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The thumb sucker

I recently read an article written by a mum who’s child is (or probably ‘was’ by now) a thumb sucker. The writer talked about how perfect strangers feel it is acceptable to comment on this when she was going about her buisiness. The reason I came across the article was because I had just experienced this exact phanomona and was looking to Mr Google to find out if anyone else had experienced the same thing. 

As it turns out, however, thumb sucking is one of those things that everyone likes to have an opinion on. And often, they like to tell you that opinion, even if you haven’t actually asked for it. 

I was at a supermarket with my thumb sucker, who was sat quietly in the trolly while we picked up a few bits. We had chosen a treat together because she had been very good at the eye doctor despite being very scared earlier that day. She was behaving perfectly. I had no complaints about her!

The Girl often sucks her thumb, has done from very early on, and so far we haven’t really felt the need to discourage this. I am convinced the thumb was a reason why she was a pretty good sleeper early on. The Boy is not a thumb sucker and I am sure that is why he struggled(s) to sleep through the night. When she was about 2 a dentist told us we should stop her from doing it, but trying to stop a 2-year-old from sucking her thumb is virtually impossible. A bit of research around the subject told me that lasting damage associated with thumb sucking is likely caused in children older then 2 (normally after the first set of teeth have fallen out) and then only if there is an existing pre-disposition to a problem in overbite, so I felt like it was ok to lay off the requests to stop for the time being. Besides, she only ever does it when she’s tired or insecure, and when she’s tired or insecure, telling her to stop doesn’t work because she immediately forgets what you have told her while she focuses the tiredness or whatever is making her feel anxious. 

Anyway, back in the supermarket my little thumb-sucker was busy being an angel when the lady working on the checkout told her, directly, to take her thumb out of her mouth. She then turned to me

”You need to stop her from doing that, it’ll ruin her face.” 

I was flabbergasted. I just laughed and said  

“yeah...”  because I didn’t know what else to say, but she then proceeded to lecture me on how she was a thumb sucker, and how bad it was for my daughter (without any actual evidence as to why) a loss as to what to actually say in response, I just said ‘yeah...’ and smiled a bit. What I wanted to say was;

”Oh really? You want me to stop my 3-year-old from sucking her thumb? Have you tried stopping a three year old from sucking their thumb? And why? Why exactly? What evidence do you have that this will have a positive effect on her? Or that not stopping will have a negative effect on her?’ 

Of course, said supermarket checkout personnel may well have a medical degree and lots of well researched evidence to back this instruction up, but she didn’t mention it to me in this instance. Plus of course any medical evidence she did have could be countered by contradictory evidence because such is the nature of academia, but somehow we didn’t get onto this as I paid for my 3-year-olds treats. Frankly the bag of dolly mixtures and box of Krispy Kreme* donuts I was paying for would likely cause far more damage to the child’s teeth and body then sucking her thumb for 20 mins in a supermarket, but no one mentioned that to me either.


Why then, is thumb sucking something people feel they can weigh in on opinion wise when no opinion has been asked for? Why am I not the only one to encounter this? Why is it that this isn’t the first time strangers or even people I know have mentioned to me about her thumb sucking? I don’t know the answer, I suspect the lady in question thought she was being helpful, that I clearly wouldn’t know about such things. Or else she had been told it so many times as a child herself she thought she would pass the feeling on. Maybe she thought I didn’t know, or realise, that I was doing my child such lasting damage and she was only trying to help. 

I am quite sure that if my 3-year-old was sat in the trolly with a dummy in her mouth, someone may well have told me that she needed to lose the dummy as well, I suspect parents of dummy-users are also subjected to this level of stranger intervention, or a three year old using a bottle I would imagine, but why? What is it about the harmless, oral fixations in our pre-schoolers that people feel the need to weigh in on? And why do people feel they have a right to do so? My child, my problem. Actually, more accurately, my child’s body, her problem, although I guess it is my job to help police that until she is old enough to read and digest the appropriate arguments for and against herself. 

Either way, if you see my little girl, or any little child for matter, sucking their thumb, please mind your own business, I am sure the parents have it in hand, it’s difficult enough approaching this tricky matter with a three year old with without oodles of stranger judgement layered on! 

*I will remind you here that is was a one off treat, and not an every day occurrence, (the contents of the trolly) and I promise she didn’t eat the whole box of donuts anyway, but that is beside the point! 

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