While I wrote about the multitude of ways I’ve failed professionally, and how I make a point of telling my children all about it and even encouraging them to fail, as well, I realized, after the fact, that one area of failure I’d managed to leave out (consciously? Unconsciously?) was my parenting failures.
Let’s rectify that right now, shall we?
When my oldest son was 4 years old, he got into the habit of shrieking everything. This, as you may imagine, was not pleasant. My husband and I told him to pipe down and, when that didn’t work, we yelled for him to pipe down. (Yes, I can see the irony now. But, when you’re in the moment, it seems to make perfect sense.) He didn’t. So we yelled at him some more.
At the same time, he seemed to be coming down with a cough every other week. The cough would turn into a cold, and the cold into some kind of indeterminate sinus and chest thing. However, he didn’t have a fever, so I didn’t take it particularly seriously. It was weeks before I finally took him to a doctor, and that was only because this particular round of coughing was keeping him up at night, plus he started complaining of ear pain, and that’s a symptom I consider MD-worthy.
Our pediatrician told us, “You guys aren’t alarmists. When I note your name on the schedule, I know I’m going to see a really sick kid.”
And a really sick kid he was. Turned out he had an ear infection (predictable; common), oh, and he’d lost a chunk of hearing in both his ears.
Guess that explains the shrieking.
“Bad parenting!” my brother scolded me.
Indeed it was. But, that wasn’t the end of it. We treated the ear infection as directed, and went on with our lives. But, the coughing and the sinus issues kept cropping up. It was finally my father (remember his battles with the American Medical Association?) who suggested we have him tested for allergies (it was also my father who said that, if your child needs a blood test, ask the phlebotomist to use a butterfly needle, it’s thinner and less painful; a very useful tip).
Lo and behold, turned out my son was allergic to dairy, peanuts, eggs, and chocolate; a.k.a. The Four Kid Food Groups.
We took all four out of his diet and, overnight, he became a different boy. No more coughs, no more infections, and even the shrieking went down. Turns out the allergies were filling his sinuses with fluid, which filled his ears, which made it harder for him to hear.
If we’d figured that out a year earlier, when the symptoms first appeared, we could have not only saved him the pain, us the aggravation, but also the three years of subsequent speech therapy, as well.
But, wait, there’s more!
At the playground with my middle son, the day before he was scheduled to start first grade, he wanted me to lift him up so he could reach the monkey bars.
I didn’t feel like it.
“Jump for it,” I said.
And he did.
And he missed the bar.
He came crashing to the ground, landing on his butt, his arms locked behind him.
“That’s okay, I told him. That’s what your butt is for.” (My mother always used to tell me that.)
He burst into tears. Which was a little odd. This is my stoic child. He cried that his arm hurt.
I told him to walk it off.
When we got home, we put some ice on it. It wasn’t swollen; nothing was protruding. There wasn’t even so much as a bruise. He couldn’t move it, though. So we gave him some ibuprofen and sent him to bed.
The next morning, his arm still hurt. But, still no swelling, no bruising. So we wrapped an Ace bandage around it and sent him off to first grade. It was only for the day. The next he’d have off due to Rosh Hashanah, anyway. It wasn’t worth skipping school for.
The nurse called me later that afternoon. She said, “You need to have that arm X-rayed.”
I figured we’d do it the following day, after temple. But, that evening, my husband said, “You know what, just in case, let me run him to the Emergency Room tonight, see what they say.”
What they said was that his arm was broken. (Actually, we didn’t even need to check in for that. The nurse on-duty took one look as my husband was filling out the papers and told him knowingly, “That arm’s broken.”) For a while, they even thought they might have to operate. But, as it turned out, he (and we) got away with just a cast for six weeks.
And during those weeks, whenever anyone would ask my son how he broke his arm, he’d solemnly inform them, “Mommy told me to.”
Parenting Fail: The Sequel.
And yet, today, both my sons (and their little sister) are still alive. They’re visiting the former Soviet Union, Googling my articles, and dancing in ballets. In short, despite my epic fails, they’re both fine.
There is a Russian proverb: Beat a child every day. If you don’t know what he did to deserve it, don’t worry, he will.
That goes for parenting, too. Don’t worry, whatever you think might have been your parenting failures, your kids will survive–and likely never even realize what happened.
Unless, you know, you choose to write about it on the internet…
For more tales of childhood sickness, read up on the croup, how to deal with vomit, and Jewish penicillin.