Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family – Ch5 Part 11

Bizarre Child Rearing Practice

Biene contributed this post.

“The door flew open, in he ran,
The great, long, red-legged scissor-man.
Oh! children, see! the tailor’s come
And caught out little Suck-a-Thumb.
Snip! Snap! Snip! the scissors go;
And Conrad cries out, “Oh! Oh! Oh!”
Snip! Snap! Snip! They go so fast,
That both his thumbs are off at last.”

I sucked my thumb with passion and abandon right from birth and maybe even before. My parents never got tired of telling the embarrassing story when I tried to suck my brother’s thumb. He often stood still when observing something with his hands folded on his back like a statesman. I played on the floor behind him when I suddenly grabbed his hand and tried to put his thumb into my mouth. He screamed in horror, thinking I was going to bite him. Initially, my parents thought that I would eventually give up this bad habit on my own. But when I continued past the toddler stage, they started to get worried. All their attempts to stop me from putting my thumb into my mouth failed. As soon as their attention was diverted, I made up for the lost time, especially at night.

Heinrich Hoffmann: Der Struwwelpeter;

Finally, my mother and sister decided on more drastic measures. To me, they read the then bestselling children’s book ‘Struwwelpeter’ by Heinrich Hoffman. I listened attentively, sucking my thumb peacefully when suddenly my ears pricked up. There was a story of a little boy who had this habit of thumb sucking like me. Like me, the boy did not stop when told so by his parents. Then one day, the thumb cutter came and cut off his thumbs. Thus he stopped him once and for all.

I was getting a bit worried hearing the story when suddenly the doorbell rang. My sister got up to answer it. She returned after a few minutes looking very serious. “The thumb cutter is here looking for Biene,” she told my mom. “Should I let him come in?” My mom replied, looking at me, “Tell him to go because Biene will not suck her thumb anymore.” My thumb was out of my mouth in an instant. I was shaken to the core. “Miraculously” from that day on, I stopped this bad habit for good.