When I saw the film The Thumbsucker a few days ago, I couldn’t help but look back on everything that I had been told about thumbsucking when Sam was a baby. Sam was a thumbsucker. Almost every adult told me to get her to stop the habit and their reasons varied: 1) It would ruin the shape of her mouth; 2) It would ruin the formation of her teeth; 3) It was a sign of insecurity. Someone even advised me to rub chili pepper on her thumb to get her to stop. I didn’t listen to any of them. We let Sam be. When she was around two, already very chatty and very conversant, whenever she put her thumb in her mouth, Speedy would ask with a laugh, “Masarap ba (Is it tasty)?” and Sam would giggle. She stopped thumbsucking before her third birthday. On her own and without any pressure from Speedy and me.
All the reasons that the wise adults gave were wrong. Okay, they probably meant well but they were STILL WRONG. Thumbsucking does not affect the shape of the mouth nor the formation of the teeth UNLESS the child is still thumbsucking AFTER the permanent teeth have started to come out. And it is not a sign of insecurity or emotional problem — it is simply a natural reflex. Some babies do it even while still INSIDE the uterus. So much for old wives’ tales.
The thing is, as I look back, I wonder how much damage I could have caused Sam had I been the kind of mother who accepted as gospel truth everything that the oldies told me simply because they were older and were presumed to know better. How much would I have hurt her, emotionally and mentally, had I prevented her from doing what comes naturally to a child? One of those times when I feel only too happy about being hard-headed and opinionated.