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Politically Incorrect - The politics of thumb sucking.
On Being Embarrassed - What is embarrassment and how to deal with it.
Selected Readings - A small bibliography
Murphy's Law in the Laundromat - What happens when you're caught?
Why Is Thumb Sucking Erotic? - (see end of article for further updates on this subject).Yea, why is it erotic anyway? Many points of view here.12/26/00
I Was A Closet ThumbSucker - On the unfair pangs of being a thumb sucker.
Freeing the Inner Child - I guess there's time for play and time to be serious.
From the Experts - OK, they're cold and scientific, but they're right too.
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Anyone above the age of say, 5 or so, who still sucks their thumb, can relate to an "embarrassing moments" dialogue. It's well understood that in any society publicly displayed "babyish" adaptations like thumbsucking continued past some random age are met by all sorts of emotions, most of which are unwelcome by their recipients. Very few times, though, is there thought behind the ridicule, derision, and sometimes even self-righteous displays of anger. Compared to thumbsucking, other forms of far worse, destructive self-soothing are, incredibly, far more socially acceptable.
For instance, it's more acceptable to drink, overeat, smoke (though not as much as it used to be, but despite the restrictions, still more socially acceptable then adult thumbsucking), bite fingernails, pen tips, and eraser heads, addict oneself to the racetrack, and heaven forbid, the computer. You can add an ever widening array of modern day temptations, to this list, but never, NEVER, is it OK to mind your own business and enjoy a thumb, or even two, if your partner is so inclined.
And all I want to know is . . .how did it ever get this way?
It can't be that society has a thing about the evil long term effects of chronic thumbsucking, can it? I mean, the worst that may happen to the select few is a well developed wicked set of bucked teeth, and is that so bad? Personally I like bucked teeth, and, hell, it sure beats lung cancer, ingrained gamblers poverty, or a heart attack from too many twinkies, doesn't it? And besides, sucking your thumb keeps you quiet. Those mockers out there should feel fortunate for us thumbsuckers- at least they don't have to put up with the incessant babbling that usually emanates from our more socially accepted brethren. The thumbsucker enjoys his solace in peace and QUIET. But still, there's that nagging question. If it doesn't make any sense to pick on the hapless thumbsucker, then why do they do it? And curiously, why, in our embarrassment, do we accept our social stigma by.....well....being embarrassed at all?
Perhaps the lone thumbsucker touches a nerve, a very primordial nerve. We are supposed to be inherently social creatures, and the thumbsucker threatens that assumption by finding all the soothing he or she needs by his or her lonesome. It's not merely sucking a thumb that's bad. Perhaps it's the notion of thumbing one's nose at the rest of society, being willing to admit that perhaps the remainder of society isn't as needed, maybe even done without. Surely someone out there remembers a mother imploring our thumbsucking self to go out and "play with your friends" coming just before, "instead of sucking your thumb all day!" Yes, maybe the misunderstanding majority finds that thumbsucking is just too individual a thing, even in the Land Of Individuality, hoping that the socialization process will stop our dreadful predisposition. "You're not going to suck your thumb in school are you? You'll be made fun of !"
It's not fair! Oh, if only the whole world would just try it for a few months! What a difference it would make! Can you seriously even begin to try to imagine wars between thumbsucking opponents. The very idea is absurd. And, talk about child abuse, wife abuse, or drug related crime...I think the world would finally realize that when life's got you down a thumb is a great and natural concept. How often have we seen the start of a fight and its equally abrupt end when one child just sits down and sucks his/her thumb?
So, hell, I got to admit, I've been embarrassed. You know, they catch you in your car, or while sleeping...ho hum. The point is, damn it, I shouldn't be embarrassed in the first place, but I was, and even after all of this consciousness raising, I think I'll still continue to be that way. I'm so, so frustrated! I think it's time for a thumb bye bye.
