It came out of nowhere! All of a sudden Ruqi’s thumb found it’s way to her mouth. Not as a baby, but at the age of two and a half.
To say it came completely out of nowhere would be slightly unfair to my darling little girl. In one year, she faced several major transitions: relocation, put in daycare and then abruptly taken out, emotional ups and downs of mommy’s pregnancy finally ending with the introduction of the “new baby” , weaned off of breast, potty training, and let’s see, am I leaving anything out?
So, needless to say, she went through a lot emotionally and physically. With the new baby on board, I could not coddle her every time she was upset and I could not always sing and rock her to sleep. As a baby, suckling the breast was her – and my- answer to everything. Whether she was hungry, hurt, or saddened, suckling was always her greatest comfort and medicine. Weaning her at twenty months when I became pregnant was difficult to say the least.
In retrospect, I realize that breastfeeding her through every emotional and physical strain as a baby set me up for our present struggle: thumb-sucking. I hate it. The sound is like nails on a chalk board as far as I’m concerned. The sight of it is not only unappealing, but attracts looks and comments from other adults.
I must admit, when she first started sucking her thumb, I was relieved. She was never a self-soother, but she had now become one out of necessity. I was so busy with her baby sister, that it was a relief when she would suck her thumb to sleep or to stop crying. I actually believe it was a blessing and a mercy for the both of us. However, as most things during toddlerhood eventually do, I believe it has run its course.
Yesterday I bought these really pretty Dora Band-Aids. With an excited expression on my face I said, “Ruqi, look at your thumb! It has a boo boo!” She inspected the red blister that has formed on top of her thumb from vigorous sucking. “What do you think we should do?” I desperately needed the band aide idea to come out of her mouth, not mine.
“Dora Band Aide Mommy!” Thank God! I was so happy she agreed to the bandaging of her little swollen red thumb. Before she could think too hard about it, I wrapped the bandage around and snapped a pic. It worked pretty well all day, but when nightfall came she cried for her thumb and I was too exhausted to fight, so I removed the bandage. But tonight there was a breakthrough! I put another bandage on– with her permission- and got her to sleep with no sucking.
With every milestone usually exists the two steps forward, one step back rule. In addition to our normal routine of prayer and story books, I also had to sing to her, rub her back, and stroke her hair until she dosed off. But that’s okay; she’s only 3 years old after all. And if keeping her away from that thumb means I have to be a bit more nurturing, then perhaps that is a good thing too.