Only a few years ago Big Girl was driving me nuts by chewing her clothing. Whenever she was nervous — and she was nervous a lot — or distracted by a good book she chewed the neck or sleeves of her shirt. Back then I was obsessed with Gymboree clothing and the cute little outfits I picked up at Denny’s, a local trendy shop. I loved dressing her up, so I would get crazy when I saw chew marks, holes and stretched out fabric on her pretty outfits. Inevitably, I would yell or make a face when I saw the damage. She would get upset, too. It was a vicious cycle.
The little one had a bad habit, too. In Little Girl’s case it was her reliance on her lovey, her special blanket with a soft, satin patch. As soon as she touched that patch, intertwining her fingers in the patch and the downy chenille, her fingers would go right in her mouth. By the time she turned five we worried that she would never stop the nasty habit.
They did, though. In Big Girl’s case she simply outgrew it. She stopped chewing on her clothing. Little Girl had a little help. She got impetigo in September. One morning she left for school with a scratch on the inside of her nose. By the time she came home she had little crusty scabs forming on the outside of her left nostril. Recognizing it immediately, I called the doctor. I was smearing cream on the infection only an hour after she got off the bus.
The doctor stressed to me that it was important to keep her from touching her nose since it could spread far and wide — to us, to other parts of her body. I was worried because her fingers often sat on each side of her nose when she was sucking on her fingers. Worried that we’d end up with impetigo everywhere. Desperate to make an impact, I showed her a photo of what a full-blown case of impetigo looks like, and explained to her that she really needed to keep her fingers away from her nose and mouth. (Google it if you’re curious. It doesn’t look pretty.) She took one look at the photo, shrieked loudly and swore she would stop sucking on her fingers immediately. She stuck to her promise. Today she still has her lovey, but her fingers don’t go anywhere near her mouth.
What’s the point recounting these stories? As parents we often sweat the small stuff — the stuff that doesn’t matter all that much in the big picture. Looking back, I wish I could get in a time machine and tell my uptight worried self to leave those poor kids alone. What did it really matter if Big Girl chewed her shirt? Who cared if Little Girl fell asleep sucking her fingers? I can’t go back, though, so I’m passing along these words of wisdom: Most kids don’t go to college doing [insert bad habit here]. And if they do? It isn’t a reflection on us as parents. It doesn’t usually hurt the child, either. So let them have their loveys and their sleeves. Before you know it they will be having their first sleepovers and getting ready to graduate kindergarten. Time goes so quickly. Enjoy the ride, loveys and all.