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Embarrassment is an emotion derived from the feeling that by standing out, others may define us in a way that conflicts with a valued self image and, more than that, these others have some power that threatens to isolate us from the social network. I would just like to assure you that the people that matter in your life, and who know you, would never attempt such behavior. For those that don't care for your feelings, and have motivation to undermine you somehow, realize this: they don't really have the power to embarrass you, you must first grant them that power by first allowing yourself to feel embarrassed. To truly be shielded from embarrassment, you must believe in your own self worth.
I find that whether it's about thumb sucking or wearing glasses, or whatever, there will always be people out there whose egos can only obtain satisfaction by bringing those around them down in some fashion. And, it's a lot easier to change our own perceptions about ourselves then it is to change the world. Ultimately our inner strength conquers all attempts to undermine who we are.
Several things operate with regard to thumb sucking and embarrassment. First of all, there's the stereotypical belief that the thumb sucker is infantile. Stereotypes are, by definition, non-personal. They focus on a set of notions that allow the believer in them to form conclusions, rather than think through a complicated issue. But their power derives from the fact that there is some truth in them, otherwise the beliefs wouldn't sustain. And yes, since babies do suck their thumb, it's easy to see why this association would take root. But stereotypes do change as knowledge of their exceptions take hold. When enough facts contradict the stereotype, the widely held beliefs start to wither, and, hopefully change enough to accommodate the new information.
We will never be free of stereotypes because it is the nature of being human to form conclusions. The conclusions we have about reality helps us to survive. But the conclusions that society has connected with thumb sucking do not fit all of the facts. Adults do suck their thumbs and the great majority of these adult thumb suckers are not infantile. In fact, many of them are successful, responsible adults with high levels of education and with jobs that demand sophisticated social skills.
So what do we do about our embarrassment?
I don't believe that thumb sucking is an important issue, like, for instance, racial prejudice or issues involving the Bill of Rights. For important issues that need fundamental changes in society we can all be thankful for those pioneers that were willing to forgo their embarrassment and stand up against the tide for the common good. But for adult thumb suckers, the concerns they have about being able to do their thing without worrying about what others think of them is important enough to come to terms with. (I hope you'll excuse the comparison here of thumb sucking and constitutional issues. I realize the absurdity of it. But I'm making a point.)
The first issue, realizing that we are not necessarily peripheral people is important. This site should prove to anyone reading it that there are numerous adults who still suck their thumb. This realization buttresses a feeling that, by not being alone, we share our humanness with others, our habit lies within the domain of being human with needs that satisfy requirements that are shared by many people.
The second issue is realizing that sucking ones thumb is, essentially, a harmless behavior. It does not interfere with the rights of anyone. Contrast this to a tobacco habit and secondary smoke as well as a host of other behaviors that are considered, in varying degrees, to be socially acceptable.
The third issue is realizing that sucking one's thumb does not make one infantile; the fact that there are successful adults that indulge should dispense with that concept immediately. By realizing this we can derive knowledge that, though we may be habituated, we are still in control of our lives, capable of making adult decisions and dealing with adult responsibilities. It's a habit, nothing more, nothing less.
The forth issue is realizing that those that love and care about us will accept us for who we are, whether it be lovers of classical music or hard rock, motorcycles or antique cars, smokers or thumb suckers. So, if we had been embarrassed about sucking our thumbs in front of our close friends or lovers, this realization would predict that, eventually, the relationship should survive, or even grow, since allowing us to be ourselves and allowing for acceptance always nurtures trust.
The last issue is realizing that those that attempt to embarrass us, or undermine our sense of self value, have the problem, not us. People who engage in ridicule feel threatened and feel a need to bring others down in dealing with their feelings. They are not worthy of our friendship, or our feelings.
So, for the majority of us who don't think this issue is of constitutional importance, I'd suggest coming to terms with our embarrassment by picking our friends carefully, and trusting that they will allow us our moments. And, when they do, they undermine the stereotype and chip away at the limits of those incorrect conclusions that even we may be guilty of possessing.
Below you'll find a selected pertinent bibliography. As I discover more relevant items, they will be added here.
LARSSON E. The prevalence and the etiology of prolonged dummy and finger-sucking habits. Eur J Orthod 1985;7:172-6.
