As one of the many, many things on my 'to do' list in preparation for our move, I decided a few weeks ago to take Littleboy 1 for his first ever trip to the dentist.
As he's nearly four, I thought it was about time - and, anyway, I'm sure we'll have to pay through the nose (or should that be through the teeth?) for dental checkups in the States, so I thought I'd take advantage of the NHS while we are still here.
Now what is it about dentistry that instills fear into small children even before they are old enough to know what it is? Littleboy 1 took one look at the chair and started quivering. Luckily, the dentist was used to this and produced some toys and stickers, so eventually he agreed to climb on.
I wasn't too worried, as his teeth have always been pretty straight, well-spaced and pearly, and he doesn't even like chocolate or biscuits (this is not, I hasten to add, down to my parenting skills - he's just ultra-fussy and only really likes houmous). But, he sucks his thumb and probably drinks more fruit juice than the Food Police would allow. So I was slightly nervous as she peered into his little mouth.
But, phew. The dentist was so impressed by his teeth that she called over her assistant to take a look at how perfect they were...I glowed momentarily with parental pride.
Then she pointed to Littleboy 2. "Shall I take a quick look at him as well?". I hadn't booked him an appointment because I was sure he wouldn't sit still, and at the age of two, I wasn't sure it was necessary. But well, in for a penny, in for a pound, so we plonked him on the chair.
Hmmm. Not such good news. "You have GOT to stop him sucking that thumb," she says.
"I know. But they both suck their thumbs," I pointed out. "And I sucked mine till I was ten. It runs in the family."
"Yes, but it's the WAY he sucks it," she told me. "He's pulling the teeth right out. If you're not careful he will deform the whole jaw."
Yikes. Deform the jaw? That sounds scary. I was listening now. "So how can I stop him? I can't just tell him not to do it - he's a determined two year old."
"You can try painting that anti-nailbiting stuff on his thumb fingernail. So he doesn't like the bitter taste?" she suggested. We scuttled out, promising to try it.
Readers, I haven't yet dared. And this is why. Thumbsucking is so much a part of Littleboy 2's character that I really do fear the consequences of making him dislike it. He has sucked his thumb since he was a few months old, discarding the dummy I had tried to calm him with as a small, colicky baby. The thumb goes in every time he's the least bit tired or upset, every time he sees his cot, his teddy or is just feeling a bit soppy. It's his comfort blanket, his favourite toy, it's an essential component of Littleboy 2-ness.
I know that I have to make him stop, for the good of his teeth. But I don't want to subject him to horrible nailbiting stuff, make him hate me, or worse, cause a major upset in his life just before uprooting him from his home to move abroad. Am I just being pathetic?