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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12 thoughts on “Two Daughters Growing Up: Of Thumbs and … Other Things”

  1. I didn’t know my kids when they were little since they came to us when they were almost teens. Watching them grow up is the most incredible gift, yet bittersweet at times. I think this is pretty universal, as you describe here. On another note, about thumb sucking. I never quite understood why a parent wouldn’t let a little one thumb suck. I still don’t get it.
    .-= Meredith´s last blog ..Part 2: Money as Metaphor =-.

  2. I hear you – completely. This whole growing up thing is very bittersweet. And for me, having a baby as well as older ones makes me relive everyone’s childhood at all those different stages and remember all the older ones as babies, toddlers…….. And then I just feel utter disbelief that time has passed so quickly! If this first decade of parenthood has passed in the blink of an eye, so too will the second, it feels like.

    Oh, and my baby is an avid thumb sucker too.
    .-= Christine´s last blog ..Loving Sydney =-.

  3. I was anxious for my kids to grow up (at times) and now that they are in their 20s, I soooo miss them being around. Fortunately we have made Sundays “family day” and they usually surface, if not for anything else but a home-cooked meal~!

    And re. thumb-sucking: my niece just gave birth and her daughter immediately jammed her thumb into her mouth. I thought…lucky baby that she can comfort herself so easily, and lucky mommy that she can depend on her child to know how to comfort herself.

  4. Yep–totally look forward to it and dread it all the same. My daughter is singing “conjunction junction what’s your function?” right now. Totally cute. But an hour before she was whining while I was trying to cook dinner. Not cute. Sometimes it just depends on the moment.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..How to Resolve Power Struggles with Your Inlaws =-.

  5. Well, I come at this from a different angle. My kids already ARE grown up. My son has a daughter. I miss the babies my children were, and I’m proud of the people they have become. Fortunately there are photos, and memory.

    Now, for thumb-sucking. I did it until I was at least five. I had to have braces because I did it. My first two children were nursed for 6 and 10 months. They didn’t do it. My third child didn’t like nursing. She did it until she was at least five. She had to have her teeth straightened.

    I agree with you on those awful plastic binkies, cancer-generating machines.

    Now, I can also provide a trick for any child who cannot stop thumb sucking. It worked for me, and it worked for my daughter. At night, you show your child how to place the thumb not in his/her mouth, but rather under the chin and press up. It feels as if you were sucking the thumb, almost.
    .-= Alexandra´s last blog ..Seashore to Hold Hearings on Plan to Poison Crows =-.

  6. My daughter is almost 18. I have no idea where the time went. Last night we needed to find a scrap of wallpaper for a school project for my son. The wallpaper my husband found was from her first room at a house we were renting. I don’t know how it can seem that was only yesterday, when this week she got a college acceptance letter to the school and program of her choice. It just goes too fast. Maybe I’ll have grandchildren in the next 10-15 years.

  7. Baby girl is a thumb sucker and has been since shortly after she was born. I sucked my thumb until I was 8 and my aunt until she was 12!! The hubby is against it, but I say if that helps her feel a little bit more secure in new settings and helps her fall asleep, then why not? Thank goodness she has a way to soother herself.

    As for little girls becoming big girls, I haven’t gotten there yet, but my niece is 11 and it’s amazing how much she’s changing and maturing in every way, physically and emotionally. I remember it being a very difficult time for me, but also it’s pretty wondrous when the world starts to look so different and so much new opportunity unfolds.
    .-= Almost Slowfood´s last blog ..Roast Chicken with Lemon and Oregano =-.

  8. Oh, I’m really struggling with this! My eldest is 17 – he’ll be an actual, honest to goodness legal adult in October. This makes me so sad, and yet I’m so proud of the person he’s grown to be. He’s a wonderful guy – as is his younger brother – but I know I will miss having both of them around and it will be quiet here in not too many years. Happily, he is still very happy to hug his mom – and I take ’em when I get ’em!
    .-= Kris´s last blog ..Get face-to-face with Oahu

  9. I’m so glad that my kids can now tie their own shoes, bathe themselves, I don’t miss the baby days. But life does seem to go by fast sometimes. Frankly, I love the upper elementary stage (not yet dealing with all of the middle school problems), but still wanting to hang out with mom. And hey, I’m still “cool.”
    .-= MyKidsEatSquid´s last blog ..Why I don

  10. Since my children are grown, like Alexandra, I approach this from a different perspective. The way I combated the “oh no, my little one is growing up too fast,” was to revel in each new accomplishment. It kept me looking forward rather than looking backward. As to thumb sucking, my daughter didn’t and my son did. Both wore braces.
    .-= Donna Hull´s last blog ..Saturday

  11. Well, first, I would like to say that self-comforting is okay and does not mean a lack from somewhere else. We all need to know how to comfort – even ourselves. And, I cannot lie. No matter how I try to deny it, I never bounced back from the day my son pulled away to go across the country to college. I felt like my heart was attached to the bumper and ripped out of my chest. I lay on the bed and cried for hours and hours and when it was time to cook dinner for us, I cried harder than ever, before.

    In fact, it all goes so fast that all of a sudden you ask yourself, “did that ever happen? Was I changing diapers and giving baths and reading stories?” We know this. We know one day they will be grown. And, gone from home. And, there will never be a purpose that can measure up. But, here was the surprise. Grandparenting. Ahh, and the joy in your heart returns.

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