*This is completely my own personal opinion.*
As I sat in the lab waiting room yesterday to get my trimonthly blood-work done, I witnessed an event that left me heartbroken, traveling down memory lane, and doing some fairly deep thinking.
A woman walked in the door of the tiny lab waiting room with her young son in tow. She sat a bag of “specimens” on the counter for the desk clerk to deal with while she signed in. The clerk took the bag and then typed on his computer for a moment.
“The doctor has a blood draw order here as well. Would you like to get that done today, while you’re already here?” He asked the mother.
“Um, yeah, OK, we have time.” She replied.
There was only one seat open in the very small waiting room, it just so happened to be right next to me. The mother and her son, who appeared to be around seven years old, walked over. The mother sat down and her son stood at her knee. I could hear light sniffles. A moment or two later I heard quiet whimpers.
“We have to do it.” The mother said.
“But I don’t want to, I want to go home.” The little boy said fairly quietly through his tears.
“If you don’t do it then we’ll get in trouble with the doctor.” The mother replied, not meanly, but it still pricked my heart. That choice of reply was kind of punishing to her innocent son.
I knew she was just trying to help him understand that he had no choice, that this was very important and sometimes we just have to do things we don’t want to do. But from my own personal point of view this child was not fighting, arguing, causing a scene, or just plain trying to get out of something. This child was honest to God scared, uncertain, and insecure. From his body language and tone of voice, and overall behavior, even I could tell the poor child already understood he had to do this, he was resolved to that, but was just plain frightened of it.
He didn’t need to be reprimanded for being scared, he didn’t need to be made to feel worse, he needed to be comforted and reassured.
Mind you, I have no idea if he had done blood work before and knew what he was in for, or if this was his very first time. I also don’t know why he needed labs done. And I didn’t know him, so I don’t know if his seemingly innocent and honest behavior in the waiting room was just what it seemed to be, or if his mother could tell he was playing things up. I don’t know, but I do know this whole scenario got me remembering my childhood and how I felt when I was first diagnosed with diabetes and had to see the doctor a lot, and do lab work, and learn to take shots, etc. I remember how I felt, what I thought.
Fear, uncertainty, confusion, insecurity, etc.
I didn’t need people telling me things that made me feel like I was being bad. I didn’t need to be made to feel even worse, I didn’t need to be told to stop crying…how the hell can a frightened child just “stop crying”?! I needed to be comforted, reassured, allowed to cry out the fear.
This mother in the waiting room was by no means a bad mother. She did pick her scared son up and sit him across her lap and let him snuggle to her bosom as she gently wrapped her ams around him. She comforted him (physically) as he needed.
It was just her choice of words I took issue with. Everything that came out of her mouth, even with her calm, kind tone, were just not good things to calm or comfort the boy.
“Stop crying”, “You’re getting snot everywhere”, “We’ll get in trouble with the doctor if we leave”, “You’re just making it worse”, etc.
These words would just make a child feel worse, like they’re being bad. It’s not like they asked to be sick, they never wanted their life turned upside down and dumped into a long dark scary tunnel, now they’re getting reprimanded for doing what is natural for a frightened child, they’re being told crying is bad, they’re being told feeling fear is bad, they’re being told needing their parents comfort and reassurance is just out of the question.
To the parent it’s not reprimanding, to the parent it is just trying to calm and quiet the frightened child. But they are just trying to treat the symptoms, not the illness. The illness is the fear, uncertainty, insecurity; not the crying. Let them cry if they have to, it’s not like they can just turn it off (if it’s real and not fake crying).
I’m not looking to write a how to blog on dealing with child emotions and behavior, I’m obviously no professional, this is just my opinion based on my own childhood experiences. Every instance is different. Every child is different. If this boy in the waiting room had been bawling at the top of his lungs and being disruptive I would have thought about it an entirely different way. It wasn’t his or his mother’s behavior that was the issue. It was solely her choice of words to have with him. I’m sure she saw it as trying to comfort him and teach him. But from my (and only my) point of view, if I had been told these things (and some of them I was) as a child, it would have just made me feel worse and guilty.