My darling, as I sit here in the dark, listening to you toss and turn, I want you to know how terribly sorry I am. Terribly, as in deeply and darkly sorry, for I knew this would happen.
This is why we hiked for hours today, trying to exhaust your little body so that when bedtime came, your body would take over and pull you into sleep.
Yet, I knew this would happen.
Today, in the parking lot of a Walgreens, your face was so brave as you held your thumb out steady while I painted Bite-It onto your itsy-bitsy thumbnail to make it taste bitter. But I don’t want you to think—even for a moment—that your mama’s heart wasn’t aching and her stomach wasn’t suddenly contracting at the thought of doing this to you.
Sucking your thumb may be the purest pleasure on earth. It calms you and brings you into your center. With your thumb in your mouth, you’re a totally self-sufficient circle. You with your thumb in your mouth, well, it’s the greatest beauty I’ve ever known.
When I was in that Walgreens, did you comprehend that these were your last moments to be wholly a free child, no strings and responsibilities attached? Because, the moment I painted that stuff on your thumb, you stepped over a tiny little line. If you didn’t feel it, rest assured your mama did.
I would have let you do it forever, I swear I would have. I didn’t care if you went to medical school with your thumb in your mouth.
But you would have cared, because it was affecting your articulation. Earlier today, you were ready, but right now, I know you’d gladly trade comprehensible speech for five minutes with your thumb. My job—my painful, bitter job—is to make that choice for you.
When you grow up and remember this moment, I hope what sticks with you the most is that your mommy sat in the room with you until you fell asleep. And I want you to know that taking this sweet intensity away from you is the guiltiest parenting moment I’ve ever experienced.
I will forever be mourning the peaceful sound of you sucking your thumb.