Namine had a routine dental appointment today, but for her “routine” still requires more forethought and planning than for most children. It has to do with her heart defect and the potential for infection.
Your dentist may tell you that flossing poorly or not enough will lead to bleeding gums, which in turn can lead to blood infection as bacteria from the gums can enter the bloodstream. As anxiety-inducing as this can be to imagine (apologies to any hypochondriacs in the audience), the potential for a stay at the hospital is worse for Namine, having a modified heart. So prior to any dental appointment, she has to take an antibiotic — and quite a large dose.
Namine has a few medications that she routinely takes (and without complaint), but she’s used to taking them by now and none of them taste bad to her (or she’s just adjusted to the taste by now). But that antibiotic she takes before dental is awful, and she said as much. Namine does not normally refuse to take medication, but she gave us some what-for this time.
Rather than laying out an “I’m your parent and you’ll obey me or else,” we stepped outside of the frustration of the moment to make sure Namine understood the why of this medication. It’s easy, as parents and children, to get lost in the selfishness and passion of what we want. We, of course, wanted her to take the medicine. And she, of course, wanted not to.
But our wants were not important. The importance was in ensuring Namine’s health, so we talked about what this awful-tasting stuff was doing. And what it was doing, in a nutshell, was helping to prevent an infection that could lead to another stay in the hospital, or worse.
With that understanding, Namine willingly took the medicine (but not happily, which we understood).
It’s also not only our own mindfulness that’s important. We long for the day when doctors listen to us and we don’t have to repeat ourselves, but it is not… well, you know the line.
Since Namine is an adolescent, she still attends a pediatric dental clinic. Not that she cares about such things, but they have flavoring for the teeth cleaning. Most children prefer the bubble gum or cotton candy flavoring, but Namine is not most children.
Namine warned the dental hygienist — politely — that she would throw up if she used the cotton candy flavored cleaner. The hygienist said no, you’ll be fine, most kids preferred this flavor. Namine said, louder and more sternly, “No, if you use that I will vomit.” She ended up having to repeat herself a couple more times before they listened to her.
I’ll be the first to admit that as a son, husband, parent — I don’t listen as well as I should. None of us do, I suspect. But the important thing is that we recognize that we need to work on it. (Yes, that includes medical professionals from time to time.)
I would also add that children are often encouraged to simply accept what adults tell them and not argue. They’re not always seen as individuals with their own needs, wants, or autonomy. We, as parents, strive to move past that and truly listen to Namine.
Unfortunately, when she’s seen in the clinic and the parents are not allowed back with her — as was the case with dental — we’re not there to advocate for her and the medical professionals don’t always let her advocate for herself. In those cases, as today, she must use other means to make herself heard: i.e., raise her voice when she would otherwise not.
On that point, it’s crucial that we’re patient with others, as well. We might get annoyed or exasperated with others when we aren’t heard, but we should try to put ourselves in their position. In most cases, it’s simply a lack of understanding. If it’s okay to need help — and it is — then we also need to be patient when the roles are reversed and we’re put in a position to help others.