Why don’t kids come with a handbook? It’s a real mystery! Does it make any sense that to succeed in almost any career in life, a person must commit to an intense curriculum of study, often followed by an internship in that field, and yet, when we embark on the most significant and fundamental job any of us will ever do, that of molding precious human beings into productive members of society, it’s either sink or swim (or a combination)?
Here’s the pitch. Our daughter, Andrea, woke up one morning grumbling loudly.
“My leg hurts! Ow, ow! I can’t walk!”
Of course, my husband and I were concerned.
“What happened, sweetie? Did you bump it? Fall?”
I leaned over Andrea to inspect for bumps or bruises.
“No, no,” she insisted, shaking her head. “It just hurts, and I can’t walk. I can’t do anything!”
Bewildered, my husband and I exchanged a glance. Do we run her to the doctor? Give it a day or two of “let’s wait and see?”
My husband repeated, “Are you sure you didn’t bump it yesterday?”
Another vigorous shake of the head was the answer. It was time for a whispered conference in the hall.
Husband voted, “I say we keep an eye on it and see if it goes away.”
Wavering, I acquiesced, praying that this was the right decision. Normally, I take my kids’ ailments seriously. But there was something about the way Andrea was acting that rang a warning bell.
Throughout the day, I kept a close eye on Andrea. Although she kept up a constant litany of “limp-kvetch, limp-kvetch” throughout the day, she didn’t appear to be in real pain. But why would a regular, well-adjusted child cry out for attention in this way? Something wasn’t adding up.
Until I saw Andrea’s best friend, Sarah, later that afternoon. Sarah was wearing a boot. And limping. With instant clarity, the puzzle pieces fit together all too well.
That night, when I wished Andrea a good night, she turned to me, sea-green eyes bright with unshed tears.
“Can you take me to the doctor tomorrow, Mom? I think I need a boot. Or at least a cast. It hurts so much!”
“Maybe. Sleep well, honey. And feel better. Let’s see how it is in the morning, okay?”
How would you handle this, Rachel?
A Suspicious Mom
Dear Suspicious Mom,
If you ever get hold of that elusive parenting handbook, I’ll take a copy!
You have strong suspicions that Andrea wants to mimic Sarah. Something about having an injury seems appealing; perhaps it is the extra attention Sarah is receiving. Even a well-adjusted child (ranging from age 0 through age 120) may crave extra TLC.
I think the best course of action would be to allow natural consequences to play out. Andrea must rest her injured leg. So, there is no bike riding, trampoline jumping, scootering, or strenuous activity until she is completely recovered. Of course, there is no running off to friends for play dates or enjoying fun jaunts to the park. After a day or two of enforced rest, I think the novelty of having an injury will probably wear off.
If Andrea continues to cry and beg to see a doctor, would you consider doing the following? You may want to forewarn Andrea that sometimes doctors give injections or unpleasant tasting medication before prescribing a boot.
“But I can call and make that appointment.” That’s your cue, Mom – reach for the phone.
“Oh, that’s okay, Mommy,” she will hopefully respond. “I think it’s starting to feel better now.”
My assumption is that the first suggestion will yield favorable results, and Andrea will enjoy an almost miraculous and speedy recovery.
Here’s hoping we all stay well!
May all parents be blessed with visceral wisdom to nurture and attend to their children so that they can thrive,