Saturday, August 25, 2012

Thumb sucking

Ok - I just need to vent...

I am tired of people we don't know chiding Vincent for sucking his thumb in public.

Today, it was the clerk at the cash register at the grocery store. I had just taken Vincent out of the shopping cart and had him standing next to me. He wasn't all that pleased about being removed from the cart - he was having fun riding around. As I was unloading the groceries, the clerk turned to him and said in a rather loud voice with a broad Australian accent, "Hi there. What's wrong? Why are you sucking your thumb?"

Vincent then got a bit embarrassed and became quite shy. I pulled him close, and looked at the clerk. "How old is he?" she asked.

"Almost three and a half," I replied.

"And still sucking his thumb?" she asked me - as if I hadn't noticed.

"Yep. But he only does it when he is tired or in an unfamiliar situation or embarrassed about something."

"Oh dear," she replied. "I probably scared him." (No kidding - some lady my son doesn't know just criticized him in public for sucking his thumb.)

"Don't worry about it," I told her. "He's fine."

Then Vincent looked up at me - still sucking his thumb and his big eyes as round as saucers - and said, "Mama, I'm a bit shy." I gave him a quick hug.

Yes, I know my son sucks his thumb. Am I worried about it? Not really. I sucked my thumb until I went to kindergarten, and I turned out just fine. We do ask Vincent not to speak when he has his thumb in his mouth. And he really only does suck it when he is tired or upset or embarrassed or shy or in an unfamiliar/uncomfortable situation. It's his self-comforting mechanism.

But I am worried about the ways in which these comments from total strangers impact my son. I really just want to say to these people, please keep your comments to yourself. Don't ask if it tastes good or what it tastes like. He's not sucking it because it tastes like chocolate. And don't tell him he is too old to suck his thumb. He is not yet three and a half. Yes, I know he looks older than that. Yes, he is tall for his age. I know. It's called genetics - his dad's tall. And only chiding or even berating him is not helping the situation and will only make him more inclined to suck his thumb. And please, don't turn to me and ask me why he is sucking his thumb. He can still hear you. Besides, if you don't know us, it is not really any of your business.

His thumb sucking is not hurting anyone. He is a little boy who is very sensitive and very observant. He knows when he is being criticized or singled out. And he doesn't like it. Neither do I.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Vincent: "I like food. I eat it with my mouth."

"Mama, I painted my body today!"

That was the answer to my question: "Vincent, what did you do at Kids' Academy today?"

Immediately, my head was full of visions of 3- and 4-year-olds running around their classroom, bright colored paint dripping from their bodies.

"You painted your body? Like your tummy and your legs and your hands and your feet?"

"No, Mama!" Vincent grinned. "Our teacher drew our bodies on paper and then we painted them!"

Oh right. Now I get it.

The next time I dropped the boys off at daycare, we saw Vincent's cut out in the hallway. He proudly pointed it out to me.

Upon closer inspection, I saw a quote written above his name:

All of the children had quotes on their paper cut outs. The little girl's next to Vincent's said, "I like my dress. It makes me look pretty."

What a cute idea - instead of just doing the standard trace-around-the-child-and-cut-out-the-body activity, the children also had to say something about themselves. Then, I saw an explanation of the activity posted on the wall nearby (featuring none other than our very own Vincent):

I have to admit - I'm pretty proud of our little guy. He has greatly expanded his eating horizons, in spite of the numerous restrictions to his diet due to his food allergies (dairy, egg, wheat, sesame, nut). He is regularly trying new foods, even if he doesn't like them all.

When I picked him up on the Friday, he actually had paint on his body. He told me that he was a tiger. "Rrrrrooooaaaarrrr!!!"

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Why are the Aussies wearing green and gold?

Right now, people around the world are fixated on the 2012 Olympic Games. As the sporting drama unfolds in London, a friend of mine in the US sent me a Facebook message with an interesting question that had come up in a discussion about the Olympics at her work:

"How are the 'team colors' for Australia green and yellow/gold when the flag is red, white, and blue?"

Excellent question! The green and gold combination is prevalent throughout Australian culture - and particularly in sports. I had never really given it much thought, but as I considered the question, it occurred to me that it might have something to do with the Australian national flower: the wattle.

Image credit:

Image credit:
Turns out, my hypothesis was correct. According to the Australian Government's website "It's an Honour - Australia Celebrating Australians" (, the lowly wattle carries a vast amount of significance for Australian culture and history. For example:

  • As one species of a large genus of flora growing across Australia, the golden wattle is a symbol of unity
  • Wattle is ideally suited to withstand Australia's droughts, winds and bushfires. The resilience of wattle represents the spirit of the Australian people.
  • In recent times, the golden wattle has been used as a symbol of remembrance and reflection. On national days of mourning, for example, Australians are invited to wear a sprig of wattle

The wattle also features prominently in the Australian coat of arms (along with the beloved kangaroo and emu):

In Australian sports, perhaps more so than in any other aspect of Australian culture, green and gold plays a key role. The first association between this color combination and Australian sports was recorded at the end of the 19th century when the Australian cricket team wore green and gold hats and blazers (together with the traditional white uniforms of test cricket) for the first time during the Ashes series in England (**I promise a future blog post on cricket**). In 1908, the Australasian Olympic team adopted "green and wattle" as team colors. Today, these are the colors of the national cricket team, the Wallabies (rugby union), the Socceroos and the Matildas (men's and women's soccer), the Kookaburras and Hockeyroos (men's and women's field hockey), the Boomers and the Opals (men's and women's basketball) and, of course, the Australian Olympic team.