Monday, 30 January 2012

Calpol or chocolate cake…choosing the right medicine

Kids hurt themselves right? How do you know when it’s genuine, and when it’s not? And as a parent, is it your job to minimise the stress and pain that your child feels?

Well, let’s tackle the genuine or not bit first…
When Mini was little, he had accidents. We often put this down to his flat feet which made him slightly clumsier than most toddlers. We spent quite a few hours down at our local A&E, and our out of hours clinic – part of this I think was probably due to us being vaguely neurotic first time parents, checking out every little rash and bump, but mostly due to his genuine pain after bumping his head or discomfort from an incredibly high temperature.

These days, Mini is rarely ill, and never seems to hurt himself. Well, he seems to hurt himself frequently – he ‘fake’ trips over and ‘I’ve hurt myself’, or pretends to bump into the furniture and ‘ouch, it really hurts’. Some of the time Mini is copying Dollop, sometimes he really does trip, but you and I both know that gently tapping your head against a soft sofa cushion does not hurt and slightly bending your finger back does not result in a broken arm as Mini would have you believe. Mini also tends to develop a headache as I’m administering Calpol to his teething sister…he’s very clever, his head hurts exactly when he sees me pick up the bottle!

These fake injuries occur several times a day at least. But Mini is so rarely ill. Just once since September in fact when he was sick on and off for around 24hours, and he had two days off school as a result. Before that, I have no idea when he was last poorly. The only time he ever had off his 2 years at nursery was when he had Chicken Pox! Don't get me wrong, I'm pleased he's not a poorly child, it just seems a bit unusual when his schoolfriends are dropping like flies! And I can’t remember the last time he actually cried with pain. I mean proper tears. On those rare occasions he’s fallen hard, he doesn’t seem to be in pain. He just gets up and carries on.
So what’s genuine? Well, to me there is a certain cry that tells me when he really is in pain, and then of course there are the physical symptoms – bleeding, vomiting and diarrhoea for example.  I think I’m pretty good at identifying the genuine times, so why does Mini insist that these little trip-ups are so painful, when they clearly aren’t. Does he think he can fool me? Does he think at all?

Now, to answer the bit about my job…well, I think it is my job to make my son feel better when he’s ill, to minimise the stress and pain, and maximise the comfort and healing process. So on those rare occasions Mini has been ill, I’ve done what I can – I made him the foods he likes (as long as he’s not being sick), and let him eat it on the sofa, I let him watch copious amounts of children’s tv, I pandered to him, and held the sick bucket in the right place! At the same time, I’ve always tried to make Mini feel better when he’s grazed a knee, or something similar by giving it a kiss and rubbing it better, and then pretty much brushing it off and then distracting him, after all, the more you dwell on it, the more it really does hurt!

Are these two questions linked then? Do I make being ill and in pain such a positive experience that Mini pretends to be in pain so I’ll provide the same comfort that he gets when it’s real? Is it the opposite – does Mini not feel ill (or not tell me he’s ill) that often because I’ve just brushed off his previous ailments?
Does Mini have a sensory problem that makes him feel the gentle bumps but not the hard ones? Does he just have a high pain threshold? Or is he just being a contrary 5 year old?
I don’t know the answers, but I do know that an often well-placed plaster can make all the difference whether it’s really needed or not, and hugs, kisses and chocolate cake are medicinal for us all!


  1. Sounds to me like he is just seeking the same attention that Dollop gets and indeed the well placed plaster if it works is worth doing for your sanity alone! Doubtful he has a sensory problem or a high pain threshold....sounds more like an emotional need with confirmation that you care and liking positive attention. He likes having his back and neck tickled gently which is no more 'painful' than a bump to his head with a cushion! I doubt its a case of him not telling you he is ill - your mothers intuition would tell you when he genuinely ill regardless of whether he told you or not as I don't think he could hide genuine symptoms that easily. I would suggest this could be a passing phase rather than anything serious and is just a way of testing that you care - and ensuring as you suggest he receives the same comfort as Dollop and when he is genuinely ill. And if he is only rarely ill, a little extra TLC for comfort surely cant go amiss?

