A Letter to the Experts.

Dear multitude of doctors / specialists / experts in your field that we have seen in the last 36 months,

Hello. I’m R’s mum. You might not remember who I am, although I generally see you biannually. That’s fine, you have plenty of patients, I’m sure only a handful stand out, and even less so by name. As a kid, I always took it for granted that my optometrists and the like knew my name and age, not supposing that the file on their laps acted as a subtle cheat sheet. It’s one of your many mythic properties, to remember and care for everyone individually.

But now I’m grown up, and my son is the patient. And while I don’t expect you to remember that he doesn’t like to speak in new places so there’s very little point you asking him if he likes cars, or that we don’t actually use that particular obvious nickname so he wont answer to it, I do expect a few things.

I expect you to remember what condition he has, and what you told us last time. It’s easy really, it’s all written on that very same cheat sheet. After all, we’ve been sitting in your waiting room for nearly two hours, another two minutes wouldn’t have hurt while you scanned your own spidery writing from six months ago. In contrast, I don’t need to be told as if for the first time that my son has Nystagmus, as that’s as obvious to me as you telling me his gender by now. I know his condition, I live it every day. That patronising explanation of what the condition means and what areas it may affect is a bit unnecessary, as after all, your notes would tell you that I have it too.

If I’m meeting you for the first time, there are a few ways to ensure we can be friends for life. Because I’m already your biggest fan, you’re helping my son. Anything you can give us in the way of advice, support and help is worthy of the boatloads of gratitude I continually give to the amazing people who work in our healthcare system. So it takes something out of the ordinary to shift my adoration in a first meeting. I’ll warn you from the outset so you can keep my boundless respect. Please don’t ask me “what’s wrong with” my son. Nothing is wrong with him. He has a condition. If he wasn’t too young to understand that comment, I would be outside drafting my letter of complaint right now.
Please don’t address my scepticism with I’ve been doing this for years… because all a mother hears is the silent …but not with my child, which is so easy to end the sentence with. Your years and your credentials mean nothing to me, if you cant try and get to know my kid as an individual.

Please don’t laugh and say “That’s the first time I’ve heard that one!” when I tentatively mention that another doctor has said something  that differs from your point of view. If I can’t trust them, then ipso facto I can’t trust you. And if I can’t trust any of you, and I don’t know who to believe, then you’re saddling me with decisions and choices that I have no way of making on my own, and taking away the pure relief of handing over at least the medical side to what should be wiser heads than my own.

Try not to judge me instantly. I’m a mother, worried and proud, but that doesn’t make me hysterical and biased. I work, and enjoy it, but that doesn’t mean I neglect my son or don’t want to put the effort in. I’m a person, impatient for progress, but that doesn’t mean I’m looking for a cheat or a quick fix. And if I am guilty of any of the above? That’s okay too, because you don’t know my whole story.

You don’t look at my son with my eyes. You can’t see him, tiny and blind, with parents hopefully cooing at his sightless face, hoping for a response that he even knew we were there. You didn’t sit at home with me, too scared to go on play-dates with other excited new mums in case they asked me why my five month old didn’t smile. You didn’t share my joy when the smiles came, the movement came, the speech and understanding came at long last.

So if I want more information than you feel like explaining to my layman’s ears? I want more time than the ten minutes you’re allowed to give me, or more estimations than you’re really supposed to divulge at this stage? Humour me. Answer me. Don’t try and distract me away from answers to legitimate questions which you’ll forget as soon you close his file. Because I’ll take them home with me to fill my evenings with, for six more months until I come back resolved to ask them all again. I’ll worry and stew over your poorly chosen words and ambiguous predictions for the year ahead, until my friends and family are bored of hearing the same confused summaries.

He’s just a file to you. I can’t make him be anything else, and I’m glad. I need you to make the cool headed decisions and uninvolved assessments that I can’t ever make, and wouldn’t want to. But I’m not a file. I’m a mother. And I’m still here when that file closes. 

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I don’t mind, so long as they’re happy. And an Olympic Athlete of course.

I often hear pregnant women and expectant fathers discussing what their new arrival might be like in personality and appearance. The conversation always seems to end the same way. “Of course, all I care about is that they are happy and healthy.”

I used to say the same thing myself for the most part, and to be honest, I think it’s time for all us parents to admit to the world that we are lying. I don’t deny that without our medical well being, we have nothing, and that the most important thing for us all is that our children are healthy. I can’t imagine for one minute what parents with truly sick children must be going through, and not for one second do I mean to belittle that in any way.

