Friday, February 12, 2010

Mediating for These Little People

hank in radiology

These little people who live with me, I mean. Here is one of them now. Hank has had a loose-sounding cough for a few days--actually I have it too--then yesterday he woke up with a fever. More worrisome, he was breathing shallowly, and every thirty seconds or so he would take a deep, sighing breath. That got my attention. After we got his fever down, he didn't seem too unhappy, but I took him to the doctor. You know how doctors and nurses will address the child, but they're really talking to you? They were taken aback that Hank spoke up and told them all about his symptoms. When the doc asked, "Hank, what's going on with you?" he said, "I can't breath and my chest hurts and my head hurts." That got the ped's attention too. She said his lungs sounded clear, but neither I nor Hank was really satisfied with that, apparently, because Hank said, "There's this thing in my lungs. I can hear it and I hear it ALL DAY." Which was sort of cryptic, but the doc ordered a chest xray. I was like, way to advocate for yourself, my buddy.

Here he is after changing into his little gown. He was put out that there was no mirror, so I took his picture to show him. Anyway, the xray showed no pneumonia, so the doc just thinks he has congestion in his upper chest, and she gave us an inhaler to use if we need to.

But for the point of this post: As we navigated this experience, I was thinking about how maybe our second-biggest job as parents--after physically caring for these kids--is mediating their experiences for them, modeling how they're supposed to respond to and feel about what's going on around them. There were several novel and potentially scary things happening: Hank had a breathing treatment at the doctor's office, which involved wearing a mask on his face and was REALLY noisy; and then there was all the weird stuff in the xray room, and having to lie down up on the big table with his back on the xray plate thingie, while I held his hands up above his head and the big camera moved around. Dude was completely chilled out about it, and even interested in all the xray stuff.

I thought, you know, he wouldn't be beyond his rights to be like, "To hecks with this, I'm going to freak out now." But he didn't. I kept up a stream of "wow-isn't-this-interesting-yet-not-a-big-deal" chit chat, and he was fine. I mean, we all do this all the time. I'm good, but if parental judo were an Olympic sport, I don't think I would medal in it. I would be in, like, the junior city semifinals, maybe. But this job of mediating the child's environment, this is huge, you know? I was thinking, what a disaster for a child if he has nobody to do this. I don't mean that only scary experiences need mediating, I think the parent teaches the child how to react to nearly every stimulus, starting in infancy. How intolerably difficult the world would be if a child were on his own in that regard. And what does that do to the mind of that kid and the person he becomes? It is sort of a big responsibility, this parenting business.

So that happened yesterday, and somehow I also managed to go up to Laura's school two separate times to do reading groups and February birthday celebrations. They also had Valentine exchange, AND it was Pajama Day AND they had doughnuts in the morning. ZOMG the sugar. Hank is still ailing today, but not so much that he hasn't been out playing in the snow. BTW, snow! We have like three inches out there! I know everyone up and down the boulevard has already had their Snowpocalypse, but this one is ours.

I am crossing fingers and toes that Laura and Matt's mom are able to fly out of here on their trip to Providence tomorrow.

I hope y'all are well. More updates as conditions warrant.

16 comments:

delaine said...

Awwww, poor little guy. It's not fun being sick. He surely is well spoken to describe his symptoms to the doctor! In thinking about your comment about mediating a child's experiences and how you were able to take Hank to the doctor for excellent care, it makes me think, sadly, of all those poor little ones in Haiti that were(and are) suffering with no parents by them. Heartbreaking.

Michele said...

I hope Hank feels better soon. When my oldest had pneumonia at Hanks age he was great. Not freaked out or anything. When he was 11 he had to have stitches on his cheek. From then on anyone that got near him with a needle made him freak. 26 years old and he still doesn't like it. The little ones take it better than the older ones.

Beth said...

Fantastic post, Becky. It's true, what you say-- sometimes I get woozy thinking about the stakes of parenting. And many, many times I feel that I haven't even made the quarterfinals. Nice work, there, girlfriend.

Amy said...