JOHNSON E, LARSSON BE. Thumb-sucking: classification and treatment. J Dent Child 1993;Nov-Dec:392-8.
S, BOYD RL, NIELSEN IL,LIZUKA T. Long-term follow up of orthodontic treatment of a patient with maxillary protrusion, severe deep overbite and thumbsucking. Angle Orthod 1993;64(1):7-12.
REGAN PD, SUBTELNY JD. An American board or orthodontics case report. Correction of a severe Class II malocclusion. Am J Orthod Dentofac Orthop. 1989;95:192-9.
HARYETT RD, HANSEN FC, DAVIDSON PO. Chronic thumbsucking. Am J Orthod 1970;57(2):164-78.
Alright, God, You can stop displaying Your sense of humor now. I have been asking for that all-important quality of humility lately, but perhaps you misunderstood and thought I said "humiliation". Or whatever. The thing is, I got caught sucking my thumb again...and though I wasn't going to write anything more about the subject, confessing to this habit the first time put it toward the front of my mind and then today.
I thought I was "safe", sitting in an otherwise deserted laundromat, sorta behind the soda machine for cover, when I guess I became too engrossed in whatever crap was on TV. And in walks, inevitably, another attractive woman of about my age, who I luckily (this time) didn't know. As an aside, I've learned that the best way to run into attractive women is to be doing something embarrassing. Really. If you want loads of hotties at any given time, adjust yourself, or scratch your butt, or fart and one is sure to be there. I'm not guaranteeing a positive reaction, mind you, but it just goes to prove that Murphy was indeed one enlightened individual when he came up with his law.
Anyway, the reaction she chose to give was initially one of those "what's up with that guy" looks, quickly followed by a smile and then, as if to make the experience that much more uncomfortable for me, she says, "that's so cute!" I am, at this point, various shades of red. "Uhhh, thanks...." I managed. She proceeds to tell me that her brother still sucks his thumb. "How old is he?" I ask. "Oh, he's 11," she replies. Great. Did she think that I particularly WANTED to be compared to an 11-year-old? Maybe I'd get lucky and she'd offer to take me to Burger King for a fuckin' Kids Meal.
But I really can't blame people for reacting to this in the ways they do. It may have made her as uncomfortable as it made me, which is why I don't go around thumbsucking in public. Hats off to those of you who do, but I think that's really a ploy for attention, which isn't why I do it. I also don't want people trying to analyze me, since the first thing people think is "what kind of serious mental issues does this freak have?"
So if this is the kind of thing that happens from time to time, why do I still do it? That's one of the things I've been thinking of lately. Maybe I grew up too fast and I'm still trying to hold on to a childish habit to reclaim my childhood. But I don't feel childish when I do it, it's almost reflexive, so natural that it doesn't evoke any real conscious feelings unless I sit back and think about it (like now). Certain things just aren't the same unless I suck my thumb: it's hard to fall asleep without doing it, and the fact that I wake up with my thumb in my mouth anyway shows that my brain is programmed to have it there. Basically, any time that I have one hand free, my mouth isn't being used for speaking and there aren't a lot of people around, it's like the Prego slogan: "it's in there."
Maybe it's just a little erotic sometimes, too. Not always...but when I'm "in the mood," so to speak, it takes on a very sensual aspect....which brings up all kinds of weird Freudian issues that I don't even want to think about. Suffice it to say that a guy can have VERY heterosexual thoughts while sucking on something. (In case you came to the conclusion that Navy guy+affinity for classical music+oral fixation=$3 bill.) Maybe I should stop playing amateur psychologist and just suck my thumb.
Why Thumb Sucking is Erotic by Anonymous
I suck my thumb for the usual reasons, tension relief, to go to sleep, it feels good. But, I notice that other contributors here suck their thumb because it also feels erotic, and, I have to say, I agree. There are many articles written on the Internet and elsewhere that describe why people suck their thumb, but little on its erotic aspect. So I want to delve into that more, just because hardly anyone else has.
Its like Im two people, this erotic thing. I can find myself sucking just because its sort of like a posture, I guess youd refer to that as habit, and when I do so, habitually, I dont think of it much, of course. But when Im aroused, it enhances the feeling so much more. So its obvious that Ive learned to associate my thumb sucking with something sexual.
I dont know if Im alone in this, and I dont think I am, but when I look at the photos of women at this site, sucking away, I just find them so beautiful, so sexually enthralling. The feeling comes to me in an unclear way. I mean, its just there. But if I force myself to analyze it, I think the sum can be broken up into its constituents. Let me try here to do so.
First off, theres the lips. I think most people can understand why lips can be very erotic. I dont want to get into heavy psychology, but, lets face it, lips are sexy, especially full lips, parted ever so slightly. Theyre like an invitation to something exciting, they call for an entering of sorts, like a door to the soul, the teeth hiding just enough to inspire curiosity. When I see a womans full lips open just a bit, my tongue gets an irresistible urge to explore her sweet mouth. I suppose, for me, its an identity thing. For you, if you understand where Im coming from, great, but maybe its something else. But the thought of my tongue lashing deeply behind those bulbous, protrusive, soft and sweet lips fills me with feelings that defy boundaries, adding just enough carnal spice to confuse me, leaving me in a state where Im no longer aware of where she ends and where I begin. In a sense, I feel like I have become her.
I love tasting the slightly sweet area just behind her teeth and, so, knowing what her sensations are as she knows, every waking hour of her life. Its like Im plugged in, by some magical ritual of alchemy, and have a moment to be her. If her teeth were affected by thumb sucking, all the better. The thought that she cant stop her habit, and the pleasure she derives from it, even if her teeth are effected to the point of obvious buckedness adds that much more to my sensation. My need to meld is so powerful that the fantasy of her doing that to me, pushing my teeth out similarly, etches like a collage, flitting images like bursts as I reach ever new heights of sexual elation.
I love watching her. Seeing her nonchalantly entering that mouth of hers with her delicate, feminine and callused thumb. She looks like something innocent, childlike but not a child. Her profile, exaggerating her now protrusive lips, wrapped around a phallus-like object that is her compulsion, her requirement, her urgency. I rejoice at the contrast of puerile need within a womans frame, art, flesh-colored, warm and real.
I want her thumb to feel comfortable in my mouth as I experience, once again, her essence, her habit as mine. I picture myself alternating between she and me, she, behind me, hugging closely, following the contours of my body, head to toe, tightly, her chest to my back, again ignoring proper boundaries as she shares our bed together. She sucks her thumb unconsciously while asleep, but Im there instead, her face pushed closely behind my head, into my long hair. So shell find, instead, my mouth as her thumb pushes its way in, without thought, seeking a position it knows too well. And I picture doing the same to her, both of us intractably entwined, habituating ourselves to something now new, but eventuating into something more than natural, something hard to break, like our habit, something taken for granted. I feel her tongue pumping suction against my thumb, her teeth resting securely against skin, forming a callus on my thumb, leave her impression, her salivas smell. Her slithery tongue, washing me clean, absorbing me into her body, blending identities again, in another new way. I feel needed, I feel close, I feel warmth, I feel isolated with her, protected within our new borders, combined liquid floating for the moment in a world we both accept, for ourself and for ourselves.
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I was a closet thumb sucker until I was 11 I want my daughters to suck without fear. By Pamela Gordon
Dec. 23, 1999 | My 5-year-old daughter looks tiny in the beige vinyl chair, her eyes fixed on the dentist towering over her. She wears an expression only a mother can interpret: On the surface, she's compliant and eager to please. Underneath, she ripples with defiance, her unspoken warning: "No way in hell, bub, will I listen to you."
The dentist is telling her to stop sucking her thumb. "You're a big girl now. Big girls don't need to do that," he insists, and launches into a litany of horrors that have befallen or will befall her -- from calloused skin to buck teeth to being teased -- if she doesn't end this wretched habit now.
I clutch the edges of the counter behind me. This man is threatening my daughter, and I am swimming so far out in bad memories that I cannot catch my breath long enough to protect her.
I sucked my thumb until I was 11. I sucked with passion, with devotion, and I adored every succulent moment. I sucked while watching television, while riding in the car, while lying under the covers at night, the forefinger and thumb of my other hand plucking soft tufts of flannel from my pajamas and rubbing them against my upper lip.
I needed to suck my thumb. Sucking soothed me, calmed me, focused me, gave me comfort in an anxious household electric with barely-contained panic. I would slip my thumb, worn in as a leather jacket, silken as a dog's ear, into my mouth, circling it with my lips as I tucked it between my tongue and top teeth. It fit tenderly there. I nudged it against my palate, creating a seal against the roof of my mouth. In that movement, the sucking closed a broken circle; it completed a loop; it tied a knot at the end of a rope that otherwise might have spooled out of control.
I never sucked in school. I worried too much about what people thought and was terrified of ridicule. And no photographs exist of me sucking. What I did, I did in private, purchasing an exquisite solitude I still crave today.
And I was told on. "Ma," my brother would wail when he'd come upon me doing the deed. "Pammy's sucking her thumb!" Busted. Suddenly everything private went public; my inner world cracked open and I was exposed. I wanted my thumb and felt guilty about wanting it. I sucked my thumb but had to plot ways to do so in secret. The pleasure I derived was coupled with shame.
I don't blame my brother. He was conscripted by a task force of adults who had mounted a campaign against my behavior. As my mother tells it, everything started with Grandma Rose: "You were born with your thumb in your mouth. Grandma pulled it out; you put it back in; she pulled it out. And on it went for years."
But my parents kowtowing to others' authority made them just as responsible. They deferred to Rose's old-world view of controlling children. And they pawed the ground in front of the family dentist, a paternalistic warlord who extorted our time and money under the guise of doing what was best for us. (I went to the dentist so often as a kid, it was an activity like dance class, music lessons or religious school.)
By the time they were through with me I had been bribed ("We'll get you a dog;" "We'll pierce your ears"), warned ("Do you want the skin on your thumb to peel away permanently?" "Do you want to get married and still suck your thumb?"), spied on ("Ma, she's doing it again"), mutilated (Herr Dentist fitted me with a metal plate and fangs that hung down from the roof of my mouth), and poisoned (my finger was marinated in a sinister-tasting potion known as "Thumb"). Yet no amount of cajoling and manipulating made me stop. I stopped on my own, because I was ready and wanted to, right before I went to sleep-away camp for the first time.
Not surprisingly, both my daughters love their thumbs. Sonograms revealed them each sucking in utero. Long past infancy they arm themselves against the abyss, as I once did. In fact, they've improved on me: The 5-year-old walks around with her thumb in her mouth clutching a stuffed animal; the 2-year-old sports thumb, animal and blankie.
They sit together on a chair in front of the TV, entwined in one another, sucking. They sit on opposite ends of the sofa, a picture of glazed-over contemplation, one with the left thumb in her mouth, the other the right, enjoying self-imposed timeouts before tearing around the apartment again. They suck voraciously and have no compunction about sucking in public. I wouldn't dream of telling them to quit.
The rest of the world seems compelled to stop them.
Strangers come up to my children on the street, on the subway, in the supermarket, in restaurants and tell them not to suck their thumbs. The dry cleaner says, "Get that thumb out of your mouth." The nursery school teacher reports on her efforts to curb the childish behavior of sucking. And now the dentist is bullying the oldest.
Not all professionals spout this dentist's party line. I find this out after we escape from his lair and I make some inquiries. In theory, at least, pockets of enlightenment exist, not only among dentists but among pediatricians, psychologists and speech therapists. Most of them assure me that thumb sucking for security and comfort is normal. Most agree that it should be curtailed when a child's permanent teeth come in, to prevent damage to the teeth and jaw.
