Afton was a thumbsucker from that day on. She even continued the same rough form from her first success -- thumb in the mouth, index finger hooked around the nose. She slept all night that night for the first time in her life. Her thumb had served her (and her tired mommy) well. Any hesitation I might have had about letting my child suck her thumb was obliterated by that night's sleep. My baby was a thumbsucker. When the time was right she wouldn't be anymore, but while she was little and could use the extra comfort and security it provided I was not going to stand in her way. Every now and then a nosy stranger or a well-meaning family member would pull her thumb out of her mouth and/or tell her not to suck her thumb. I would always quickly tell them that she was allowed to suck her thumb. (I didn't add "And mind your own business!" because that would take the kind of nerve I don't have.)
I had always had age five in my head as the cut off for thumb sucking. Age five seems a long, long way away to a first time mom with a two month old. Wow, do those years go fast! Afton turned four this Spring. She is not much of a baby anymore. She is pretty proud of that fact, though I am always sure to remind her that she will ALWAYS be my baby. She doesn't suck her thumb nearly as much as she used to but thumb sucking is definitely still a part of her life. I realize that stopping something that you have been doing for as long as you can remember is not an overnight process, so I decided that if our goal is no more thumb sucking by age five we needed to start having the conversation soon. Several weeks ago I broached the subject for the first time. I was surprised to find that it was met with big, honest, silent tears.
Afton loves a challenge. She loves feeling big and grown up. She loves doing things the way the big kids do. She has raced through milestones like becoming a big sister, moving to a big girl bed, using the big girl potty with great delight and enthusiasm. I figured when I mentioned to her that it was time to start thinking about not sucking her thumb anymore she would react in much the same way. So those big, heart breaking tears caught me by surprise.
Turns out I had taken her by surprise too. She had no idea that no longer sucking your thumb was part of growing up. She hadn't seen it coming. I told her not too worry about it. She was only four and she didn't need to stop and until she was five. I told her just to think about it and to let me know when she was ready to try.
She asked some questions about it the weeks since and we came up with a plan where I would make a chart for her and when she goes thirty days without sucking her thumb she can go pick out a toy. She was more interested with each conversation we had and but still wasn't quite ready to try.
This afternoon she asked me to make the chart. She said she is ready to stop sucking her thumb. I was excited and told her I would make it for her during her nap and that we could start working on it this evening. She was excited too. I was glad we had waited until it could be something she was excited about instead of something that made her sad.
When I sat down at the computer to print out the chart I was surprised by big tears again. This time they were mine. That little nose hook thumb suck has been such apart of our lives. The trademark of the joyous little baby girl that changed everything for us...
Who knew no more thumb sucking could be so heart wrenching? But it is hard to watch a baby that you love so much slowly fade away even when you know she is just growing into a little girl who you love even more.