Next in our group is Rebecca Chalmers.
12 January 2013
My dearest Little Lady,
You are my thumb sucker. And I have loved every moment of it. You didn't start immediately. I searched back into my photo archives and the first images I captured of it are in January of 2010. You were 18 months old. I have been captivated ever since. It has been three years exactly.
It does not surprise me in the slightest that little independent you would find something that requires no one else but you to soothe yourself. Yet there are no words for how it feels, as a mother, when you suck your little thumb while I hold you, and you burrow down into my neck and chest. It is as if you are saying there is no feeling better in this world. I agree, Little Lady, I agree. The scent and feel of your sweet face as you snuggle and suck your thumb are memories I wish to never lose.
The Dentist has harped on me since you started seeing him about how we needed to put a stop to it, and I deflected him. I have battled internally, immensely, on how to handle this situation. I believe that you still have a need for self soothing. The sucking instinct still has a tremendous calming effect on you, and I knew you'd stop one day when you were ready. I didn't want to force that on you. So very much. As we've grown as parents through raising you, I've learned to carefully weigh which issues were hills to die on. Your sucking your thumb was simply not one for me. In truth, I adored it so much there was no way I'd try to get you to stop.
Plus, you were still very, very strongly in your defiant, independent ways at the time. I knew I didn't have it inside of me to fight you on this. It wasn't worth the battle. It wasn't worth the suffering to our relationship. My momma-gut instinct just didn't feel it was the right time. So I pushed back on the dentist, instead of you, and said 'wait'. We were engaged in daily battle on issues of character and boundaries. I knew that neither one of us could handle this on top of everything else.
Years flew by. At some point I realized that you sucked your thumb, a lot. A lot more than I'd noticed. And we had started to see your teeth moving. Shifting. We couldn't ignore this any more. You were holding on tighter, instead of relenting slowly by slowly. Some kids suck their fingers and thumbs in a way that doesn't affect their teeth. I wish so much this was you. Unfortunately, the way you suck, you push on your top teeth with tremendous force. Sweet Lady, I grew up with horrible teeth. I was always completely ashamed of my teeth. They made me feel so ugly. I taught myself how to smile and laugh without showing my teeth, because I was so embarrassed. I was not one who was fortunate enough to have braces as a child or teenager, so that was the first thing I did as an adult with an adult job with an adult income. To this day, I am still incredibly self conscious about my teeth. Braces helped a lot, but not completely. I do not want this for you, and that has been my chief motivation in taking away this activity that we both find so wholly endearing.
Over the summer, we took away sucking your thumb during the day time. That would be phase I. Phase II: altogether, would come later. The first few days of Phase I were hard. But you did really well. There were a few episodes of tears, heavy heartfelt tears, but you adjusted quickly. I held you while you cried and told you I wished you could suck your thumb, too. You didn't try to sneak. You would sweetly ask, these last six months, "can I suck my thumb?" whenever you felt the urge. And most of the time we'd have to tell you 'no'. The rule was that you had to be in your bed, for nighttime sleeping, to suck your thumb. It would break my heart to tell you 'no'. Every time. My heart yearned to tell you 'yes'.
I believe it was when we took the front rail off the front of your crib that you found the spare crib sheet in the closet. You loved rolling around in it and pushing your feet against the elastic. Before long, it became your special blanket. Although you graduated to a big girl bed, you still held onto the pink flannel crib sheet. You wanted to have it when you went to sleep. You wanted to have it downstairs to snuggle and watch a show. You wanted it accessible at any moment. Eventually we had an upstairs Soffee and a downstairs Soffee, since we had two identical crib sheets. You named "her". For she is a 'she' and her name is Soffee. You hold her. You surrounded yourself with her. You stroke her. You cover your face with her and inhale her sweet scent. You utterly adore and love her.
We began to warn you in December that after Christmas, it would be time to stop sucking your thumb, forever. You started to tell me how Soffee makes you want to suck your thumb. I could have cried a river each time you said that. For I knew. I knew just what you meant, and it made me hurt just as much as it made you. I was devestated thinking we'd have to take Soffee away. I love Soffee. I love that you love Soffee. I know I was more upset about losing Soffee than I was about having to take away your thumb.
An hour before bedtime on the night of Phase II, you told me again how you were so concerned about what to do about Soffee, if you couldn't suck your thumb, for Soffee just makes you want to suck your thumb. It was all I could do not to break down right there.
That night, we placed the special thumb guards (link) over your thumbs (for we discovered over the summer how just one wouldn't work. You just switched to the other thumb!). I read to you. I sang you songs. And then I held your hand while you fell asleep. It is one of my most fond memories. Your eyes filled with tears, but you were a brave, tough girl. You accepted our explanations that although we didn't want to have to take this away from you, we have good reason and it is ultimately for your good. As I write this, it has been four nights that you've not sucked your thumb. You've done so well. We are so proud of you we could burst. You needed a little help falling asleep the second night, and I held your hand again. But you've fallen asleep on your own the last two. I could not be more surprised, or proud. And best of all, you've managed to hold Soffee each night and draw comfort from her familiar scent, her familiar softness, her familiar drape over your head while you lay in your bed, without sucking your thumb. I believe I am most excited that Soffee gets to remain part of your life. I don't think my heart would have survived retiring her.
The afternoon before we executed Phase II I asked you to quickly come to the playroom window with Soffee and let me shoot the last time you got to suck your thumb. These images are so bittersweet, but I'm so glad I captured the four year old you with your special soft blanket and your beloved thumb. I am so very proud of you, Sweet Pea.
Next in our group is Rebecca Chalmers. Please take a few moments to view her letter and the rest of the group.