This seemingly universal wisdom is refuted by Dr. Wayne Eric Turk, D.M.D., a pediatric dentist who takes what he calls a "humanistic approach" to his young patients. "I only treat thumb sucking if it's causing a problem," the good doctor says, and explains that sucking does not automatically condemn a child to orthodontia since damage to the mouth depends upon the intensity, the duration and the frequency of the habit.
Children who never suck a day in their lives may need braces if, genetically, their lower jaws sit further back in their mouths and their front teeth protrude. And children whose early years of sucking cause irreversible changes before the age of three may need orthodontic treatment whether they suck after that age or not. So why force them to stop?
"Each person is an individual and should be treated accordingly," Turk concludes, and quotes from the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD) that "all treatment modalities must be appropriate for the child's development, comprehension and ability to cooperate."
Tell that to the man in the diner dispensing unsolicited advice. Just what drives him to tell my kids what to do?
Sucking is a primitive act, occurring in utero and deriving from core urges for nourishment and connection. It's emblematic of our neediness, our blind dependencies. Such yearnings frighten and embarrass people. How many of us ever really get those buried needs gratified by others? How many of us figure out how to gratify them ourselves?
Anger and jealousy are stirred in adults who see a child satisfying herself blissfully and in public. "Some grown-ups cannot tolerate their own needy feelings," notes Dr. Marilyn Meese, a child psychologist. "If they don't try to make your child stop, their mastery over their own needs will crumble."
The response is similar to what people feel when they see mothers breast-feeding toddlers or hear about parents who sleep with their children. Giving that kind of solace is not thought to provide closeness or protection. It's thought to encourage over-attachment -- as opposed to the ideal of independence which is valued at a very early age.
How ironic such an ideal is, considering how many of us stagger into adulthood desperate for comfort and find it through compulsive habits far more dangerous to our health than thumb sucking.
The way strangers discipline my children leaves me with the sickening feeling I had when people put their hands on my pregnant belly without asking. I feel invaded, as I did when a woman who saw me with my month-old firstborn in the market scolded: "That child should not be out of the house at her age."
I am not immune to the pressures of public attitudes. I confess that since the oldest started kindergarten this fall, my concern for image and my fear of ridicule leak out of me, unbidden. "Do you suck at school?" I hear myself ask. "Does anyone say anything?" But since the dentist's useless attempt to make my daughter stop, I've vowed to back off, to leave it to both kids to figure this out in their own way, at their own pace, to suck as long as they need to, for as long as that might be.
I may end up in hock up to my eyeballs as a result of orthodontia. And years from now my kids may be sitting around together bitching about me: "Can you believe how oblivious she was? She let us suck our thumbs for eternity." Or they may be in hock themselves, putting in time with a therapist, bemoaning my neglect.
If so, so be it. Until then I say, suck as if your life depends on it.
- - - - - - - - - - - About the writer Pamela Gordon is a freelance writer in New York whose articles have appeared in the Boston Globe, Poets & Writers and New Times, among others. Table Talk Oral fixation Why is society so bothered by kids who suck?
This article was written by Brandi Hertig who is a sophomore in print journalism and English/creative writing. You can e-mail your comments to Brandi at (email@example.com).
Freeing the inner child... makes life more bearable.......BRANDI HERTIG
Somewhere between the disappearance of the tooth fairy and the traumatic onset of puberty, the rules of fun got warped. The things we used to do as kids for fun are no longer acceptable for people older than 15.
No more public nose picking. No more unexplained fits of giggling. No more tantrums in the cereal aisle of Dillons. No more playing doctor.
The strange thing is there are all sorts of books out there aimed at helping people better themselves, focused on helping them have fun. The truth is we need look no further than those little people whom we call, among other choice words, children.
Kids know how to have fun.
Give a kid a box and they're amused for hours on end. Give a college student a box and they either throw it away or puke in it. No space shuttles or igloos for us.
T'was a glorious time when the art of decorum was an unknown concept. Public flatulence was not an event at which to blush, but one at which to laugh hysterically. I was magically transported back to this time a few weeks ago while sledding with my best friend, Ben. He would giggle with every step he'd take back up the hill.
