Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Images From a Friday Night

I have a confession to make.  I sort of wish I could take back the words I wrote in Friday's post, the part about looking forward to the start of school again.  Because it's here, tomorrow, and last night tears were falling in my piles of unfolded towels and picnic blankets.  TRUE. STORY.

Relationships between mothers and daughters take a bit more work I'm convinced, especially if the two are as alike as myself and Taylor.  I just started realizing it.  So often, and I don't think I'm alone, but I fall into this thinking that these kids of ours should just do what we ask them to do, no questions asked because "I said so."  And while of course there has to be respect of parents, of rules, of requests, but does it always have to be doled out with an authoritarian discipline style.  Do what I say or else?  In this moment, today, I know that's not the case and I hope I can remember it often.

Let me back up a bit.  My sweet Taylor has been a finger sucker since she was eleven weeks old.  I remember the day well, actually the night well.  I snuck into her room at night to give her a "dream feed" hoping to top her off for a bit and get a good stretch of sleep myself.  I found her gloriously sucking on two of her fingers, happy and content as can be.  I literally ran out of the room jumping up and down saying to Art "she's found her fingers, she's found her fingers!"
 Taylor was never a pacifier baby, hated them from the start, and if you're a new mother you soon find out that one of the quickest ways to soothe a fussy baby or get them to sleep and stay asleep is to cue that inherent sucking reflex.  My girl had found a way to self-soothe and suddenly I knew things were gonna turn around in our house, and they did.  Whenever Taylor started to get the least bit fussy (granted she wasn't hungry) she'd just pop those fingers in her mouth and settle herself down.  And I never had to do the dreaded waking up in the middle of the night thing to go in and stick the paci back in her mouth because she had lost it and couldn't find it.  She always knew where her fingers were.
Fast forward 6 years and my sweet girl was still sucking her fingers at a now alarming rate.  She held it in all day at school, but by the time she got home from school she was jonesing so bad for her fingers that it was all I could do to force them out of her mouth to eat dinner.  It was starting to affect her bite structure and it was just really annoying for me to see my 6 year old sucking her fingers all the time, and of course she still sucked them at night to go to bed.  It was a problem, and I especially knew that it had to stop now before it became even more engrained.  I, my friends, sucked my thumb until I was almost 13 years old, not by choice but out of sheer habit.  I begged my mom as I got older to help me stop, it was awful.  I could see that Taylor was on the same path and we wanted to help her stop now before it got further along.
So for the last 4 weeks we've been using this special nail polish that basically makes her fingers taste so awful she doesn't want to put them in her mouth.  I can best describe it as very, very strong and bitter tasting ear wax.  Disgusting, I know.  She wants to stop and is ready to stop, but it's been a tough 4 weeks.  She hasn't been sleeping well because some nights out of habit she'll stick her fingers in her mouth and then wake up and have to wash her mouth out, or it will take her an hour to fall asleep as opposed to 3 seconds flat.  She's tired and she's cranky and oh man has she been defiant, which is what led me to that whole "I can't wait for school to start again" statement.
Later that day after I wrote that post, I started thinking about Taylor's situation as I watched her play in the sand.  Here she is, giving up a habit cold-turkey, that she's done hundreds of times a day for 6 years now.  It's been her first source of comfort when she is tired, sick, sad, grumpy.  And I'm expecting her to just give it up without a hitch.  Meanwhile I see and hear grown women bitch and complain about having to give up one can of Diet Coke a day.  I myself bitched and moaned about giving up one cup of coffee a day.  I think I was expecting a little too much out of my 6 year old little girl, sadly I usually do.  The defiance, the nasty attitude she'd displayed pretty much most of summer all came back to slap me in the face.
So Friday night after we were all cozy from a warm shower, I sat down and talked with her about this experience.  It took some prodding but eventually she told me she just feels so tired all the time.  And she feels jealous because we aren't making Syd stop sucking his thumb yet (yes, we've been blessed with 2 anti-paci finger sucking children).  I told her that when I was pregnant with her, I was jealous of her daddy because he didn't have to deal with morning sickness or swollen feet and she thought that was pretty funny.  She told me that she couldn't be around her special blankie anymore either because it just made her want to suck her fingers even more.  I listened and encouraged her to open up.  She talked to me for an hour.  For weeks I had been asking myself "what happened to my little girl?"  She was there still, I just had to dig her out a little.