But even when my baby couldn’t see, and we were concerned about the possibility of fairly serious issues behind his lack of vision, I would not say that “all I cared about” was his health.

Because even if I am only speaking for myself, I want my son to be happy and healthy-sure. But I also wan’t him to be clever. And funny. And popular, and to find love. And to say that the only important thing which contributes to happiness is our health is frankly naive at best.

Perhaps you could say that it’s the happiness part that is the main thing then. All I care about is that my children are happy. After all, plenty of people live with medical issues and health problems and live long happy fulfilled lives as well.

Also nonsense. If someone told me that my son would grow up happily, but unmarried, not interested in Judiasm, and living off unemployment benefits, perfectly content with his lot in life, you would have to peel me off the bathroom floor. I would be entirely miserable, despite his happiness. Because we all want certain things for our offspring. This is the same issue as arguing that you don’t care about your child’s gender. Because you do care. You’re allowed to have an opinion. We all care and we all have expectations about what our children will do or will not do. The best we can do is to manage these expectations and be honest about them.

There is a rumour going around that all parents think their children are beautiful, and clever, and hilarious. I’m yet to find out if this is the case, (as my son really is clever and beautiful and hilarious ;)) but if as I suspect, that when honest we can see our own kids flaws as well as the annoying neighbours ones, I think we could all benefit from being honest about our fears and expressing them as positively as possible.

I am not going to deny that I’ve always worried that I will find it difficult if my children were to end up unintelligent. It’s not something a mother is supposed to admit, that they worry about spawning a dunce, but there we go. I don’t see it as the worst thing in the world. I suppose I feel that the responsibility lies mainly with me. Everything being equal, most children have talents and abilities. Most kids shine at something, as long as they are given the tools. Bringing your kids up with confidence and independence gives them the ability to find their own intelligence. After all, it’s not like I’m dictating that I will be devastated unless they becomes one exact thing, a Brain Surgeon or a Professor of the Fine Arts. After all, I believe it is just as damaging to tell your children “I don’t care about how clever you are” as it is to say “you must get all A’s.” I see so many people, adults and children alike, who are stifled by the wrong expectations, either high or low from their parents, and who I’m sure under a different upbringing could have been just as ‘clever’ or ‘capable’ as someone at the top of their field.

I can’t pretend I don’t want R to be happy in my way as well as his. I can’t tell him I’d be over the moon if he married out of our religion, or decided his vocation was to be a starving artist. Maybe that will change as I watch him grow into his own person not just our baby. But while he is young, all I can do is try to give him the space and encouragement to find out what I’m sure is there. What makes him clever, or funny, or socially capable, and then help him shine. And brag about it of course. After all, I am still his mother.

As an added treat, here’s Rachel and Ross on this issue, 🙂

How many calories are in this asprin?

A little bit of everything in moderation. This time of year, with new years resolutions flying out of everyone’s mouths carelessly, it is easy to get carried away with goals and hopes for the year ahead. My new years resolution started in November, with my healthy eating and getting into better shape kick, and it’s actually going really well.

However, I started it because I felt very strongly that I didnt want my son growing up with the same bad habits as I have. Whatever the reasoning, my own mother didnt have those worries. She talks of how my grandmother had very little idea about calorie content or healthy choices, perhaps because she grew up in wartime, or after losing her family in the Holocaust, simply had more important things to worry about. A story my mum loves to tell is how her mother would cut a large slice of cake, and offer it to one of her family, Upon being told it contained far too many calories and was bound to make the eater put on copious weight if consumed, she would lift the cake in her hand, testing the physical weight, and announce “Light as a feather!”

Amusing. Two generations later, not so much. My own family cannot plead ignorance. We are beaten to death with statistics of obesity in this country and abroad, it is hammered into us how important getting your ‘5-a-day’ is, and we are all aware that if Calories > Exercise = Not fitting into that new dress.

We have the knowledge. My parents generation had it also, but somehow, in my case, it failed. I struggle with the same eating patterns as my mum does. When I grew up at home, it was perfectly acceptable to finish supper and then go decide what snack to munch on throughout the evening. A packet of biscuits was rarely left unfinished once opened, same with a stack of pringles or a box of chocolates. One was never enough.

And so my ‘healthy eating’ or weight loss kick, or whatever you want to dub it, is more complicated than everything in moderation. Because that very idea battles a lifetime of bad habits that are far harder to shift than my weighted hula hoop. Indulge in one doughnut on the first night of Chanukah, and I’ve found myself craving one each day. Open the snack cupboard which I’ve ignored for 6 weeks, and suddenly I find myself being gravitationally pulled in its direction each time I enter the kitchen. For me, going cold turkey is the only way to keep it up. And once I do that, it becomes easy.