"You wanna know why I'm laughing?" he said. "I'm farting every time I take a step."
Adult-like? No. Fun? Oh yeah. Laughing at truly funny, yet socially-awkward situations is something that adults are expected to not do. Why on Earth are we expected to hold back our giggles, creating an ever-embarrassing "grrsssrk" noise through our noses?
If that guy in your French class insists on blowing his nose at the most inopportune moments, let that guffaw free. If someone in your Biology class says "orgasm" instead of "organism," snicker with them (never at them, of course). A good giggle is always a good tension reliever. Adults just seem to forget that.
One of the most satisfying things in the world for me to do as a kid was to litter the sidewalk with chalk graffiti. There was nothing better than a bucket of fat chalk and a vast canvas of concrete. Now, the only chalking that's acceptable for college students is on campus sidewalks, announcing upcoming events.
Flopping down on the grass and looking for hidden messages in the clouds has been exchanged for drooling incoherently over textbooks. Our curiosity has dried up, leaving us to rifle through the back of our books for the answers.
When was the last time you broke into a dance to the tune of a catchy song in public (sober, mind you)? When I was five, I liked to dance around to the sounds of the Oakridge Boys at Pizza Inn when we went there for dinner. For some reason, I think if I did that now, people wouldn't find it so cute. It's still a fun thing to do though, as long as you're not violating anyone else's personal space.
Then there was the Kool-Aid. Guzzled by the gallon back in the days of youth, it's probably a little inappropriate to show up to class with a wet red moustache. I highly recommend returning to this beverage in lieu of your everyday fare. There are a plethora of new fruity flavors to enjoy, unless you have a fear of onset diabetes.
Here are a few other things that should carry over from childhood:
Splish-splashy baths with Mr. Bubble and a few action figures
Singing in public
Making snow angels
Pick-up games of Duck Duck Goose
Being an adult doesn't always mean we have to act like the preconceived notion of what an adult should be. Sometimes we should worry less about embarrassment and more about enjoying life. If we could just let the little kid in us free once in a while, there would be many more Kool-Aid-stained smiles to go around.
Brandi Hertig is a sophomore in print journalism and English/creative writing. You can e-mail your comments to Brandi at (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Copyright 1997, Student Publications Inc. All rights reserved. This document may be distributed electronically, provided it is distributed in its entirety and includes this notice. However, it cannot be reprinted without the express written permission of Student Publications Inc., Kansas State University.
From The Experts:
All habits are learned patterns of muscle contraction of a very complex nature. Certain habits serve as stimuli to normal growth of the jaws; for example, normal lip action and proper mastication. The abnormal habits that may interfere with the regular pattern of facial growth must be differentiated from the desired normal habits that are a part of normal oropharyngeal function and thus play an important role in craniofacial growth and occlusal physiology. The habits of concern to us here are those likely to be involved in the etiology of malocclusion.
Deleterious habitual patterns of muscle behavior often are associated with perverted or impeded osseous growth, tooth malpositions, disturbed breathing habits, difficulties in speech, upset balance in the facial musculature and psychological problems. Therefore, one cannot correct malocclusion without involvement in habits. Bottle fed babies more frequently display undesirable sucking habits if the bottle has been used as a device to quiet them and induce sleep. After such a child is weaned, he learns to suck his thumb or finger while going to sleep. Many mothers will say that their child never sucks his thumb "except when he goes to bed." Other children learn early that the surest way to attract parental attention is to suck their fingers. Later, the dentist must not forget that the sudden cessation of a habit that has been active for several years may have a tremendous psychological impact on the child (or adult). a) Thumb-Sucking and Finger Sucking Digital sucking is practiced by many children for a variety of reasons, however, if it is not directly involved in the production or maintenance of malocclusion, it probably should not be of primary clinical concern to the dentist.
