Two Daughters Growing Up: Of Thumbs and … Other Things

On Friday nights we have Shabbat dinner together. We light candles and say blessings over the light, the wine, and the challah. We sing the blessings in Hebrew, which is the only way I feel comfortable doing it since I don’t believe in God.

We also play a game called Wooden Spoon. Whoever has the wooden spoon has the floor. First we share the best thing about our day, then the worst, then the silliest. Then we take turns saying one thing we are grateful for.

Baby Leone plays too.

This Friday James was holding her when it was her turn: “Best thing, my day, found something to suck on. It was yummy. Coming out of my hand.”

She was talking about her thumb, which she started sucking on while I was carrying her in the front pack facing outward on a long walk across town earlier in the day.

I’m a total believer in thumb sucking, though only one of my three older children ever sucked her thumb.

I like it because:

1) Your thumb can’t get lost

2) It’s a way for a child to find comfort

3) It satisfies the urge to suck

4) It’s not made of toxic plastic or any other foreign substance

5) It’s free

I know a lot of parents think thumb sucking is bad. My friend Michelle didn’t even like her son to suck on any part of his hand or fingers. I remember when he was four months old and we visited and every time he found his little fist, Michelle would bat his hand away from his mouth.

But I feel sort of sad about Leone sucking her thumb (though she hasn’t done it consistently since, so maybe I’m jumping the gun).

“She’s self-comforting,” James said, a little sadly.

“Already?” I added, a little sad too.

On Sunday Hesperus, Leone’s 10-year-old sister, had her first Body Basics class with a group of her 5th grade friends from school. Hesperus is growing up in so many ways, becoming longer and leaner and looking more like a young woman than a little girl.

I notice the changes, even though they are still so subtle, all the time now–when I smell her scalp as I kiss her goodnight on the top of her head, when she reads the Twilight books one after the other breathlessly and then decides she likes them so much she’s going to read them all again, when she talks about her friends (”My friends all have pierced ears, Mommy,” “my friends love to listen to iPods, Mommy”), when she sleeps as late as she can instead of bounding out of bed like the morning person she has always been.

I’m so proud of her but part of me just can’t bear it. I’M NOT READY FOR THEM TO GROW UP SO MUCH, I want to shout from the rooftop. CAN’T THEY SLOW DOWN?!

How do you feel about your children growing older? Do you have mixed feelings about it? Are you ready for them to leave for college? Do you wish they could just stay small? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below (if you want to weigh in on thumb sucking, I’d be interested in your opinion about that as well).

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