Friday, 15 February 2013

Lisping, thumb sucking and growing up

My beautiful daughter has always sucked her thumb. She found out how to do it just days after her inordinately long birthing ordeal, and fastened herself to a tiny triangular comforter, christened Flossie by her father.

This creature has travelled all over the world, greying and fraying on her way. She has been lost for months at a time on several occasions. Flossie has become so central to the mental health of this family that when we moved back to the UK from Australia, and Flossie was not to be found, we returned feeling as though a part of ourselves had been left behind. We were triumphant when she emerged serene and intact, six months later, from an old handbag, which had been co-opted by my daughter. We were complete.

Recently my daughter has been teased at school (not in a bullying way, just out of thoughtlessness) because she cannot quite say her 's' clearly. We have never really noticed it, but once the thoughtless boy had drawn it to our attention, it quickly assumed monstrous proportions in our minds. Not least because the interweb describes lisping as a 'speech disorder', and gloomily tells me that unless it's treated before the age of 4, my child will be stuck with it for life.

Another helpful internet page informs me that one of the principal causes of a lisp is… thumb sucking.

So at one fell swoop, my child is being teased, she has a speech disorder, it has been caused by the one thing which guarantees her security in a turbulent world, and I am a bad mother because I have both allowed this grotesque habit to persist unchecked, and indeed been so negligent as not to notice the defect in the first place.

My daughter was prostrate with grief. She accused me wildly, "but you were allowed to suck your thumb as long as you wanted. It isn't fair! Flossie's part of me!"

With dread reluctance, I have, for the time being, taken upon myself yet another bad cop role: that of forbidder of the thumb. Along with compulsory maths, hair washing, and table manners. We now walk to school with the poor child grimacing and whistling, trying to practise sounding her 's' like steam escaping from a kettle.

What is the right thing to do? I feel she should be allowed to derive comfort from sucking her thumb as long as she likes, as I was. The issue is that while I suffered no ill effects, she apparently has, so is it still right to let her perpetuate the cause of the problem? The great underlying force is that she has to grow up whether she wants to or not. Change will come. Boys will tease. She'll never get a job reading the news. What opportunities am I denying her by not banning the thumb?

The defiant part of me feels she should just damn well do what she wants, and tell the teaser to mind his own beeswax. He's hardly God's gift himself.


Tuesday said...

I've wanted a lisp every since I read 'Another Roadside Attraction'.
Tom Robbins celebrates the quirky individuality of the main character Amanda, who has crooked teeth and a lisp. She is also incredibly sexy! Lets not all aspire to be the same.

Kirkegaard said...

Thank you for the lovely comments you've left on facebook and here. They've really cheered me up, and reminded me all over again that orthodoxy is quite often not as straight-talking as it seems, even when it's about lisping....