutton, even if it means hiking up her sundress and displaying her Strawberry Shortcake undies to the world). While I, of course, still think she looks adorable, thumb or no thumb, I’m aware that most of the rest of the world probably thinks it’s about damn time she gave up this habit.

The very first time she went to the dentist, she was three and Opie was only a few weeks old. As I sat in the examining room with my newborn on my lap, the dentist lectured me about the evils of thumbsucking. Suuuure, I’ll get right on that. It’s the perfect time to break this habit!

By the time Jo had her most recent checkup, around her fourth birthday, we’d switched to a new dentist. I’ll admit that her teeth are clearly crooked. She’s got a strange cross-bite and her front teeth are in a lopsided arc (mostly noticeable only if you’re looking at them from below, though). But this new dentist (who, BTW, looked about 27 years old and, the hygienist assured me later, did not have any kids) gave me a good scolding. He told me that if I couldn’t get her to stop through punishment, rewards, a sock on her hand while she slept, or whatever, she’d need to be fitted for an orthodontic device that would physically prevent her from putting her thumb into her mouth.

I nodded and smiled. I spent a few days worrying about it, and then decided I wasn’t going to take my daughter’s chief means of comfort away from her. She’s FOUR. Our family doctor, bless him, assuaged my fears considerably. He said, “You know the expression, ‘if you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail’? That’s the dentist—he only cares about the teeth, not the rest of the kid. It’s a self-extinguishing behavior. She’ll stop sometime this year or next, and the more you draw attention to it, the harder it will be for her to stop.”

So, call me lazy, call me stupid, call me a … sucker, but the Thumbelina is welcome to stay. I like to say that I’m choosing mental health over dental. If Jo gets upset when she needs braces or a retainer, I’ll show her this post—and these pictures.

crash

13 comments:

Lady M said...

According to my mom, I sucked my thumb as a child and didn't need braces. My sister did not suck her thumb and did indeed have to wear braces. So, ya never know what will happen. I agree with you - comfort first!

me said...

my youngest is a thumb sucker, he was the only one. he's 7. i was a thumb girl...until i was 12. don't push it, i didn't and i'll tell you why. i know the kid is gonna need braces, i knew he would need them the day he was born. he will stop someday. i couldn't stop until the braces made it uncomfortable. and my earliest memories are of my parents attempting to stop me from sucking my thumb. i didn't want that for him, so i let it go. and for your peace of mind and your daughter's i say the same to you. good luck

mothergoosemouse said...

Hey, that's my kid's hand in the second picture! I remember the day it was taken!

Ahem. Anyway.

You know I'm right there with you. I have been telling Tacy that her thumb is for naptime and bedtime and cuddling with us, but I'm not forcing the issue. It will take care of itself.

And likewise, just after CJ was born, Humberto hassled Tacy about her thumb, and I shut that shite down real quick. New baby, upcoming move - that girl can suck her thumb all she wants, and I might just join in.

Mrs. Wheezer said...

You gotta love family docs. Miss S. is an avid sucker of the thumb as well. I haven't taken her to the dentist yet (bad, bad mommy!), but our family doc basically said the same thing about the behavior ending all on its lonesome.

Her Bad Mother said...

Your doctor sounds very sensible. You're doing the right thing.

supa said...

Oh, isn't she the cutest thing! I actually tried to get Owen to suck his thumb, but he insists on the pacifier instead. And those get lost so very easily ... sigh.

(Hi, by the way! thanks for stopping by!)

Binkytown said...

My goodness. Everywhere you look there is someone telling you that you should stop doing what you are doing and do something else. If she's happy, go with it. I didn't suck my thumb and had mad messed up teeth. I LOVE that she likes the thumb-belly button connection. I might have to try that. It must be nice!

Becki said...

We have a similar problem, except my daughter's soother of choice is a now-ragged fleece blankie, which must be stuffed in her mouth in order for her to sleep. A customs officer at the Canadian border actually cracked up at the sight of my unconscious child with approximately half a yard of fabric crammed in her gaping maw. She asked me if I was bringing any narcotics into Canada, and I almost said, "Just the blankie."

Our dentist told us Libby had to give up the blanket. But he also told us braces are in our future no matter what, so I'm letting her have her comfort item.

Mom101 said...

Stupid? Are you kidding? I wish the thumb provided the comfort of the pacifier. Way easier to find when it falls out of the mouth in the middle of the night.

Jamie said...

First of all, she is just PRECIOUS. My second daughter is a thumbsucker. She twirls her hair and sucks her thumb when she is tired. She's a self-soother, has been sleeping all night like a pro since she was about 4 months old. My oldest daughter had a paci until she was well past 2. I'll take a little Thumbelina over Mr. Paci any day. (and your doctor sounds very matter of fact like mine)

Nancy said...

We have Thumbkin in our house, Mimi's friend. It's hard sometimes not to draw attention to it when she sucks her thumb a lot, but I am really hoping that she will give it up on her own sometime soon. We shall see...

lildb said...

I thucked my thumb for years. YEARS. and I not only never had braces, but am still informed, on a less-and-less regular basis (thanks, in large part, to coffee and wine stains -- hottt), that my teeth are fabulous, and I just HAD to have had braces. which I didn't. I swear. did. not.

so, take *that*, 27-year-old-cheeky-dentist-bastard.

and good for you for not listening to that mere child of a practitioner. geesh.

Closet Sucker said...

Your daughter is adorable but I must tell you that this habit may never go away if you don't intervene. I too sucked my thumb and played with my belly button at the same time. I'm 23 and I still do. It is my greatest secret and source of shame. While my teeth never suffered any effects, my belly button has. At a young age it became permanantly bruised and I was teased. A friend once called it a black hole. I suffer from panic and anxiety disorders and wonder if this is why I can't seem to quit. You probably don't have to worry but just think about how it's not going to be cute when she my age.