  2. Can't be a passing phase if he's always been this way...would you believe that a 5 year old has NEVER had a sore throat? Or a sore tummy? Or ear ache? Or anything in fact. My son NEVER tells me when he hurts... Except when it's something that coudln't possibly hurt. I don't think mothers intuition can tell you when someone has a sore throat? Even when I think he's ill, if I ask him specific questions he will still say it doesn't hurt - so either he IS either hiding genunine symptoms or he really isn't ever ill.
    And asking to have his back/neck tickled, is completely different to 'falling' onto a sofa and 'hurting' himself. He purposely falls onto the sofa, to 'hurt' himself to provoke a reaction.

  3. Oh, sounds really familiar. My little man was almost hospitalised with 'appendicitis' as he had such severe tonsillitis that his body went into shock. He had not moaned, cried, stopped eating, or anything else 'normal'. This is quite regular now, (though obviously I watch more carefully). He will not/can not tell me about anything serious (perhaps from a lack of being listened to/cared for as a baby), but moans about the tiniest thing.
    From what I hear it's quite common with adopted children. Not a high pain threshold so much as they have learnt that no-one cares, and the wiring takes years (up to 10) to reconnect. So. I'm hoping by secondary school we've got the right balance!

  4. All very familiar here. LL fell from half way up a climbing frame last year and landed with a crash, I was there quicker than you could say knife with one hand around him and the other near my phone ready to call an ambulance - I really thought it was that bad and I'm not prone to over reacting. He got up and carried on declaring, 'That didn't hurt!'.

    Conversely, and similarly to Mini, LL will have a number of ailments every day and like you I wonder why. He gets a lot of attention. When I know for sure he is ill then there is lots of fuss. I wonder the same things as you about this. I flit a bit between fussing for the 'fake' ailments and having it out with him about it, explaining that if he fibs about being poorly then I might not believe him when he really is poorly.

    The thing is, I don't think he really does know when he is poorly. Like Mini, LL is hardly ever off school. In a strange parallel, two sickness bugs and one chicken pox are the only times that he really has been poorly since he has been here.

    Yesterday, he told me he felt 'under the weather'. I thought he was angling for a day on the sofa with Disney Junior. We were due to go out. I encouraged him to get moving and have a shower. Upon drying him off I found a rash on the side of his bottom which when I patted him dry caused him agony. This raised the question with me yesterday of whether he has some sort of sensory delay/disorder. Until I drew his attention to the rash he knew he was not feeling great but had no idea why.

    Accidents (as in toilet accidents) have stopped here now but it is apparent that he doesn't have much of an idea when he needs to go until it is desperate. I can ask him if he needs a wee and get told no. I force the issue and make him try and it's like Niagara Falls and he looks surprised! I link this all in with the above.

    These things are sent to try and worry us eh?! x

    1. So many similarities!

      Mini definitely copies Dollop (who at 21months still toddles and occasionally tumbles over), and dramatically and theatrically falls over! (I think he's Maradona in the making!) The mental health lady said to make a fuss, so that's what we're doing. And those plasters on barely there grazes/cuts do seem to make him feel much much better.

      Mini's wetting and soiling has stopped all of a sudden. We're using a daytime dryness reward chart, which to start with (just after Christmas) had no effect at all, but all of a sudden he's interested and doing brilliantly. And night times have been fantastic with over a week of no accidents (even when he was night dry before, we'd still have an accident once a week!)
      However, like LL, if we ask him to go to the toilet he'll refuse, and if we push then you'd think he hadn't wee'd for a week there's so much. And like LL, he is always surprised. However, at school he can hold it, and wait when he has to. Here, or when we're out and about, if he's gotta go, then he's gotta go!

      Definitely sent to try and worry!

    2. I should add that we think (on the basis of comments from the mental health lady) that Mini's wetting was due to anxiousness. She thinks he was getting worried about getting home to find his bags packed, ready for him to move onto new parents.
      We've done LOTS of reassurance and at Mini's request have removed birth parent photos etc, and this may well be why the wetting has ceased. He defnitely seems more settled, and the behaviour has improved too. We are however expecting this to be a recurring phase...and we're getting armed with strategies, support and contacts who can help!