I took Olivia to the pediatrician a while ago, because her eyes were puffy (I KNOW I KNOW, but I’m a first timer, so, you know, slack: CUT ME SOME), and took advantage of the time in the office to ask a barrage of questions about feeding and sleeping and formula and so on and so forth. And because I am long-winded, we spent a lot of time in there, and as a result, Olivia was getting tired (not that she would actually nap when we got home, but whatever, that’s a different post), and, as she is wont to do lately, she stuck her little thumb in her mouth. As we were getting ready to go, the pediatrician said, “she looks great, I love the eating, I love the crawling, and I love the thumb-sucking.”
And then I FELL OUT, because y’all, I have a confession to make. I sucked my thumb until I was twenty-five. No, that’s not a typo- TWENTY-FIVE. That’s all of high-school, all of college, and well into my SECOND job. At that point, I, personally, was well beyond caring about what people thought about it, but by then I’d heard a LIFETIME of grumbling about it. So hearing the pediatrician say that not only was she not worried about it, but she actually “loved it” made me drop my jaw. And also spend ten more minutes in the office, asking her a whole ‘nother series of questions about thumb-sucking.
It drove my parents batshit (my mom comments here, so I’ll let her add in her two cents), and they did everything in their power to get me to stop. A sort of grate attached to my upper teeth and running across the roof of my mouth that was supposed to make it hurt when I sucked only left me with deep groves in my thumb come morning. That nasty pepper nail polish wears off if you suck at it persistently, you know. Yelling and eye-rolling didn’t work either, and I think they eventually gave up- either that or I moved out of the house, and we rarely talked about it ever again.
Y’all, I have another confession- I don’t actually get why it’s that big a deal. Why, at some age, parents decide that it’s a habit that must absolutely be broken. My pediatrician told me it’s about the teeth- well, ok. But (this is not going to be a super popular opinion) aren’t straight teeth sort of an aesthetic thing? Like, you’re not going to DIE, if your teeth aren’t straight, are you? Perhaps I am one of the lucky ones, but while my thumb-sucking gave me a serious underbite, but it doesn’t impede my ability to talk, eat, drink, or give blow jobs (NOT THAT I ACTUALLY KNOW THAT FOR SURE, HAVING NEVER ACTUALLY DONE IT, I’M ASSUMING HERE), and I’ve never had braces or other orthodonic correction. Maybe that makes me one of the lucky ones- I don’t know.
I do know that it didn’t bother ME, personally, but it sure did bother the SHIT out of everyone around me. I knew my parents hated it, and so I tried my best to do it in secret, but it was more powerful than me, most of the time. I’m sure my classmates talked about me behind my back, but…. uhhh, they were doing it BEHIND MY BACK, so I never actually heard it. My sixth grade teacher was so troubled by it he took me aside to ask how the “quitting” was going, and then managed to talk my parents into taking me to some sort of therapist, who was going to “fix” it for me- I’m not sure quite how, because I refused to go more than once.
I asked about it on Twitter, and it would seem that there are a fair number of us out there that sucked our thumbs into the elementary school years (although I appear to be the lone one holding out until my mid-twenties), and several people mentioned that they were peer-pressured into quitting. Which made me think two things- either I grew up in a particularly polite town, or my memory is super faulty, but I don’t recall being openly teased or called baby-ish in my first years in school, and secondly HOLD THE PHONE. We spend A LOT of time teaching our kids to RESIST peer-pressure- just because Tommy is smoking behind the bleachers doesn’t mean you should too- but in THIS PARTICULAR CASE, we WANT them to bend to it? We teach our kids not to call other children names, but IN THIS CASE, it’s ok? No deals.
If you’re paying attention, you might wonder then why I ever quit at all- I mean, if I STILL haven’t heard a reason that moves me to think that once Olivia turns, I don’t know, five, or whatever, I’ll need to bring the hammer down on her thumb-sucking (if she even still does it), then why don’t I still suck my own thumb? I don’t suck my thumb because I don’t need to anymore, and the reason I don’t need to anymore is because I take anti-anxiety medications. I am DEAD SERIOUS right now- I am 100% sure that if I hadn’t ever gotten medicated I would STILL be sucking my thumb, a month shy of my THIRTY-SIXTH birthday.
I’m not saying all thumb-suckers are dealing with anxiety issues- I don’t know why anyone sucks their thumb other than me. And for me, it was clearly a self-soothing technique that served me well until I decided to medicate, and honestly, it was free, easy, and I never had to worry about it running out, or not being able to find a doctor to prescribe it to me. I’d even venture that as self-soothing techniques go, thumb-sucking has to be one of the more innocuous ones out there.
So. Olivia sucks her thumb, and I kinda don’t care. What do you think?