016. Thumb-sucking

It’s just one rally after another this year! Son Matthew and I have been following the plan of the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart to have a “Rally for Sanity” in Washington D.C. There are those in my family who don’t believe I would qualify to attend since sanity may be expected, required even. They have suggested that nut-cakes will not be welcome.  Very funny.

While sanity may not be one of my more prominent aptitudes, resourcefulness is.  If they kick me out, I’m going to start up my own rally. – a more compelling one – on the other side of the Washington Mall.  I think I’ll call mine “Rally for Thumb-sucking”.  That ought to draw a crowd!  You may attend if you wish.

Talk about controversy, thumb-sucking has had its share.  How did it ever come to get such a bad rap?

Contrary to what some doomsayers claim, thumb-sucking is NOT equivalent to the dangers of playing with matches or jumping off the garage roof.  In fact, as many mothers of thumb-suckers have come to learn (but are too embarrassed to admit), thumb-sucking is a flat-out no-strings-attached, free and sacred gift from God. So there. I said it.

My mother told me once that she used to try to make us suck our thumbs — my sister Joan, brothers Jimmy, Leo and Richard, and me.  According to Mom, everybody wanted their kids to do it. It was a sure-fire way to have a happy, contented baby.  It was de rigueur in those days.  (That’s French, dudes.  This is a test of your couth.)

Parenting styles and conventions undergo frequent change. Take babies sizes for instance.  In 1894, my mother-in-law Mabel came into the world weighing 12 pounds.And continuing at least through the 1930s, bigger was better.  I was a ten pounder myself – born to my mother Josie who was five feet tall and weighed around 99 pounds wringing wet. According to my mother,  everybody wanted BIG babies.  It was a sign of a successful mother and, of course, good breeding. Today, though, the ideal weight for newborns is between 6 and 9 pounds.

Thumb-sucking’s approval rating fluctuates, also.  Sometimes it’s acceptable, sometimes not. In Michelangelo’s time, it must have been okey dokey because on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, he depicted some of the cherubs as thumb-suckers.

In my case, I am an ardent supporter. To a wee person, that thumb – which can be self-operated –  can bring comfort and security and it can soothe sore gums. Unlike a silicone pacifier which comes from Walmart and costs $4.98, that thumb is Heaven-sent and free.  I bet Baby Jesus sucked his thumb, too.

Like my mother, I tried to “train” our seven babies to learn the skill, but it doesn’t always “take”.  Three of the seven wouldn’t do it but four did.  And yes, two of them had to have orthodontic repair later, but, inexplicably, one of them was one of the rebels who wouldn’t suck his thumb.

Thumb-sucking critics always point out the possible undesirable side-effects.   Besides potential dental hazards, thumb-sucking can cause the child to have a lisp. I think it’s known as a “protrusionable” lisp. Two of the kids – Teresa and Judy – both learned to talk like that.  They both grew out of it by the time they were seven or so, but until then we used to hear conversations like the one below.  I won’t do you the kindness of interpreting, but I will give you the clues that they are talking about their sisters, Susy and Lisa, and some playground equipment.

Teresa:   “I thought I thaw Thuthy by the thee-thaw.  Where ith Thuthy?”

Judy”      “Over by the thand-boxth.  Thkooping thand with Litha”.

If it wasn’t for thumb-sucking, I might have had to miss conversations like that.

Time to go.  I have a rally to organize.

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5 Responses to 016. Thumb-sucking

  1. If I wasn’t in college I would be at the rally for sanity, and I’d head over to yours as well for the family support!

  2. Denise Fortune says:

    That’th the uniqueneth of thumb thucking. Like American Thign Language it hath itth own language and interpretationth. Itth a thing of beauty to watch. I envy you that you had the priviledge to do so yourthelf. Like twinth develop their own languageth in thome catheth, tho do the thumb thuckers.

    Thumb Thuckerth UNITE!

  3. Octo-woman says:

    Everybody hath to read thith from Denithe. I love thith and tho will you.

  4. Linda Lewis says:

    I had a doll who could suck her thumb. Now they put pacifiers on a ribbon for dolls.

    And it is really true about twins developing their own language. My cousins would sit in their play pen and chat happily away, exchanging and sharing toys. What magic! I can only

  5. Linda Lewis says:

    Opps. I can only imagine the banter that must go on with 6 or 8. I’d never want to be their teacher in school. Something would always be up their sleeves for sure!

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