You slip into the nursery in the morning. Your little boy is asleep, his blanky a tangled mess at his feet. In the soft lighting of the room, you can already see that you were smart to put him in a night diaper: he soaked it while he slept and needs a morning change.
He has his favorite plushy pulled tight to his chest with one hand and his other hand is at his mouth. His thumb is slipped into his mouth and he seems to be sucking on it gently, in tune to whatever dreams he’s having.
You very gently and quietly get ready and then start to change him. Your little guy has started wetting more and more during his sleep, and you feel a sense of warm happiness as you realize that night wettings have become natural to your little guy.
He shuffles a little, stretching almost, groggy look on his face and you see him blink awake, and watch the realization in his eyes that his daddy is changing him, that it’s morning maybe, that he is safe and warm and having his diaper changed.
With your little boy half awake you are very gentle as you lift him slightly to slip a clean diaper under him.
He gives you a happy little squirm and then he gives a little shake of his head as he realizes that he is sucking on his thumb and pulls it out. You sense that he might be a little shy or embarrassed. But you give him a gentle little circular rub on his tummy and then you gently place your hand over his, and bring it back to his mouth.
“That’s OK, little one,” you say, and he noticeably relaxes again as he starts to suck on his thumb again as you carefully tape up his diaper and assure yourself that your little guy is safe and secure.
Thumbs and Pacis
Being an adult baby is not a role: it’s an expression of that incredible side of someone that isn’t afraid to ask for love, care and attention. I often hear the term “role playing” but usually that simply means sharing time with someone online and imagining different scenes and situations.
But when you’re caring for a little boy, it’s important to know that he’s not playing a role: he’s expressing who he is, and he’s entering a place of safety where he is able to feel a sense of warmth and comfort, and where it becomes difficult for your little guy to do much more than follow his emotions, his needs, and his sense of vulnerability.
Imagine him waking up, maybe in his nice cozy crib, and finding that his daddy is changing his wet diaper: still half-asleep, he is still in the emotional, floating dream state, and his mind is gently soothed by your touch, the careful way you change him, the comforting little touches, the way you touch his cheek or the way you powder him with soft circular motions.
His spirit is guided by the trust and safety you give him. He is in a state of dreaming, emotion and physical touch. All of his senses seem to blur: he hears the crinkling of a new diaper, the plastic rustle of the plastic sheet on the crib mattress, he feels your gentle hands and the soft padding of a new diaper underneath him, he senses the softness of his blanky, he smells the clean smell of baby powders and lotions and a lingering scent of wet diapers.
In that world of feeling and sensation, he will grasp for a pacifier or his thumb.
Don’t worry if he doesn’t have his paci: let him suck his thumb, and if he hesitates or seems shy about it, encourage him.
This will subtly remind him that he will always have ways that he can express who he is: even out at school a quiet moment by himself with his thumb in his mouth will remind him that he’s daddy’s little boy.
It’s Why It’s Called a Soother
When your little guy sucks his thumb (or his paci) it’s not unlike the way he has his plushy with him all the time, or the way he carries his blanky (trailing along behind him like Linus) – it gives him comfort.
And sometimes, that sense of comfort is an important way that he calms himself at moments when he feels the most vulnerable, the most gentle, and the most in need of a daddy who he trusts and loves and relies on to make it safe to life in that world of sensation and floating feelings which is the gift that he gives to YOU.
When he sleeps his thumb into his mouth, realize that he is actually telling you something, even though he can barely express what those things are:
“I feel warm, and vulnerable, and little …. I feel like I might float away, I feel like crying because I feel so open and little, and I feel like being cuddled and I don’t know what to do with all of these feelings but they feel nice, and I need my daddy, and I’m just trying to soothe all of these feeling rolling around inside as I let my daddy be my world, and the one I rely on to accept me and love me for who I am.”
Now, for you little guys out there – I wonder whether sucking a thumb feels different than your paci? Do you find yourself slipping your thumb in your mouth at times of stress or anxiety, or at times when you’re calm, or when you’re feeling floaty and cared for?
And please just remember – daddy accepts you and knows that in every little gesture like the way you suck your thumb, you are giving him a gift and that gift means the world to him.