This past weekend our little one (just turned 2) had a special day with Dad. Mostly that meant they ran errands together. At one store, she went right into the corner of a table and got a nasty wound that makes her look like Harry Potter right now. You know, the lightning scar on the forehead? Well, my husband reported that she screamed bloody murder for about 30 seconds and went back to having a good time. So everything seemed fine. She was a bit cranky when she came home and did have a weird episode of screaming even louder than normal. And without any good reason. But that’s kind of typical for her.
A few hours later, she was taking a bath before bedtime when her nose started bleeding pretty heavily. This is the first bloody nose either of my children have had. We consulted the authorities (WebMD, naturally) and it said to seek immediate medical care if a bloody nose developed a few hours after a head injury. We were almost positive she was fine, but you don’t want to be overly cautious about brain swelling or skull fractures, right?
I told her she was headed to the hospital and she excitedly said “Yay! I go get my flip flops.” The doctor checked her out and she was totally fine. But while my husband was there in the ER, he witnessed a boy about age 10 who just would not stop whining about his head injury.
OK, OK, it’s a head injury. You’re allowed to whine. But this was several hours after the fact, he’d been given painkillers and his head was numbed and ready for the stitches. My husband reports that his mom was coddling the boy and it was annoying the medical professionals because of how loud and unending it was.
Finally the doctor says, “Listen kid. Almost a year ago to the day, I took a vacation to Barcelona. I was having a great time and when Spain won the World Cup, things were even better. So I was crowd-surfing and took a kick to the head and blood was gushing everywhere. I had a gash the entire length of my right eyebrow. But this being World Cup, there was no way I could even get to a hospital, much less be seen once I got there. So you know what I did? I went back to my hotel room and stitched myself up without any painkillers or numbing agents. Quit your whining.”
I don’t know why I love this story so much but I do. Whenever my children are injured, I’m overwhelmed with worry and sadness. It feels as if my heart is breaking. I get that we want to coddle our children and make all their pain go away.
But that is a completely unrealistic parenting strategy and one that serves them horribly in the long run. Being a parent isn’t just about helping your kids navigate around pain but about how to handle pain when it comes to them. Whining is not an effective pain management strategy and encouraging it basically tells your kids that they are helpless and weaker than the threats around them.
So kudos to the doctor for helping that kid learn that he’s stronger than he thinks and can overcome a difficult situation.