Little dude. He is such a perceptive, sweet little man. Ava had to go to the ER last year with shallow breathing and rapid heart rate, coughing, etc. She had the breathing treatment too, but what she remembers most is that she got to have a popsicle after--in the middle of the night, which seemed fantastical to her. So it's actually a really positive memory for her!

I think about the mediating thing ALL THE TIME. Especially since she's gone off to school--I want her to tell me what's going on so I can help her process things and learn how to think about them. It's tough and scary work!

gretchen said...

Hank is the greatest little guy. I just love him. Hope he's feeling better soon.

This stuff about mediating experiences is so interesting. Jude has a little friend who is now 7, who was in foster care until he was 4, when he was adopted by his mom, who is absolutely amazing and wonderful, and the two of them have 100% bonded into a family in three short years. And the thing she has managed to do most excellently is this very thing, helping this little boy, who has never had anyone to turn to, manage his way through experiences in a healthy, happy way. Sometimes, if he is scared or in an unfamiliar situation, I'll see him turn to her, and she's great at easing his way, and helping him feel safe. It's wonderful to watch.

Perpetua said...

This is so well-said. What frightens me is, what about the things that I don't handle well? How am I going to mediate those? I hate all things related to the medical system, but if I freak out in front of the child, I'm going to teach him a completely wrong approach to health. Ack.

I hope your little one feels better soon.

Camp Papa said...

Hank is a rare fellow. I'd rate your parenting skills higher than you give yourself credit for. The proof, as they say, is in the...little dude.

Barbara said...

Scary times, I'm glad he's ok.

It is hard, but as Camp Papa said, I think you're doing a great job - witness his reaction.

Becky said...

Thanks guys, he is getting better today. Perpetua, yep, that is the tricky part. There have definitely been times when I realized I was putting anxiety about something onto my kid, when it had nothing to do with their fears. It's at these moments that I cling to the idea of the "good enough" mother!

Jane said...

Good job momming. Even before you got to the part on mediating, I was thinking, "It's so nice that Becky has given Hank a good attitude toward doctors--that he knows they're not scary authority figures, but people who meed to listen what he has to say." Glad he's feeling better today!

The Messy Mom said...

You must be so proud of him. That is really impressive at any age to be able to verbalize your symptoms and feelings to the Doctor. I should know I just went to a clinic last night after I couldn't take anymore of this crud and I could have used you there to mediate for me ;)

steenky bee said...

Oh little Hank! I hope he gets feeling better. As my kiddos get older, I've been encouraging them to explain to me how they feel. When parents "suggest" symptoms fir the child by prompting them too much, it doesn't lead to an accurate diagnosis. As of late, my Heney's been complaining that his tummy talks loud to him and it says that only chocolate will make it happy. Hmmm...I'm a little suspicious. Keep us posted on your adorable little guy!

Veronica said...

Scary proposition indeed, this mediating and this parenting. You are awesome! Hope I can be as good as you one day!

Keely said...

It is a HUGE responsibility. But at the same time I think a lot of people take it one step further and rather than mediate, they try to HAVE the experiences for their kids. So their kids never learn anything.

Hank sounds truly well-adjusted, at any rate, O Junior City Semifinalist. I hope everything turns out to be, well, nothing.

Amy said...

Well done all 'round. Color me super-impressed by Hank's ability to speak for himself! My very verbal girls both completely close down around Scary People (ie anyone not sharing genes with them).

Mediating is huge. As is the ability to advocate for oneself (just finished Gladwell's "Outliers," with an interesting commentary on topic).

Regional Semifinals, minimum!

Sara said...

Ah, there's nothing like a Hank photo in the morning!

I love reading the things both of your kids say. I swear they could help *me* mediate circumstances!

I definitely agree with you on that part of parenting.
Sure does take a lot of mental energy to analyze their situations and try to have the right response. Not only that, but when we're reacting to our own grown up situations, I'm always trying to think of how we can be a good example in front of them. I swear that's one of the main reasons I have to get some child-free time in: so I can cut loose and get my gripe on without worrying who's watching!