Paging Dr. Spock

One test of a good parent is how they deal with a sick or wounded child. Or, more specifically, whether that parent actually makes the sickness and/or wound worse.


My jury’s still out, and may be sequestered for years. Three years ago, my then 4-year-old was jumping on the bed. You know, just like the song about the monkeys jumping on the bed against their mother’s wishes, with tragedy befalling the child/primate. It’s a good lesson: do what your parents say or suffer a grievous head wound.


Yet, it doesn’t seem to sink in until they get their own grievous head wound. I saw it in real life. My daughter was jumping on my bed against my wishes. Of course, she then immediately fell head first on the corner of my dresser, and blood and screaming ensued. She even screamed and bled some, too.


I dealt with that one pretty well. I got her to calm down and staunched the blood flow. And, whoa, do head wounds bleed spectacularly. For a second I thought I’d been propelled to the first 15 minutes of Saving Private Ryan.


Then I did what responsible parents do: I tried to call my grandmother to ask what to do next. Once I remembered she was dead, I ran next door to ask the nurse who lived there what to do.


She wasn’t home, but her young daughter had lots of good ideas. So, I got my kid to the hospital, got her put back together and now have a wonderful story to hang over her head when she disobeys me. It doesn’t matter what it is. “If you don’t do your homework, not only will you not get dessert, but you’ll likely end up with a grievous head wound.”


Her 8-month-old sister doesn’t need that sort of lesson because, unlike her sisters, she hasn’t learned about evil yet. In fact, she’s been nothing but joy for us so far, which we know will change horribly at some point, but we’re going to enjoy it while it lasts.


Which is why I felt so bad about her being sick last week. She coughed, her nose ran, her eyes were all goopy. Then she gives me that look like, “Why are you letting this happen to me?” Then she just laid against me, and I simultaneously felt terrible for her, but loved the moment because I’m all she needed at that very second. There was no talking; just a lot of extraordinarily comfortable leaning.


Of course, this happened after I panicked because she woke up with one eye stuck shut and, in my haste to unstick it with a warm wash cloth, scrubbed a little piece of skin off her eyelid, causing a little scrape with just a wee, tiny bit of blood.


Sweet Lord, my brain screamed, you just made your poor, sick baby BLEED.


The good part was she didn’t know she was bleeding and didn’t complain. That same wound on one of her sisters would’ve been milked for days, culminating in them not only giving all their grandparents reports via telephone, but actually going door-to-door to show all the neighbors.


It’s amazing how the ability to talk helps nullify sympathy for a sick kid. Not that we don’t all sympathize with our sick children and try our best to make them better; we do. It’s just that we never really know, unless there’s a grievous head wound involved, whether there’s really a problem. Because by the time they’re 5, they understand how stretching the truth can be advantageous. Especially when they don’t want to go to school.


I hate that the little one is sick, but I appreciate her honesty. Even if I know it won’t last.


Tony Hicks is the pop culture columnist at the Contra Costa Times.
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