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.

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