I stop thinking about junk food and eating between meals, and focus my attention on what to have for breakfast lunch and dinner instead. If I know that food for the day stops at 9pm, I’m not even envious when I see C reach for the minstrels bag at 9.30. It’s about changing my mindset.

And with it, I think I’m changing the way I feed my son. I’m much more reluctant to reach for the cheerios because he’s being a pain. I don’t hand out treats every time I go in the kitchen with him. I focus on making sure he has what he needs at mealtimes, which include a mid morning and mid afternoon snack, and because he doesnt see me eating at other times, he doesnt want anything either.

Regimented? Yes. And I’m not saying it would work for everyone. Some people need to know they can have that 2 squares of chocolate at the end of the day, or make the exception because it’s a special occasion. But those people tend to have healthy eating habits ingrained already, and have just overdone it over the festive season, or had a change in situation which led to less activity or attention to meals. Not to belittle their efforts, but I think it’s a much easier battle, because it’s only against the food they eat, rather than the lifestyle and habits which theyve adopted.

I hope that because of what I’m trying to do, that when my own grandchildren start their ‘healthy eating kick’, new years resolution circa 2052, they are those type of people.

What a pain in the…

I have an idea. Hear me out before you call me crazy. Kids should be born with a full set of teeth.

Wait, you promised to hear me out. Let’s list the issues first.

  1. Breastfeeding would be a trickier option.
  2. They may bite themselves or do other damage with sharp teeth.
  3. You’d need to brush them straight away from birth.

Acknowledged. Lets tackle them in order. 1. Plenty of people breasfeed their kids well into toothy peg years and beyond. (Fodder for another blog methinks.) Most people that seriously breastfeed don’t stop until their little one has at least one pearly white. I often see it on mum forums, “My baby bit me, what should I do?” and plenty of the pro feeding mums get out their free hands to type encouraging messages and discussions of “take them off, say no sharply, they’ll get the message pretty quickly” etc. If they manage to power through and teach their baby not to bite, we could all do it too. Lets face it, we have enough things to teach our kids, I’m sure one more wouldnt kill us.

2. I’m not sure they would bite themselves, cause in my experience (which isnt vast) my baby didnt put his hands anywhere near his mouth in any effective way for 4 months.. and he only managed to keep it there about a month later, by which point he was already teething. Of course this may have been due to his sight issues.. Either way, we develop scratch mitts for nails, I’m sure we could come up with something for mouths. And nails are much more annoying, there was a point in time where I was cutting/biting his nails about 3 times a day they grew so fast, and no one is suggesting babies should be born without nails.

3. Brushing. Ok, I think we’d all get used to it. When theyre little its basically a game of trying to fill the time between morning and night while feeling like we’re spending time with our baby. I think many of us would welcome a new chore to add to the list.

Have I convinced you? While I was pregnant, my friends will attest to the fact that one of my biggest fears was having a baby with teeth. I actually had nightmares about it. I imagined being handed my baby boy for the very first time, smiling down at him, and receiving a full gleaming white smile right back. -shudder-

However, since R’s first tooth at 6 months on the dot, (an event to which I actually shed tears believe it or not) I have rapidly changed my mind.

Here are a few (but not all) of the symptoms to which my research tells me are most likely ‘nothing to worry about signs of him teething.’ These are a mixture of friends, internet and doctors advice.

  • red blotchy face
  • regular waking at night
  • CONSTANT whinging
  • half eating food and then throwing it/dropping it
  • needing to be carried all day long (I now have a bad back. my LO isnt so L anymore)
  • changing his mind daily on whether he is starving hungry or completely devoid of appetite. (leading to enough food for a small country being wasted)
  • such bad nappy rash that we have three creams for it.
  • an inability to do the simplest things for himself. Hello? Learn to get dressed already.

Ok. That last one may not be entirely down to the teeth thing.

So now I’m left with what seems like an ill baby, but with no antidote other than to wait and see if a tooth develops. With teething signs common up to a month before the tooth appears, and with a kid expected to get 18 teeth by the age of 2.. I think you can do the maths. It basically equals One Unhappy Ima. I now shed tears, but not the joyous kind.

So I put my thinking cap on, and this is what I’ve come up with. It’s too late for me, but save yourselves. This Yom Kippur, you know what to daven for. Health, happiness, and full sets of infant teeth on our newborn babies. Do it now, Thank me later.