Most children have something. If you're a parent, you know what I mean. Their little quirk or some internal thing that calms them. Me? I was a thumb sucker. My brother had a blanket. My girlfriend's kid has a stuffed dog that must go everywhere with them. They call it a transitional object. In other words, something usually a physical object, which takes the place of the mother-child bond. Common examples include dolls, teddy bears, or blankets. (Thanks wikipedia, for making me sound smart! Shut up. I do so sound smart.)

When I was a kid, the worst thing you could do was let a kid suck its thumb. These days, most people don't really worry about thumb sucking, but it was really out of vogue when I was thumb sucking. And so my mother tried all the tricks to get me to stop at three years old. She painted my thumb with some nasty-tasting substance that was supposed to deter me from sucking it (hint: that stuff peels off in about two seconds flat), she put gloves on me (hint: even babies know how to take off gloves), who knows what else she tried? Eventually, like most kids, I stopped all on my own when I was ready to do so. [And just so we're clear, I'm not advocating that kids suck their thumbs until they're in college - I just think that certain age-appropriate things children do might not be so so horrible. They tend to give them up all on their own when they're ready. If that doesn't happen, obviously it requires some intervention on a parent's part. I just know my tendency is to worry about things before it's necessary and when that happens, we put a little too much pressure on our kids.]

Neither of my kids would accept a transitional object. Lord knows, I tried. I carried around dogs, and blankets and tried shoving them in their little tear streaked faces whenever they were upset. The Dormouse acted like The Thing didn't exist. The Caterpillar will simply take The Thing from you, give you a look that says, "Oh, isn't that sweet? You think this artificially produced animal likeness will solve all my problems," and then spike it to the floor like a running back for the San Francisco 49ers. (The Caterpillar is a little more direct with her opinions.)

But every kid finds some way to calm and pacify him- or herself when they need it. It's just that my kids' chosen pacifiers are, well... odd.

The Dormouse's method was to stick her hand up my sleeve and pick at the mole on the back of my arm. If I wasn't available, she'd stick her hands up her own sleeves. It got so bad at one point in her toddler-hood that we started putting tape on the cuffs of her sleeves before she went to bed at night so she couldn't stretch the cuffs of her pajamas and get her hand up the sleeves. Not that we were evil and didn't want her to have her Thing, but the end result of her putting her hands up her sleeves was that she picked sores into every little bump and imperfection on her skin and ended up looking like she'd been attacked by a swarm of Africanized Mosquitoes. This was sometimes a bit of consternation between me and other mothers.

Woman at church whose kid was in the same nursery class as mine: "Ooo, look at the backs of her arms. What does she have?"

Me: *laughing* "A nervous habit."

Woman: "...?"

Me: *joking* "No, she just picks at her arms... it's not a contagious disease on anything."

Woman: *testily* "Well, I did NOT mean to imply that you would bring her to church with a contagious disease."

Ooooo-kaaay. Mental note: humor is lost on this woman.

The thing about the Arm/Sleeve Thing was that once The Dormouse figured out SHE had sleeves, it pretty much did not involve me in any way. She still does it sometimes but when she does, it doesn't involve me stopping what I'm doing, holding her or enduring the pain she chooses to inflict.

In a continuing installment of How My Kids Are Weird, this is The Caterpillar's method of self-pacification:

Yes, that's one big hunk of my hair she's got in her right hand and one big hunk of her own hair in her left. Any tips on getting her to suck her thumb?