Fishy goes to the doctor
As noted in my previous post, I’ve taken on a part-time job as a nanny for a nearly-four-year-old boy with cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus. We just clicked with each other instantly, and since then, his parents have remarked on how good I am with him, how patient I am, how well I seem to understand him in spite of his language delays (his vocabulary consists primarily of 6 hand-signs and the ability to choose between 2 proffered items by pointing to the one he prefers). I feel rather shocked that anyone could interact with him any other way than I do.
I’m realizing, too, that the obnoxious tendency of people to refer to disabled children as “little angels” (or similar) is not always because they assume that suffering makes someone morally superior or because they are looking for a silver lining to what they view as a tragic situation. Children who undergo hardships do, often, seem to develop a certain… fortitude, tranquility, or at least stoicism, beyond their years, an ability to take what comes to them with a calmness and composure few adults can match. They often, too, show a surprising emotional resiliency in the face of trauma. Fishy is among the most cheerful and cooperative kids I have ever met, and a charmer to boot.
(I’ve remarked on his good behavior and sweet temper to both of his parents separately, who both replied with something along the lines of “just wait ’til you see him having a tantrum! He pulls hair and even bites people!” I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I’ve seen– and done!– much worse.)
Case in point: on my second time caring for him, I went along to his doctor’s appointment, partly to keep him entertained, and partly to do any necessary lifting and carrying of him, since his Mommy is pregnant. We played in the waiting room, and he managed not to have a meltdown over the fact that there was A MOVIE!! and he couldn’t stay and watch it (he’s obsessed with movies, and a one-hour-per-day rule is strictly enforced, which means unexpected movie time is Very Distracting).
And in spite of being overdue for a nap, he was reasonably calm and patient through being prodded at and talked about, although the fact that the doctor’s computer screen looked like the thing that provides MOVIES!! resulted in a bit more fussing. Then came the examination of the ears, one of which turned out to have an infection. Mommy and I had to pin him down on the table while the scope went in, because (like most kids his age) he’s prone to sudden unexpected movements. When the scope went in the infected ear, he started howling. I’m told he has a very high pain tolerance, so when he cries, it means he really hurts. Poor kid. Ears are sensitive places.
“All done ouchies! No more ouchies today” Mommy reassures him, and I scoop him off the table to try and calm him down. He grabs at my face, almost knocking off my glasses, and I fend his hands away from my eyes. His fists bury themselves in my hair and yank. Well, of course—he’s in pain, emotionally distressed, exhausted, and has very limited means of communicating this to anyone! I’d probably do the same thing in his position.
So I rub his back and rock him, and repeat “Gentle, please” (a request he understands) 2 or 3 times until his hands loosen their grip, then I thank him, and tell him that he’s done a great job and was very brave. The tears have stopped by the time I get him settled back into his stroller. His lower lip still in a firm pout, he signs “bye-bye” insistently—a relatively rare use of spontaneous sign-language. The message—“I’ve had it with this; get me out of here!” – is so obvious Mommy and I can’t help laughing. “That’s right,” we tell him, “bye-bye doctor!”
He’s cheered up again by the time we get downstairs to the pharmacy. I play clapping games with him while we wait for his meds, and then he gets a dropperful of baby Tylenol, which apparently tastes fantastic, to judge from the expression on his face. He’s cooperative about being stuffed back into his car-seat and driven home, at which point he indicates that he would like his nap now, please (I’ve never met a kid who likes going to bed as much as he does. Unlike most children, he seems to know exactly when he is tired and will sign “good-night!” to request being prepped for bed and again once he’s ready to be put into his crib. I wish the other children I’ve babysat were as sensible!).
I am absolutely… I have to use the term “in love” with this kid. I haven’t felt this way since I was 11 and helped my mother babysit for the cutest little Japanese baby in the entire world (honestly, he was breathtaking), whom I adored so much I overcame my usual unwillingness to come within ten feet of bodily byproducts and learned to change his diapers. It’s now been at least a decade since I changed diapers, and now I’m having to learn all over again. Ah well— life is messy stuff. I’m just glad Fishy’s parents were willing to give over care of him to someone who couldn’t remember which part of the diaper was the front!