Thursday, January 8, 2015

Kicking The Habit

When I first started this blog I talked about the blankies each one of my girls had.  Sonya and Georgia both used their blankies along with sucking their thumb as their way to relax.  Lana skipped the middle man and just sucked on her blankie, which yes, is just as gross as you imagine.  I will be honest, they all still have their blankies, but they are not dragged all over the place every day as they once were.  They are only for bedtime as just a security.  Really,  I never really cared much that they had them. I had a Dumbo stuffed animal from the time I was 5 that I slept with while sucking my thumb.  He came to college with me.  What I cared more about was the bad habit of sucking on their thumbs/blankies that went along with their lovies.

The thumb/blankie sucking was something I was always concerned about.  However, when you have a nine month old and she can comfort herself in the middle of the night by sucking on her thumb, giving you an extra 20 minutes of sleep, you're not really thinking about the fact that some day you will have to break her of that habit.  Someday is soooo far away when you have a 9 month old.  You're just thinking, "Thank God that thumb is attached to her body so I don't have to leave this bed and help her find it."  Then when they get older  you start to realize that perhaps this may be a problem at some point.  Especially when you start to think about the fact that the habit may lead to braces.  If you don't know-braces are a small fortune.  With three kids in them, it's more of a middle size fortune. A family trip to Hawaii-TWICE- fortune, if you will.  

I consulted with the girls' pediatrician and dentist about each of their habits.  They both told me the best thing to do was to leave it alone.  So far the damage was not severe in any of them, especially because they still have baby teeth. They assured me that most kids by 6 or 7 will stop on their own.  This made sense to me,  since I myself was a thumb sucker.  I did indeed kick the habit all on my own.  I remember it clearly.  It was right before I started second grade and I thought to myself that I was to old to be sucking my thumb, so I slept on my hand for a week.  I remember how hard it was to fall asleep that first night, but I did it and I knew they would be able to as well, when they were ready.

I was not wrong.  Sonya stopped when she was around 6 ½-7.  I can't remember exactly when it was, but she came to me and told me she wanted to stop sucking her thumb.  My sister had just weened her daughter off of her thumb sucking habit and had used something called Mavala Stop.  It is the typical paint the thumbnail and make it taste bad technique.  Sonya knew this and wanted to try it to help remind her.  So I ordered it and the day it arrived we used it.  It took her all of one night to stop.  Sure, that first night she had a bit of trouble sleeping but by night two it was easier, and night three not even a thought.  I breathed a sigh of relief at how easy it was!  What are the chances they would all be this simple?  Then I remembered that nothing was really simple with my adorable second born child.  

So Lana.  I was petrified about trying to get Lana to stop sucking her blankie.  I mean painting a nail is one thing, but what do you do with a kid who puts a blankie in her mouth?  I couldn't paint the whole blankie with that stuff.  Believe me, I considered it.  The only solution was to just take away blankie.  This was something I was not willing to do until I absolutely had to.  So for a year and a half we talked on and off about how she was going to stop using her blankie.  I thought that maybe if I painted the finger nails  she sucked on under the blankie, that might work.  Her blankie has thinned out so much over the years, surely she would be able to taste some of the bitterness on her nails and stop putting them, along with her blank, in her mouth.  Over this past summer one night we tried it.  She couldn't taste it at all and continued the habit.  Back to the drawing board.

I'll be honest, I kept putting it off and ignoring it.  The only time she even used it was when she went to sleep at night.  So really it was only in her mouth 10 minutes tops each day.  I mean that's fine right?  She could go to college like that?  Who cares?! 

Part of the reason I was hesitating on cutting her off was because blankie was a security for me.  It's well documented on here that Lana is queen of the temper tantrums.  She can destroy half a days time in our house with just one or two of her tantrums.  They have certainly gotten better over the years, but she still has them when she doesn't get her way, is tired, hungry or just generally cranky.  She is just a very fiery girl.  Always has been from the time she came into this world.  So her blankie would be her way to calm down more quickly when she was in the middle of a tantrum.  It was like handing a smoker a cigarette and a lighter.  Within a few minutes of sucking on her blankie, the tantrum would subside and she would become normal again.  How the hell was I going to get through tantrums if I didn't have blankie to rely on?  So yes,  I was a bit lazy and didn't want to go through the withdrawal myself.  If you'd ever seen a Lana tantrum you would totally be on my side with this one.  You would have found a college that encouraged students to bring childhood blankies they sucked on.

