Saturday, January 19, 2013

Standing up for your child

When I had my first child I wanted to be very cool and relaxed about the whole parenting gig.  It's not my style to make a fuss and I just wanted to get on with it.  I didn't like all the business about researching the best pram, best cot, best maternity clothes, best nappies, best baby monitor, even before he was born.  I couldn't understand why having a baby needed to be so orientated around buying 'stuff' - expensive stuff (my view on this hasn't changed - I think a lot of the purchasing pressure surrounding a new baby is a total ruse).

However, by three months old my beautiful little boy was suffering with horrible eczema.  This was the beginning of a long road of learning how to stand up for my child, how to barrack for him, how to advocate for his needs - actually - how to make a FUSS.  Totally out of my comfort zone.

The eczema was followed by a violent reaction to milk at 9 months, a positive test to a lot of allergens (including peanuts, dairy, tree nuts, eggs) at 18 months and many months of random vomiting followed by the painful elimination diet for 9 months (strong reaction to amines after second round through the challenges).  He was not a well little boy.  14 and a half years later he is an amazingly healthy teenager.

When he started preschool he was on the elimination diet.  This was new and seen as something wacky.  All he could eat was a plain chip sandwich for lunch.  I got into trouble for that (unhealthy) so he took plain Nuttelex sandwiches to preschool and school for many years.

He was the first 'nut kid' in two of the three primary schools he attended.  This was mostly taken with little grace and long sighs of 'what a major hassle this kid is'.  I was uncomfortably out of my comfort zone.  But I had to do it.  What choice did I have?  I was 'that' mother.  That pushy mother.  That mother teachers talk about (and I'm a teacher - I know what they/we say!).

Consequently I have a lot more empathy for the pushy mothers.  Some are still just silly.  But some, especially when it comes to issues of health, have worked out what is best for their child.  Even if it looks wacky.  When my son started this journey the management of his allergies were seen as a bit of an overreaction ('can't you just try a little peanut butter to see how he goes?').  But as a community we now know so much more.

I learnt through this time that even though it didn't sit well with me to be fussy, actually, it was part of my job description.  I had to stick up for him, protect him, defend him - because if I didn't do it, then I had failed him at a fundamental level.

6 comments:

Alison said...

Ah yes - I have a medically 'complicated' child and as much as I hate to make a fuss I have learnt that it is necessary. No one else is going to take my child's health as seriously as I do!

Sandra said...

same with children with a learning disability, especially if it isn't particularly apparent ie bright child underachieving looks like a mainstream child. I was an irritating parent for a long long time and I am still getting used to being listened to with respect and understanding

justatraindriver said...

Thanks Jenny. Helpful insight to offset today's Sun Herald article disparaging helicopter parents (http://www.smh.com.au/national/-2d00u.html). Not every helicopter parent is as neurotic as they suggest!

Jenny said...

Yes, it's an interesting article because tomorrow there will probably be some article about how working mothers neglect their kids - we can't win!

I have found with the allergy thing it tricky to work out how to be both relaxed and slightly neurotic at the same time! I want my son to understand the seriousness of his allergy but for him to not become paralysed by it. And he needs to manage it more independently now so I can't be his sole advocate. He has to now learn to advocate for himself - not his natural style either.

Libby said...

Thankful for your pioneering Jenny :)

One for a wish.. said...

When I had my first child I used to think that doctors/ early childhood nurses knew best, so just went along with their(sometimes crazy) advice. By bub no. 4 I had learnt how to say no, how to jump up and down when I thought something was wrong, etc etc.

My moment of realisation was when I asked myself this question " What is more important - that I am seen as an easygoing likeable person OR that my kid gets what's best for him/her?" No brainier....