Funny thing is, since that talk of ours on Friday night, she's been a joy to be around and we've had a great few days together.  I've learned that it's not just up to Taylor to define our relationship, but it's something I have to develop and mold with patience, gentleness, kindness, not just a demand that she act obedient and respectful because I said so.

Today's our last day together before she officially becomes a first grader.  A friend of ours is taking Syd for a few hours and I plan to take Taylor out to lunch and to get ice cream.  She's also requested polka dots be painted on her nails for the first day of school.  I think we can manage that... 


  1. So good Andrea.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Love from,

  2. This post made me cry!!!! Thank you for sharing it. Such good wisdom in here, love it. Praying for you & Taylor and that she continues to stop sucking her fingers. Hang in there, you are a wonderful mom! Have a fun girls day today!

  3. I've been learning the same thing. Kensington gave up her pacifiers this weekend. I realized that they had become a friend to her and I needed to treat the situation with care, concern and love.

    Great post!

  4. An hour-long conversation ... that's awesome! I know you've already made it through 4 weeks but I'm just wondering ... maybe you could do the nail polish during the day and take it off at night? I guess if it's affecting her bite structure it's best to give it up entirely but if you can tackle the day-time habit first, on a good night's sleep, maybe the nighttime sucking will work itself out ... or tackle it later. Just a thought ... I don't have any experience though and I'm sure it's a tough thing to deal with. Good luck to her (and you)!

  5. Loved this post, Andrea. Parenting is such an ever changing job, not one that you can truly be prepared for. Each child is so unique, there is no one that can tell you what to do. It is up to the mom and dad to figure out just how their child ticks. Thank you for sharing your story with Taylor.

  6. oh my gosh, great job! she could have forever remembered that situation as plain awful, but you replaced the comfort she found in her fingers with understanding and comfort from mom. wow, because of her response to you, it seems she felt really seen. and that is all we need to do, i think. it's not our job to protect them from difficulty. it is to see them, hear them, and help them walk through those hard times and changes of growing up. you are a good mama.

  7. I'm so with you regarding the, this must be done now and no questions asked type of scenario, but rarely stop to think about the fact I'm dealing with a 6 year old with very few cares or worries never mind to have everything in it's proper place. I still think they need to know to be tidy and follow direction but maybe I could be a better helper when situations arise and we could do tasks together. I really need to be more patient because I know when Miranda goes back to school and it's just back to me and Quinn, we'll miss her.....

  8. oh wow...very sweet post. My best friend and my bosses daughter sucked two fingers as babies and into their childhood. My son had a paci (which he affectionately called "my pat") until he was 3...then the Easter Bunny took them away. He tried to start thumb sucking after that but it wasn't as soothing to him. We had some very serious behavior problems with him afterward. I definitely think it is very hard on kids to stop a habit. It's such a comfort to them.

  9. such a powerful post, andrea. really, what an eye-opening look inside the relationship between mother and daughter. what a gift you've given taylor... and i love the photos that accompany this post. :)

  10. Such a beautiful post Andrea. I hope she had a wonderful first day at school today.

    much love,

  11. ok, love all the sweet, yummy photos.
    way to go, wise mama! i am not even sure that either of you realize how crucial and special your conversation was. i suspect many years from now, it will be reflected upon and treasured even closer to your hearts. it will never be forgotten, for sure. keep it up, what a blessing you are being to your girl! xo

  12. I love this post! Leila was the same - totally hated pacifiers, started sucking her fingers which led to biting her nails, which led to biting them to the point of bleeding. The nasty nail polish didn't work, but fortunately with a bribe she hasn't bitten her nails in about three months. Fingers crossed!

  13. This is such a sweet post. Though I'm not a parent, I just love to read posts like this that give an honest, transparent and touching glimpse into the world of raising children.

    Thanks for sharing--

    Stephanie from Make Home Make Sense


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