As a parent, I often find myself feeling totally and utterly useless at odd times. Specifically at times that I thought would come naturally to any mother. I mean throw a tough question at me like “where do babies come from” or “why do people die” and I will tackle it. I will talk it out so much that my child will walk off with me still having plenty left to say. But have a child wake me up in the middl of the night with a tummy ache and I feel like I want to run far, far away.
I remember when we would get sick as children, my mother was totally in control. She would know what to do, when to call the doctor, when not to, what medicines to give me, what prayers to say. When I am faced with a sick child, at any time of the day, I am flummoxed! Specifically with a tummy ache or head ache.
The issue is when I don’t have clear and obvious symptoms that have clear and obvious cures. A cut? slap a plaster on it. A fever? wipe them down and give them paracetamol if its over 39 (I wonder if this will start a debate of when a fever is actually a fever and when to medicate, etc. If so then click here). Fall lon arm and won’t stop crying 20 mins after? Go to emergency room. All clear cut. But the often vague and mysterious ailments like ‘tummy ache’ or ‘headache’ leave me not knowing how I am supposed to react and worried about over or under reacting. Therefore it leaves me feeling quite clueless. I sit and stare at them and wait for a clear sign that I should leave them alone or whisk them to the emergency room.
Here is something you need to know about me to put this all into context. I am the type of person who would walk out of a building where the fire alarm had just sounded especially slowly because I don’t want to look like I over reacted. The hilarious thing is that on the inside I am the type of person who is always expecting a fire to break out any minute. It’s very confusing.
For example. If we’re sitting in the living room and the kids run into each other head on while playing then fall on the floor crying (specific, because it happened yesterday) in my head both children have probably broken their teeth, there must be blood somewhere and I am mentally locating my shoes to head to the emergency room. Looking at my actions tho, you would say I am getting up to go to the bathroom or to get a book of the shelf. While I’m not slow I certainly do not jump up and run to them. I am terrified, for some reason, to over react in the fear of looking like an idiot maybe? Or because over reactions freak me out even more and I get angry.
How does this effect how I react to my children being sick? Well I sit there with the anxious me telling me “this is serious, so so serious, you have to go to the emergency room now otherwise you will regret it” And the over rational me saying “this is nothing! Ignore it and it will go away. Close your eyes and go to bed”. (we all may know the anxious part from such moments as “did I really blow the candle out in the living room” or ” can I hear my child breathing?”). Often times it’s the other voice that wins. But each are at such extremes and I wish I could to see a middle ground.
My daughter came to me half an hour before bedtime the other day and told me she had a headache, the mother of all mysterious, hard to diagnose, ignore or don’t ignore complaints. It’s worse than the tummy ache because I can take a stab at what might be wrong (gas, bad food, nerves, etc). But a head ache… my only option is medicate or don’t medicate and pure speculation on what it could be. Since she has had a migraine twice in her life this leaves me more worried. But my daughter, since having the migraine and since inheriting my crazy over anxious gene, seems to worry about headaches A LOT. If I gave her medication every time she mentioned starting a headache she would practically live on the stuff.
Me: “where exactly does it hurt?”
J: “Here” Pointing to the right side of her head “and when I shake my head”
Me: “don’t shake your head”
Before bedtime J still had a headache so I decided to medicate. J is allergic to ibuprofen as you may remember and so giving her any kind of medicine sends me into an OCD fit of double and triple checking that I am only giving her paracetamol. I always give my kids a time frame to when the medicine will work, hoping that the pain is partly mental and that it would make it more effective. J fell asleep a little while later.
In the middle of the night J comes into our room. Now on account of the inherited genes, poor baby. I know that the scenarios in her head are pretty much the same as mine.
J:”Mama…. my head still hurts and my tummy hurts”
Me: Pure panic but with this face on -_-
J: “Mama it really hurts”
Me: “Ok lets go to your room and you can lay down for a bit” In other words, I have no idea what to do about this. so I am going to stare at your for a while and hope it goes away.
During my staring session where I stroked her hair and read some Quraan for her I was thinking; I wish I had some mint leaves… They must be somewhere in the kitchen, Should I go make her mint tea? Where’s the hot water bottle? Maybe she’ll just go back to bed… Does she need the bathroom? Is the headache related to the tummy ache? Should I call a doctor. What would mama do?!
The point is not that I am terrified, my rational part is louder here than my anxious part. It’s just basically that I feel like I should have everything totally under control and have a better plan than “lay down and lets see what happens”. If mama was anywhere near me I would have woke her up and asked her. Had it been a fever I would have known what to do!
J’s tummy ache resolved itself shall we say and we all went back to bed thank God. If I am being totally honest another aspect that comes into the equation when dealing with these issues is the بلا دلع (bala dala) doctrine we were raised with. Loosely translating to ‘don’t be dramatic’. This is the same doctrine that resulted in my younger sister going a day with a fractured arm when she was a child without complaining because “بلا دلع (bala data)”. It wasn’t until her arm got swollen did she say anything about it. So often times when my children say they feel ill a small part of me feels like they may be over dramatic.
My question for you mothers and fathers out there is: What do you do with these ailments? Do you have bag of tricks you go through till you find the cure? Do you have specific cures for tummy aches, headaches and yuckiness? Do you also feel like you wish your mother was there?