Diary of a Thumb Sucker

by Bill Brenner on July 22, 2011

My son Duncan sucks his thumb. No big deal, but since he’s going to be eight soon, he’s coming around to the realization that it’s probably time to stop. There’s just one problem.

Mood music:

Much of the time, he’s not aware that he’s doing it, which can make quitting all the more difficult.

Duncan usually does it when he’s tired or feeling insecure. It’s the latter part I worry about most.

This is one of the many challenges of parenting this loving, witty and all-around beautiful boy.

As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve had Duncan evaluated in recent months and have learned he fits all the textbook symptoms of ADHD. He’s still too young for an accurate diagnosis, but we’ve blasted full steam ahead at getting him the help he needs.

He goes to a therapist and loves it. As she talks to him, he gets to make cool things: A pink lizard he made out of beads, for example. He does a lot of writing and drawing exercises, and is slowly learning a lot about himself. He’s also beginning to learn a bunch of coping tools for anger, insecurity and focus.

When school resumes, he’ll be getting help with his fine-motor skills, which will make him better able to express himself through art and writing.

The boy has come a long way since the start of the year, and we’re very proud of him.

This makes me especially happy, because he’s learning things now that I only started to learn after I brushed up against multiple emotional breakdowns and spiraled into addictive pursuits.

Maybe, just maybe, Duncan will be the Brenner who breaks the cycle of mental illness that has a deep history in the family.

Right now, it’s like we’re watching him in his own personal springtime, where his abilities are starting to sprout and bloom. His sun is rising.

There’s still a way to go, of course, and to me his thumb sucking illustrates that. A lot of insecure thoughts continue to swirl around in his head. He sucks his thumb to sooth himself, just like I did with binge eating. I know that after developing coping tools, it takes a long time to master them. Hell, I’m still trying to master them.

The other part of the challenge is that we still don’t have a rock solid diagnosis.

Duncan’s doctor says his ADHD-like symptoms could also be the very beginnings of something much different — bipolar disorder, depression, maybe even OCD like his old man.

I’ve always had the fear that my kids would inherit my defects. I don’t worry nearly as much now, though.

Duncan may have his struggles. Everybody has their struggles. Tell me you’ve never had a wave of depression or been addicted to something and I’ll tell you you’re full of shit.

But Duncan is not me. He’s his own person. And so far, his childhood has been much different than mine was.

He also has a phenomenal mother. Between her strength and goodness and the skills I’ve picked up on the road to recovery, he’s going to do just fine.

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