Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sickness and Trust

So what do you write about when you have no ideas?  Let's find out!

I'm sitting in bed with a sinus infection and a horrid earache waiting for my doctor's office to call me back.  I want something to help with the pain.  I'm a complete baby when it comes to pain.  When I was a kid, it was a VERY big deal to miss school.  In fact, it was such a big deal that when I said I was sick, my parents quite often didn't believe me or forced me to go to school anyway.  I was a latchkey kid; there were a million times I was left at home with the instructions to stay in bed ALL DAY (no TV allowed) and to call my dad if I started to throw up.

When our kids came to us, I had an incredibly rude awakening.  When my kids said they didn't feel good, my husband BELIEVED them.  They rested on the couch with sippy cups and blankets, watching television.  Beyond belief.  Incredibly, many times they were actually running a temp, or ended up vomiting, or gave some other indication that they really were sick and needed to go to the doctor.  My husband quickly taught me to trust my kids.  It wasn't until my son was twelve or so that he tried the old, "Get out of school by pretending to be sick."  Only happened a couple times.  My daughter hasn't really tried it.  In fact, she's such a go-getter that when she says she doesn't feel good, I'm practically on the phone with the doctor before she finishes her sentence.

The irony in all of this is that I learned not to trust my own body.  To this day I don't trust myself when I feel ill.  I still guess things like, "Am I sick enough to stay home?  Maybe I could make it through the morning.  Is my ear really THAT bad?  I know it hurts and I can't hear and I feel fluid moving around in there, but does that warrant a call to the doc?"  For the last couple of years I've been feeling run down for a lot of reasons, or so I thought--things going on in my life and with my kids and my job--until I finally went to a fabulous (anonymous) doctor who believed in a hard core approach.  I had horrific aching in my body and told him so.  Upon hearing this, he said, "Does this hurt?" and proceeded to punch me in the shoulder.  I quite literally screamed, "YES!"  His response was calm.  "Oh, you have fibromyalgia.  You'll need to see a rheumatologist."

And because not only did I not trust my own body but I also didn't trust doctors I thought were jerks, I suffered for two more years before finally getting in to see a rheumatologist, who was able to diagnose me within ten minutes with fibromyalgia.  How about a slap on the forehead to go with that punch on the shoulder?

Here's the point I'm getting at (amazing since I didn't have one in the first place!):  I want my kids to learn to trust their bodies.  If they feel run down, sleep.  If they feel hungry, eat.  If they feel sick, take medicine or go to the doctor.  Because of their previous histories, they do struggle with eating appropriately, but fortunately we were able to rid them (to the best of my knowledge) of their hoarding of food very early by making it available when they needed it.  Although my kids had an unusual start, I see parents regularly teaching their children to disregard their bodies' signals to make things easier on the parents.  Yes, it's naptime!  It doesn't matter if you're tired!  Just one more bite of dinner!  Clean your plate--there are starving children in Africa (that's an older one, and believe me, everyone from my generation just wanted to know how to pack their plate up and mail it to some hungry African child!).  We eat at these times.  We sleep at these times.  We work at these times.  If you're sick you stay in bed and sleep all day.

Of course, as kids get older structure is critical.  But I've watched some parents who instill either no structure or too much.  Either one keeps the child from learning their own limits.  Kids who have complete access to any food in the house whenever they want it may do what is logical to kids--go for the addictives, sugar, fat and salt.  Ones who are allowed to stay up until they drop don't learn how to regulate their bodies into comfortable sleep.  And kids whose parents either run them to the doctor for every sniffle or refuse to take them unless they're violently ill teach kids not to trust their bodies or their instincts.  No, kids don't need a doctor for mild allergies--the need an over the counter remedy suggested by a nurse or pediatrician familiar with the child.  Kids who are violently ill usually need to be at the hospital.  If you allow a child to vomit continuously with a high fever, you're running a slippery slope of dehydration.  That can lead to organ failure, permanent disability, and eventual death.

Allowing kids to learn to listen and honor their internal rhythms is key to being a balanced and healthy individual.  Modeling this behavior can be tricky for parents who didn't receive it as children themselves.  It often takes a reminder from a spouse (as in my case) or a friend to help remember what's in our children's best interests, especially if it's opposite from what we experienced as a child.

Just a rambling thought for the evening.  Thanks for reading and I love it when you pass the blog on to others...and comments are the best, whether you agree or not!

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