I have repeated the story of the boy who cried wolf so many times that I have become the mother who cried the boy who cried wolf.
Beth Falkenstein: My youngest daughter has had more than her share of visits to the hospital. Once, when I accidentally closed the car door on her fingers (FYI, 2-year-olds have very flexible bones!); another time when she was bitten in the face by a dog and needed stitches; and a third time when she was hit on the head by a diver who jumped into the pool on top of her. That last one happened at sleepaway camp and required an ambulance.
She came out fine every time, but despite my best efforts to reassure her, I couldn't help but be a little shaken. And I suspect she picked up on my apparently poorly masked alarm, because now she runs to me with every itch, scratch and ache, no matter how small.
In an attempt to get her to distinguish for herself which ailments warrant treatment and which do not, I have repeated the story of the boy who cried wolf so many times that I have become the mother who cried the boy who cried wolf. (Go ahead, reread that last sentence. It takes a while but it does make sense.) As a result, I have had to learn the imperfect art of triage for mommies.
For example, if she complains of a stomach ache, I might ask her to describe the pain, trying to determine if it's just indigestion. But she's 10 years old, so I might as well be asking her to summarize the plot of "Pulp Fiction." I resist automatically reaching for the Tylenol because that sends the message that medicine is always the answer, (and we all know that sometimes the answer is chocolate.) Once I tried using the hospital trick of telling her to rate the pain on a scale of one to ten. She said "a really big three." What am I supposed to do with that information? Or I use the "I guess I'll take you to the doctor" litmus test. Often the whiff of a visit to the doctor's has miraculous curative powers.
In the end, I rely on instinct, common sense, and caution. It seems to have worked pretty well so far. But I still worry that her lasting impression of my maternal compassion will be the time I told her "just fart and you'll feel better."
|Beth Falkenstein was a sitcom writer and freelance contributor to "Self," "Redbook," and "YM" magazines before taking a full time job in her kitchen. She loves her new bosses (ages 13 and 10), and is grateful that they approve of inter-office romance, because Beth thinks her co-worker (Jim, age 45) is really hot.|