As we shall see, most digital sucking habits begin very early in life and are outgrown by 3 or 4 years of age. Unfortunately, dentists see few children before this time. Often the family physician or pediatrician attending so young a child is unaware of the possible dental complications resulting from these habits. It should be remembered that many children practice digital sucking habits with out any evident dentofacial deformity, but it also is true that the digital sucking pressure habit may be a direct cause of a severe malocclusion The mechanotherapy for the treatment of the resulting malocclusion may be easy but the psychological implications of the therapy are less clearly understood and occasionally seem to have been overstated. Therefore, the attention of the dentist often is directed to the thumb sucker as well as to the malocclusion.
The time of appearance of digital sucking habits has some significance. Those that appear during the very first weeks of life are typically related to feeding problems. The neonate surely is not yet involved in sibling rivalries, and his insecurities are related to such primitive demands as hunger. However, some children do not begin to suck a thumb or finger until it is used as a teething device during the difficult eruption of a primary molar. Still later, some children use digital sucking for the release of emotional tensions with which they are unable to cope, taking solace in regressing to an infantile behavior pattern.
All digital sucking habits should be studied for their psychological implications, for the' may be related to hunger, satisfying of the sucking instinct, insecurity' or even a desire to attract attention. Developmental psychologists have produced a number of theories that explain "non-nutritive digital sucking" (as they term it). Most early ideas concerning digital sucking were firmly based on classic Freudian theory. Freud suggested that orality in the infant is related to pregenital organization and the sexual activity is not yet separated from the taking of nourishment. Thus, the object of one activity, thumb-sucking, also is that of another, nursing. A logical development of this theory relates to attempts to stop the thumb sucking habit, for the Freudian belief holds that an abrupt interference with such a basic mechanism will likely lead to the substitution of such antisocial tendencies as stuttering or masturbation. Digital sucking also has been related to inadequate sucking activity. It was found in a series of studies that there was less thumb sucking in both animals and humans when fed ad lib than there was when feedings were widely separated. Further, it was learned that, In general, non-thumbsucking children took a longer time for feeding than was taken by thumb suckers. In opposition to the theory of inadequate sucking activity is the oral drive theory of Sears and Wise whose work suggests that the strength of the oral drive is in part a function of how long a child continues to feed by sucking. Thus, it is not the frustration of weaning that produces thumb sucking but, rather, the oral drive, which has been strengthened by the prolongation of nursing. Sears and Wise's theory is in keeping with a Freudian hypothesis that sucking increases the erotogenesis of the mouth. Benjamin, in an interesting series of experiments with monkeys, found that there was far less thumb sucking among those whose nutritive sucking experience had been greatly reduced. This theory holds that thumb-sucking is an expression of a need to suck that arises because of the association of sucking with the primary reinforcing aspects of feeding. Another very interesting theory has been proposed by Benjamin, who suggests that thumb-sucking arises very simply from the rooting and placing reflexes common to all mammalian infants. These primitive reflexes are maximal during the first 3 months of life. Her hypothesis was tested by covering infant's hands with mittens the very first few weeks of life so that the thumb was not accidentally involved in the placing reflex.
All thumb-sucking theories are not Freudian in origin, for recently several have suggested that thumb-sucking is one of the earliest examples of neuromuscular learning in the infant and that it follows all the general laws of the learning process. A multidisciplinary research team at the University of Alberta reported that children who sucked their thumbs failed to demonstrate any consistent psychologic differences from a control sample. This team's well-documented results strongly support the theory that digital sucking habits in humans are a simple learned response. They found no support for the psychoanalytic interpretation of thumb-sucking as a symptom of psychological disturbance. Further proof for their ideas was presented by studying the psychological effects of orthodontic intervention; typical orthodontic therapy for arresting the habit failed to produce any significant increase in alternative or substitutive undesirable psychological behavior. The various theories concerning "non-nutritive digital sucking" are not completely incompatible with one another. Rather, they suggest that the thumb-sticking habit should be viewed by the clinician as behavioral pattern of multivariate nature.
It is quite possible that thumb sucking may begin for one reason and be sustained at subsequent age by other factors. Most of the findings reported thus far seem to support best the learning theory, particularly if the learning of digital sucking is associated with unrestricted and prolonged nutritive sucking.
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