We’re having a pretty big month at my house. There’s a new car which I can’t and won’t stop talking about (I didn’t ever say I wasn’t materialistic); I’m still too gutless to talk to my downstairs neighbour about how inconvenient it is when he parks across my front door; and we are in full toilet training mode. I use the term ‘we’ because it feels like I’m doing it right along with her.
Just quietly, I feel like I should have a degree in toilet training by now. I’ve read so many books and talked to so many people that it is all I think about. Even at work I’m thinking of new and inventive ways to entice Lucy onto the toilet. Hell, I’ve even looked at my own style and polished it. Every little bit helps.
What they don’t tell you in toilet training books is how mind-numbing it can be. I feel like all I talk about is wee and poo. My new hangout place is on the edge of the bath, singing songs and reading books about, well, wee and poo.
I’ve even started using actual songs and replacing their lyrics with ones about poo and wee, just to break the monotony. For example, “I’m Outta Love” by Anastacia is now ‘I need to wee, set it free! Toilets like to eat wee wee!’. Followed my much laughter. But no wee.
But I digress.
There’s also been a lot of discussion about the right time to get rid of Lucy’s dummy. Daycare says that it’s time to give it up. My mum says that it’s time to give it up. Books say that it’s time to give it up and god forbid, other (judgmental) parents are aghast we even allowed it in the first place.
Now, I’m an avid supporter of comfort in whatever form it comes in so I’ve been fighting it tooth and nail. I even called a meeting with the daycare advising that I was fine for Lucy to give the dummy up in her own time and that I certainly wouldn’t be happy to hear about public shaming methods or hide and seek games involving it.
I think I even used the phrase “it would be against her human rights…blah blah blah”. One day I even became so worked up about it on my own that I cried and wrote furious text messages to anyone who would listen. I just couldn’t stand the thought of her giving up the one thing that has brought her so much comfort before she was ready.
Yeah, a little bit. So I had to really look at my reasons for acting so irrationally. Why was I willing to start a Change.org campaign about a dummy? What was my actual problem? It’s scary but I didn’t have to think very hard.
I knew what it was. I knew deep down that it was my filthy little secret, my terrible shame that was getting me so worked up. The thing that haunts me when I go to sleep at night and a subject that makes me jumpy when anyone mentions it.
So here it is. Everyone, you don’t know this about me but…I am a thumb sucker. Yes! A THUMB SUCKER.
Oh god, the shame. The trauma. The years I’ve hidden it from everyone I know, laughing and mocking others just to fit in. Dreading sleep-overs as a kid in case I woke up with my thumb in my mouth. Or worse – not wanting to go to sleepovers so I could stay at home and secretly suck my thumb.
It’s been awful. I’ve been an addict for so many years and now at 34, I’m sad to say I still haven’t kicked it completely. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I’m sucking on it and you know what? I DON’T HATE IT.
I’m a recreational user. Someone who leads a seemingly ‘normal’ life by day but hides in the shadows at night. No one would ever suspect what a ridiculously shameful existence I’ve actually been living.
Now that I’ve come out, I need you to know that I’ve always been a thumb sucker. Even as a little kid I couldn’t stop. My mother tried everything to rid me of the habit. Horrid tasting gunk in the hopes it would stop me but I just cried, sucked it off and continued on my merry way.
She even tried bribing me with a Pound Puppy. Remember them? I wanted one so badly that she decided to use it as leverage to try and get me to stop. The rules were simple. So, so simple. I could have the Pound Puppy but only if I stopped sucking my thumb. Easy, right?
I’m ashamed to admit I pulled a swifty on her. I pretended to kick the habit. I swore that I was done and it would never happen again. But as soon as I had my glorious prize, I went right back to sucking it like nothing had ever happened. That’s the thing with being an addict I guess. You can’t help but hurt the ones you love.
It’s often not until you’re honest with yourself that you can be honest with other people. For instance, I was talking to a lady I know about this very subject. Someone who I have wild respect for and consider to be one of the most sophisticated people I’ve ever met. Turns out she’s a thumb sucker too and we united in our common addiction. We regaled each other with stories and techniques and both noted that it was a hard habit to kick.
Even my therapist wasn’t phased. I prepped her for a ‘huge revelation’ before I came in to see her but she just shrugged. She said that it’s really common for adults to suck their thumb and it isn’t something that I should be ashamed of. She said that it would be more useful to consider what triggered it, rather than being such a big weirdo about it. My words, not hers.
Which got me thinking. If it’s so common, why are we shaming children (and adults) into stopping? What’s the point in adding stress and trauma to anyone’s life if we don’t have to? I know I’ve just carried on about my own personal shame but that aside, I’m actually standing by my dummy spit. It stays until Lucy is ready to give it up. Or I call Amnesty International.