I’m what doctors and nurses call a “Nervous Mother”. I panic when coughs linger, when throats blister and when heads throb. Despite knowing better, I jump online to Google my children’s symptoms, which is hazardous to their health.
This week, I was hit with “I don’t feel good” complaints. My youngest daughter went to bed early due to a tummy ache, and the oldest daughter (not to be shown up), woke up with one. When I gave Ava two Pepto Bismol tablets and told her she would feel better in a few minutes, she burst into tears. Was she really sick or really dreading school?
And I know how it feels to dread school — my stomach muscles used to tighten into wicked spasms. I hated school when I was a child, but Ava loves her teacher and her class. She just hates Mondays.
It’s too early in the year to start taking a day here and there for mental health purposes, and I can’t let my kindergartner learn from the third-grader’s dramatics. However, in the back of my mind, I wondered if she was really coming down with something, and if I was being unreasonable. But then, I remembered the advice of my daughters’ pediatrician, who told me to hold my ground when they can’t hold their emotions:
“If you don’t see sick, then you can’t let them be sick,” she stated.
True. No child in my house had a fever, a case of toilet trouble or unbearable pain. While Ava looked pitiful, she really didn’t look ill.
“If you’re wrong,” our doctor added, “You’ll get a call from school, and then you’ll know.”
But that’s the issue: I have been wrong before. Very wrong. I’ve also been wrong in a good way, if that makes sense. When I thought Ava had ringworm, it turned out to be dandruff. When I thought she had an allergic reaction to formula, her rash turned out to be heat related (long sleeves in June will cause this). When I thought she had a broken arm, it turned out to be Nursemaid’s Elbow. And when I barged through the double-doors in the emergency room, announcing that my child was running a 104.5 fever and I feared she had H1N1, I was escorted back to the waiting room until our name was called at 4:30 a.m. She had a bladder infection.
Then, Maryn came along, but I wasn’t a tad bit smarter. I called our pediatrician’s office three different times worrying that she was allergic to milk, because she spit up like a barnyard animal. She wasn’t lactose intolerant as we learned three formulas later, but she had acid reflux most likely due to my ingestion of Zantac 150 for eight months of pregnancy.
And then there were the times when I assumed something was nothing, and proven wrong in ways that I’ll never be able to forget.
When Ava was in kindergarten, she suddenly stopped paying attention in class. At home, she seemed to be ignoring us, not even turning our way when we spoke to her. I assumed she was adopting behaviors witnessed at school, but I wasn’t going to put up with it. “LOOK AT ME WHEN I TALK TO YOU!” I’d shout in sheer frustration.
I spoke to her teacher about it, and she confirmed that she had to repeat herself a few times during the course of a normal day. What I didn’t know was that Ava had double ear infections that produced temporary hearing loss.
Now that was a bad day in parenting.
As for Maryn? Well, Epic Fail Part II aired during her second season of life, when I brushed off a set of flushed cheeks that I associated with teething. After a year of ignoring the rosy hue, we learned that she was allergic to anything orange. That explains the projectile vomiting that I chalked up as acid reflux.
So, we all make mistakes — letting our kids stay home when they aren’t really sick, and sending them out when they need to be on a gurney. However, I’m sure in my daughters’ medical records there is a statement written in blood red ink: