Monday, July 21, 2003

Old habits die hard

I got myself into a pretty good tizzy the other day over a comment my mother-in-law made about the fact that my son, at the ripe old age of 10, is still sucking his fingers. Now, I know that's not exactly an appropriate behavior for his age. And in terms of personal hygeine and good dental care, it's also not ideal. But it's also true that sucking his fingers is a sure-fire calming technique for him, and that his other calming choices -- sucking on his shirt, blowing raspberries on his arm, putting his hands down his pants -- are at least as problematic. Picking at him constantly to take his fingers out of his mouth, take his fingers out of his mouth, take his fingers out of his mouth is a pretty good way to nudge his stress level up into the danger zone, not to mention my husband's and mine. So I haven't placed making him kick the habit anywhere high on my list of priorities.

The finger-sucking boy, therefore, was perfectly calm when we went for a visit with his grandma. My stress level, on the other hand, started creeping up when she started commenting on what a shame it was that he still sucked his fingers. It bugged me when she tried to get him to stop. It bugged me more when she asked my husband, "Don't the other kids tease him? He's 10 years old!" And it bugged me most when she turned to him and started in on how it's all our fault for not making him stop. I jumped right in and told her to leave it alone. And since her hearing's gone glitchy lately, I had to repeat myself. By the third time I said it, I was yelling. I grabbed the boy's spitty hand and took him outside for a walk, as much to give myself a time-out as anything.

The thing is, he's been doing so great this summer. He's been reading with me every day, doing worksheets on demand, practicing his piano, going to a mainstream camp without a problem, faithfully taking computerized typing lessons every day, working with a tutor once a week. He's doing so much, so calmly, and I'm so proud of him. I feel completely good and confident about saying that as long as he's doing so many big things so well, I'm not going to sweat the small stuff. So why does a little criticism throw me into meltdown mode? Why can't I just blow off the looks and the tsks and the implications of parental weakness? Why can't I be as oblivious as he is? Maybe I ought to give that finger-sucking business a try myself.

No comments: