Chart Number 021

November 11, 2011

By Ekta R. Garg

My kids annoy me.

Or, in the interest of accuracy, their ability to oscillate seamlessly between childhood and something-that’s-not-childhood annoys me.

With the holiday season almost upon us, I want to make sure the girls are armed with all they need to enjoy it and survive it.  They both take a multivitamin every morning after breakfast (much to the amusement of my husband who claims multivitamins are nothing more than a get-rich-quick scheme.  He claims they provide absolutely no protection against anything whatsoever.  I disagree.  I feel like I’ve seen a significant improvement in Five’s health, especially, since she started school three years ago and started taking the vitamin.  Plus, I took multivitamins as a kid, and there are some things you do with your own children just because your parents did them with you when you were younger.)

So.  The girls take a multivitamin.  And they also wash their hands really well with antibacterial soap as soon as they come home from school.  I’m debating the flu shot issue with myself.  Understandably, both kids hate getting shots.  I got my own flu shot a couple of weeks ago, and my arm felt sore for a few days after.  Plus, Five is so willowy that she can’t get shots in her arm.  The nurses have to give her her shots in her thighs because she has more muscle mass there.  And Three would scream to the high heavens and then probably give me the silent treatment for an afternoon if she got a shot.

I guess it doesn’t help either that I use the doctor and shots as a method of intimidation to get the girls to listen to me when I ask them to do something related to hygiene.

But one thing I can do is empower the girls with the importance of communication.  Regular “Growth Chart” readers may remember that last year we spent most of the kids’ Christmas vacation getting and then recovering from a stomach bug.  Five, Three, and I all got some version of it.  That was not a fun week.

What made it even worse was Five’s reticence.  She barely said a word all week long.  While she spent most of the week lying on the sofa, she would get up periodically and engage in seemingly normal play.  In those instances I tried asking her repeatedly what she felt.  But she wouldn’t ‘fess up.  She refused to divulge any information whatsoever on where, if any, she felt any pain and what other sensations might be running through her.

In fact the only way we realized she felt better was by her resuming her regular stream of conversation.  And then the entire story came out, how she had a constant stomachache and felt tired and yucky inside.  My husband and I, both strong advocates of a person being proactive in his/her own health, urged her to speak up the next time this happened.

She cited her fear of going to the doctor’s office and getting a shot as the cause for her silence; we tried to convince her that had she said something earlier, yes, we would have taken her to the doctor but the doctor most likely would have given her some medicine that could have helped her get better faster.  She seemed to consider this information carefully, weighing her options (and probably debating whether we were telling her the whole truth or only a half-truth that all parents tell to get their kids to do things.)

Needless to say, I don’t want to spend this holiday season hovering over children moaning and groaning on the sofa as they eye a garbage can sitting next to them.  I really like those holidays when everyone is healthy and can enjoy themselves.  We have family coming into town for Christmas this year, and as much as they love Five and Three I don’t think they want to spend their vacation running children to the bathroom so the kids can vomit in the toilet as opposed to on the carpet.

I decided earlier in the week to have a casual conversation with Five to make sure we both knew what to expect in the (hopefully unlikely) event she got sick.

“Do you remember what happened last year at Christmas when you got the stomach bug?” I called to the general back of car as we drove to school one morning this week.

“Yes.”

“You weren’t feeling good, and you didn’t tell anybody.”

“I was feeling shy to tell anyone.”

“I know, dear, but if you had told someone we could have helped you.”

“I know, but I was feeling shy.”

I tried to appeal to her feminine side.  “If you feel shy about telling Papa or Dadu [Grandpa], you don’t have to tell them.  You can just tell me.”

I know, I know.  I should be encouraging her to be free with all the grownups in her life, but I figured it would be easier to convince her to approach one of us rather than ambush her with all three.  Knowing Five’s track record, once she felt comfortable with something she wouldn’t have any qualms whatsoever about telling the world if she had to.

“But what if you’re not at home?”

“Well, then you can have Dadu call me and then you can tell me.  But if you’re not feeling well, I wouldn’t go anywhere.  I would stay with you and make sure you were okay.”

“Okay…”

“See, if you’d told us last year that you weren’t feeling good, then we could have taken you to the doctor to get you some medicine, and you would have felt better.  You know you can always talk to me about anything, right?”

“Well, okay, if I’m not feeling good then I’ll use my rational thinking and tell you about it.”

Uh—okay.

Rational thinking?  Where is she getting this stuff??  Okay, so I know it’s coming from school, and we believe firmly in the school’s enthusiastic approach to teaching and pushing the kids as far as they felt comfortable and a little more.  But rational thinking?  Really??

The scariest part to me was that I knew that Five would know exactly what rational thinking was.  But she sounded so…old in saying it.  Far beyond her five years and almost five months.

Yet the minute I start thinking that maybe Five has surpassed her childhood, she will do something to remind me that her place as a five-year-old may have only been altered on the surface.  I feel those deeper child-like qualities in the way she’ll cuddle in my lap first thing in the morning before getting out of bed.  Or in the way she and Three jumped on our bed when my husband and I were just waking up this past Sunday morning.  Or in the way she’ll drag her feet to do her homework.

Children have the utter luxury of hopping over that line between childhood and something-that’s-not-childhood.  They constantly amaze me with this ability.  It’s fascinating and just plain fun to watch.

And in those times when I wish I could just toss all caution to the wind and worry only about what color crayon to use next—it can be annoying too.

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