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Miles to Go—Comfort, Comfort Ye My People

By Marianne Miles

Many years ago, when Jon, my special needs son was four, I drove my two sons to an event. We passed through an intersection where a gas station was being torn down. My boys rode in booster seats and so had great views of the demolition. They fixated on a man who jackhammered the concrete. His body vibrated with the power of the tool into which he leaned.

“What’s he doing?” asked Jon.

Brian, his older brother, asked, “What’s that tool called?”

Three hours later, we returned home and once again passed the deconstruction site. The boys strained to see the commotion as we approached. The same man still manhandled the tool, breaking up the foundation of the business.

“Wow!” I said. “He must be really tired.”

Brian added, “He probably wants to go home.”

Jon concluded, “I think he wants to suck his finger.”

Children Need Comforting
Undoubtedly, you guessed that Jon was a finger-sucker. Years before this, when the house grew quiet, I would search for Jon. I often found him curled in the fetal position, sometimes at the bottom of a laundry basket or other “safe” place, sucking on his finger.

Jon’s younger sister also sucked on her thumb. Both of these behaviors worried me because of the stories a young mom hears about thumb and finger suckers pressing their teeth out of alignment. Fortunately, my children went to a pediatric dentist who understood the emotional importance of children orally pacifying themselves.

“Let them be,” he urged. “The comfort they receive from sucking on their digits will do much less damage to their teeth than the continual hammering on them to stop will do to their psyche.” He further assured me, “When they go to school, peer pressure will cause them to stop. And your kids are going to need braces even if they had never sucked their fingers.” (Our family has big teeth and small jaws. Bad combo!)

Therefore, I allowed my children plenty of opportunity to savor the gentle warmth of their favorite blankets, with fingers in mouths. As it turned out, their dentist was right; they both stopped sucking their fingers—at least in public—when they reached school and the candid judgments of their peers. Later, I realized most of the reason I wanted my children not to suck their fingers was because I feared what people would think of me. Therefore, my kids’ late night, “closet” sucking on their fingers did not bother me, and comforted them for many years, when they finally stopped on their own. Problem solved.

Let Them Be—When You Can
What can parents of special needs children draw from the dentist’s insight? Maybe to lighten up. Dr. Dobson often urges his listeners to “choose your battles” with your children. He means not to harangue your child about behavior that is simply embarrassing to you and not damaging to them. His thinking is, in doing so, they will respond when you do have to put your foot down.

Life is hard, no matter your abilities, but especially for special needs kids. It is tempting as a loving parent, to micro-manage little idiosyncrasies of our kids—maybe to save us face. However, in doing so, are we denying them the comfort they need in a hurtful world? Consider saving your insistence for times that your child must conform to a situation that is essential to their well-being. There are many behaviors that bring comfort or pleasure that are dangerous or detrimental, such as bullying, gossip, drugs, sugar, gangs or even sexual experimentation.

Find Your Own Comfort

Everyone needs comforting in life. Challenges that I experienced as a young mother often left me feeling lonely or even frightened for the future. Sometimes I struck out in anger at thoughtless school staff. Sometimes I went on shopping binges—at the clearance racks! Sometimes I lost myself in eating. All of these practices brought momentary comfort but were ultimately counterproductive. Instead of receiving relief from my woes, these practices brought me more angst than I had before. How foolish!

In my best moments of dealing with empty sadness, I turned to the One who meets every need. Some of my best times of prayer and devotionals have come—when my hurt was the worst—through prayer, song, and meditation on God’s word. As my faith grew, my heart rested in the love and protection that I knew God provided for me. He, Himself, the Great Comforter, wrapped me in His warm arms of love, if I sought Him.

I actually tried sucking on my thumb the other night when I was feeling down, wondering if I had missed something. It wasn’t for me! However, I wonder how often I have refused the great comfort of God by substituting something as childish?

Here is a tip for you. The next time you wonder where you can find a little comfort, try listening to some of the music of the saints. Comfort Café has many recommendations. Or listen to “Comfort Ye My People,” one of the first songs in Handel’s Messiah. The scripture in this song is from Isaiah 40:1-2:

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.

Your heart will warm in the love the Lord has for you.

And so, dear ones, I am praying that you and I remember to give up childish aids, and instead, turn from our sadness by finding our comfort in the Lord.

Till next month,


©2009 Marianne Miles. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Marianne Miles is a free lance writer intent on bringing comfort to mom’s of special needs kids. As she and her husband raised their children, including a son with special needs, Marianne developed a passion to support hurting mothers. Her message revolves around the love and provision of God, even in times of trial. Marianne has worked as a volunteer in the public schools, home school mom, and a teacher in a private school. She writes on the subjects of family and education in the form of devotionals, magazine articles, and poetry. Marianne welcomes reader’s comments and publisher’s questions at Marianne_Miles@yahoo.com.