"We've got to do something", she says to me.
"I know. It's out of control."

"It's going to affect that loose tooth of his, too.", she says, underscoring the point. He'd performed a brilliant lip-stand some months earlier and the front tooth was slightly grayed from the impact.

"How about putting him to bed with mittens on?" I offer, slyly.
"How about you get serious for a minute here?"

We obtain one of those thumb-splint things you wear when you've sprained a digit. This thumb-sucking had to stop. Now appearing were welts and calluses and god-knows-what could happen to that poor 3 year old's thumb.

Three years ago, I distinctly remember showing the little guy where his thumb was so he could do something to soothe himself. We were never really into the pacifier very much; only when absolutely needed. And so we opted for the thumb, which worked wonders for a couple of years when the crying came quickly and became out of control even quick...lier. It was great. Almost like hands-off parenting; he could take care of himself through the night, and we'd only be interrupted by a brief cry while he located the soother that never got more than arm's length away.

But all good things had to come to an end.

If we'd relied on the pacifier like so many other parents do, we could probably have broken the habit quite easily. Cut back the tip, take away the power of the pacifier. Lose the soothe, so to speak. They'll give it up eventually when they realize they're no longer getting satisfaction out of it. Back in the early days, we'd maintain that the thumb was great because we didn't have to hunt around for soothers, didn't have to worry about being out without one, and the little guy didn't have to turn his crib upside-down in the middle of the night trying to locate one. But, as they say, no kid ever went to Kindergarten with a soother. Did they go while still sucking their thumb?

The splint didn't work. It never fit properly, and basically fell off while he was getting into bed. Next up? Gauze and tape. The gauze was insanely expensive, and pulled off easily. The tape, no less expensive, no stickier by itself. We purchased some of that nail polish stuff that you're supposed to use to stop nail-biters (Icould use some myself) -- but it seemed inhumane to nearly poison our child while he slept and attempted to gain comfort as he'd been taught to do. And then I discovered something that worked. I should have known a Canadian solution would present itself.

Hockey tape.

It's cheap and effective. No gauze, just a stick-load, wrapped around the thumb and pressed down so it was nearly impossible to pull off. For weeks, this was the answer. Every morning, in fact, I would have to take the sharpest scissors in the house to his thumb and remove the icky sticky ball of tape from his thumb. It was ingenious.

And then the tape stopped appearing on his thumb in the morning. He was getting the tape OFF, the little fink. But how?

I now know how.

We've determined that he just sucked on the tape-clad thumb until the skin 6 layers down became wet enough to slide that ultra sticky stick-tape right off. It seemed the longer it took him to fall asleep on his own on any given night, the more likely we'd find the tape missing in the morning. Tonight, he had it off in record time. I went in to his bedroom not 20 minutes after he'd been put to bed, the entire time I could hear him shuffling around (apart from his requests for water and a hug, neither of which I'm particularly good at denying him).

I sat down beside him and grabbed his slippery, naked thumb and looked at him.

"Where's your tape?" I demanded sternly.
"Down that hole!", he said, smiling and pointing to the netherworld between his mattress and his bed frame.

I looked away, stifled a laugh and then turned back and got serious for a moment. I reapplied the tape, giving strict instructions as I do every night that he was not to remove the tape. Clearly I'm saying all of this for my benefit, because he gave me that same big smile and said, "right!"


So now, I'm back to thinking of something else to do to break this thumb sucking habit. The mittens are still not out of the question. I'm also devising a way to get The Lovely Wife to be the one to clean under his bed.

Posted bythemikestand at 8:21 PM  

5 stepped up to the mike:

SRH said... 10:18 PM, November 02, 2007  

The thumb thing is a tricky one. One that I am glad we did not have to deal with. All we had to deal with was Santa being some kind of thief in the night.

Steph said... 8:00 PM, November 03, 2007  

Having been an avid and sneaky thumb-sucker myself, it was not until my parents Dennis Lee's "Being Five" that I was convinced to quit sucking my thumb.

I was (and still am) a competitive little shit and couldn't bear the thought that I would be sucking my thumb longer than the child in the poem, so I gave up the thumb, at age 4.5.

The pen is mightier than the sword!

Steph said... 8:05 PM, November 03, 2007  

sorry - that was "until my parents read..."

and "Being Five" can be found in the book "Garbage Delight".

Karen said... 11:59 AM, November 04, 2007  

Sorry I'm a little late reading this. Posting every day is sucking up so much brain energy that I an unable to read anything anyone else is writing. Which rather negates the whole thing, but oh well.

Bribery. You're welcome.

canadian sadie said... 7:30 PM, November 04, 2007  

My parents tried absolutely everything. I sucked my thumb until I was 10. Never in front of people after school started.

I tried the nasty tasting stuff--you get used to the taste. They tried splints. Whatever. My dentist even suggested tennis balls tied over my thumb and tied onto my wrist...on both hands.

I ALWAYS found a way around it. Eventually, although it drove my folks crazy, they stopped bugging me about it.

Lo and behold, it worked. Finally--when I felt like it--I just stopped.

Unless it's really messing with his permanent teeth, I wouldn't worry too much. It's not going to hurt his baby teeth any, they're all going to fall out anyway.

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