Monday, December 21, 2009

Glimpses from Sydney hospitals

Last week, while on a school excursion, Ben got sand in his eye. It wasn't hurting by the time he got home, so I figured anything left would come out over night. The next morning it was all red and puffy, but it still wasn't hurting, so I flushed it with saline and sent him to school. By Thursday morning, it was still no better so we trundled off to the doctor. She couldn't see anything in it, and it still wasn't hurting, so she suggested anti-biotic ointment should clear it up in a day or two.

By Sunday it was apparent it wasn't getting better. Time for a hospital. Since I was also not getting any better (despite a rather pointless doctor visit), I figured I may as well take him and me to the Balmain hospital clinic at the same time.

When we were finally shown through to see a doctor, there was a conversation between doctor and nurse regarding patient names. In the course of this conversation, the nurse felt the need to explicitly point out that my surname is not the same as my son's. I note this only because it is the first time in 7 years that anyone has felt it worthy of a mention.

The doctor helped me immensely, but couldn't help Ben much. After a lot of consultation, they sent us to Kids' Hospital.

While we were waiting there, a little boy came in who induced a "oh look, a holy terror" response in me within about 35 seconds. Cos, you know, I love a lightning judgment. The prednisone I'd been given was starting to kick in, but I was still pretty dopey, so I didn't think much more about him. A bit later, he was in another waiting room near me, and I paid a little more attention. He was still exhibiting classic "holy terror" behaviour, but I was really noticing the adults around him. They were all calm, consistent and cheerful. When he ran away, they brought him back. When he started to get agitated they distracted him with craft or toys or something. He was 6 years old and at big school. I'm pretty sure he wasn't a "typical" boy, but he seemed to be living a fairly typical life with the assistance of understanding and active adults (both hospital staff and parents, as well as, presumably, teachers). Or all of this casual observation could be utterly wrong. Whatever. It was a cheerful reminder to me that you can't assess anyone with a casual glance, and that the more understanding I have of the variety of ways people live their lives, the more interesting my random, private speculations about people's lives in waiting rooms can be.

It seems that Kids' Hospital may have fixed Ben's eye, and while I would normally classify how I feel at the moment as "like shit", it's so much better than it has been, I went shopping and bought a totally unnecessary pair of red shoes.


  1. The red shoes thing made me laugh, clearly a sign of improved health!

  2. I commend you in watching the child interact with his family, and noticing the good rather not just the negative.

    I think we're often way to quick to judge families with children who are acting difficult. There's the assumption that if a child's misbehaving it must be the parent's fault.

  3. There's a couple of layers of complexity. It's quite possible to watch a child behaving badly, and watch their parents and conclude that the parents are currently Not Helping. You can often look at a situation and say "You know, screaming back at the child is not the best way to handle this situation." But that doesn't mean that they are Bad Parents. It means that right now, they are not making the best parenting choices.

    I've been trying to make a conscious effort to empathise with parents currently making bad choices (without any implications as to how common or rare that might be), and remember what state I'm normally in when I'm making bad decisions - and the fact that in the end, I pay for it later, and so will those poor sods who are no doubt already in a bad way.

    And when I see someone often enough to conclude that the child's behaviour is a result of the parent/s, it makes no sense to see "fault", only to see that they need help to recognise that what they're doing isn't working, and most importantly, how they can make it work. I may or may not be in a position to offer such help, but since I don't blame myself when I'm Doing It Wrong, I don't blame anyone else either. I just go read a book or watch some Tanya Byron and find some more strategies that might work.