The Thumb War

September 4th, 2007

Long before we had kids I decided they wouldn’t suck their thumbs. I think I’ve always felt that way–at least as long as I can remember–but the decision became solidified during my former life as a speech-language pathologist.

“Bite down and show me your teeth,” I said and turned my client’s head with gloved hands to get a profile view of her pearly whites.

Mhm, that’s what I thought, eyeing the large overbite that was causing her lisp, She was a thumb-sucker.

The poor girl didn’t stand a chance without some serious orthodontia work. I informed her parents there wasn’t much I could do to help her until her overbite was corrected.

When little Bubbers came along, I was ready.

“Uh-oh,” my Mom said a few days after his birth, “I think he takes after you.” (Referring to my infantile need to suck 24/7).

I watched him like a hawk and the minute he showed an ounce of blurry, cross-eyed interest in his hands I broke out the first line of artillery: no-scratch mittens in five different colors and two different sizes.

That kid didn’t know he had hands ’til he was 3 months old. Sure, I took a lot of grief for it, but there was no way I was going to let him suck his thumb.

Did he actually ever try to suck his thumb? Well, no, but that was irrelevant (ah, the wonderful folly of being a first-time parent).

Then Bubbers started using his hands. My heart broke when he reached his little mittened hand up to bat at a dangling toy.

Okay, I relented, He can have his hands whenever I’m watching him.

The mittens were removed and only replaced when he wasn’t within my line of sight (i.e., naps & bedtime).

He started grabbing things with his chubby little fingers. (Burping after a feeding suddenly became more complicated as he got his perpetually sweaty fingers tangled in my hair and pulled me this way and that like a puppet on strings).

Then the sucking began. It was small at first. A couple sucks of his index finger here. A slobbery fist there.

Well, I told myself, I suppose it’s okay if he sucks, as long as he doesn’t show a preference for a certain finger or something.

I never knew how cute he would be, aimlessly, yet ferociously, sucking one to four digits at any given time. Happily, he looked up at me and cooed with his mouth full.

Awwww, I smiled, blissfully snapping a hundred pictures.

But it couldn’t last forever.

“Hey, Love,” I said suddenly, “What’s Bubbers doing?”

We both stopped and stared. He looked like he was sucking his right fist, but there was something about it that wasn’t quite right…

“He’s sucking his thumb!!” we answered simultaneously.

Albeit, it was only the itsy bitsy tip of his right thumb, but there was thumb suckage nonetheless.

That’s when I pulled out my second line of defense: pacifiers.

A plethora of age-appropriate pacifiers were strategically placed throughout the house and one attached to his ever present bib.

Now I’ve got you, I thought confidently.

Whenever Bubbers sucked the tip of his thumb, I said, “No thumbs, please,” and replaced it with his pacifier.

A few days ago, Bubbers upped the ante and found his entire right thumb in isolation of his fist!

“No thumbs, please,” was uttered constantly, and I forgot what Bubbers looked like without a pacifier in his mouth.

One night during a diaper change, Bubbers threw down the ultimate gauntlet…

I looked up to find him sucking his thumb AND the pacifier at the same time!!

Holy smokes! I didn’t even know that was possible!


I knew things were quickly getting out of hand (no pun intended), so I pulled out the big guns: extra long socks.

The mittens of his youth had become no match for Bubbers–they were easily removed and mysteriously thrown out of his crib. Searching for an alternative, I remembered my sister Nelly had mentioned that socks can work as mittens.

Bubbers’ right arm became a soggy sock.

Heaven help us if he ever finds out he has a left thumb.

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