I didn't force her to stop, not yet.  I figured once she hit 8 in March we really had to figure something out.  I mean 7 is pushing it to still have a sucking habit, but 8...8 is just to old for that kind of thing.  I would mention to her from time to time that we needed to think about getting rid of it. Of course that statement was always met with some kind of whine or whimper.  We tried to come up with ways that would still allow her to have her blankie, but no longer suck on it.  Unfortunately there weren't really any options.  I finally told her that when she was ready, maybe I could lay with her until she fell asleep without sucking on blankie.  I also said we could put it somewhere nearby like the end of the bed or under her pillow, that way it would still be around, but she wouldn't really be using it.  I thought this was a way to provide a bit of comfort to her and baby step out of the habit.  She thought that sounded like a good idea.  Better than the other one I had-which was to put it in a plastic baggie to keep her from sucking on it.  This was hard for me, dammit!

For a couple weeks she would say something about maybe me laying with her at night.  Then she would decide not that night.    I could tell she was getting used to the idea and trying to talk herself into it, so I didn't push it.  Then she came to me one evening and told me she was ready.  She wanted me to lay with her until she fell asleep so she could give up her blankie.  I would have been more willing and excited if she wouldn't have picked the Monday BEFORE THANKSGIVING!  Like I don't have enough shit to do already that week!  So much cooking and preparing!  Who has time to lay with their 7 year old for an hour while she tries to fall asleep without her vice?  There was that part of me that hesitated and almost told her we would wait for the weekend-after Thanksgiving was over and I didn't have as much to do at night.  Then I thought-"don't be so stupid! If SHE wants to do this now,  you do this NOW!" So I did.  Because who has time for that shit? A mom does.  We will always make the time.

That night I layed with her for about 45 minutes.  A couple of times she told me she was having a hard time and really wanted to suck on her blankie.  I told her I completely understood, but that she was doing great.  Eventually she fell asleep. The next night Andy layed with her, but she feel asleep quicker. It took maybe 25 minutes.  By the third night she told us, 

"I'm fine.  I don't need you  to sleep with me anymore.  I don't need to suck on blankie."

And she didn't.  She was done.

Two nights.  Just like her sister, two nights.  I never pushed her or forced her and I let her come to me to tell me when she was ready. The same thing we did with Sonya. I honestly believe this is the best way to break kids of their thumb/blankie sucking habit.  The younger they are, the harder it is to break them of their habit, because they don't understand the need to break them of their habit.  At 7, they get it.  They know it's something they can't do forever.  Not to mention, most of their friends aren't sucking on their thumbs.  Going to sleepovers might start to get a bit embarrassing if they are still in the habit at night.  That is most likely what pushed me into stopping when I was 7.  Plus it helps that we gave her the incentive of going to her favorite place for breakfast if she made it a week without out.   

I also believe that if you wait until they are a bit older, they don't find something to replace the sucking habit, like with nail chewing.  Although Georgia already seems to be doing that as well, so she may be getting a full manicure with the Mavala Stop.  

Lana still has her blankie under her pillow, but she doesn't suck on it anymore.  As far as the tantrums...well so far it is taking a bit longer to calm her down. At least the tantrums themselves aren't as frequent at they were a couple years ago.  Plus, Santa brought a standing punching bag for her to take her aggression out on. So instead of sucking on blankie she can just beat the shit out of that.  Thanks Santa!

Now that I've been through this twice, I am thankful for how much easier it was than I originally thought it would be.  Of course, I suppose I shouldn't speak to soon.  I still have one more to go.  Georgia has already been talking about trying to stop ever since Lana did.  Then we get to night time and she decides she's not quite ready.  I figured I would give her until the summer and then we would try to push her a little more.  Unlike Lana, I'm not as concerned about her stopping because she doesn't need her thumb for tantrums.  She strictly sucks her thumb to go to sleep at night.  No, I'm more saddened about her stopping, because it really is the last bit of babyness that I will have to let go of.  Don't worry!  I will help her to stop soon.  I won't make this about me and my sadness of my kids growing up.  However, I think that so far my methods for this part of parenting have been proven successful twice and I plan on getting a perfect score here, so I'm not rushing her.  Well, at least not until it's time to send her off to college.  

No comments: