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Operation: Pull The Plug

Maddie sucks her thumb. She’s done it her whole life, and when she was a baby and we were excited when she did, since it meant she didn’t wake up in the middle of the night when her pacifier fell out of her mouth. Oh, sure, we knew we’d pay for it later, but we were so exhausted then we couldn’t do anything but rejoice and sign the credit card slip.

Fast forward almost eight years.

To be fair, Maddie’s not a bad thumb-sucker: she only does it when she’s holding her lovey, which has been restricted to her room. And though she does it to fall asleep, it pops out of her mouth immediately. So we’ve been able to skate by pretty well with the dentist, who’s always said, “No rush. She’s fine. Let’s talk again in six months.”

Well, we talked last week, and it’s time. She’s going to have both adult front teeth coming in soon and we’ve been “strongly encouraged” to help her break the habit on her own – before the dentist has to give her a guard to wear instead.

Maddie, as you can imagine, is distraught. But she really wants to try, so she declared Sunday morning that she was going to start. One day at a time.

To help her out, we’ve made a list of rewards she achieves when she hits a milestone. For example, when she wakes up this morning she gets chocolate-chip pancakes for breakfast. Which I NEVER make.

Then we’ve got some small reward every day for the first week: make (and eat) cookies at home; have a friend over for a play date; have a tea party; get an adult to bring you lunch at school one day. Then we start spreading them out a bit: have a movie night; buy a new book; leave school for lunch one day; that sort of thing.

If she makes it three weeks in a row, she gets to buy a pair of “real” riding pants – the kind she sees all the grown-up girls wearing when they ride English saddle. She’s been asking for months.

And if she makes it an entire month – IN A ROW – then Mommy caves and Maddie gets to watch the original Star Wars movie.

When we handed Maddie the rewards chart last night she smiled her way through the whole thing, until she hit Star Wars. At which point she began giggling uncontrollably and burrowed happily into me.

Heaven help us – methinks the next month will be rough.


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