January 31, 2013
In Defense of The Delicate Child
My youngest daughter, aged eleven, fainted at school recently. She was standing at the teacher's desk, going over some math problems, when she suddenly felt quite hot. She excused herself in order to take off her sweater and get a drink of water from the bottle in her knapsack at the back of the room. As she took a drink, she felt overwhelmingly hot again, and in a jerky motion she fell backwards and hit her shoulder and head, fell forwards and hit her nose on a desk, fell to the floor, unconscious and began to shake. She came to, and apparently was completely coherent, but she was taken to the office, white as a sheet and made to lie on the sofa until I arrived to take her home.
The teacher thought, due to the jerking motion of her faint, and the shaking, that my daughter had suffered a seizure, and she was quite concerned when I talked to her about it. Her dad came home from work and took her to the walk-in clinic that afternoon. The doctor assured us that our daughter had not had a seizure, but had only fainted, and that fainting rarely looks like how it is represented in the movies. She ordered some blood tests and an electrocardiogram to rule out various problems, but assured us our daughter was okay to go to school the next day. Over the next few days, we watched her carefully, but she recovered her strength, and her colour, within a couple of days and was back to her old self before long.
Yesterday, we had a follow up appointment with our own doctor, to go over the results of the tests, and after a good examination and several questions, he said everything was fine, but that our daughter was 'rather skinny'. He said fainting can be caused by any number of things, and only becomes worrisome if it happens repeatedly. She has not had any 'episodes' since. In fact, she has attended her acting classes, performed in a play she helped write at school, worked hard at her schoolwork, and participated in her Physical Education classes at school as well as in basketball practices. She ate well before her fainting episode, but now we have decided to make her eat a little more, especially at breakfast. She is nearly five feet tall, but weighs 73 pounds, so a little extra meat on her bones would not hurt.
When she fainted, my son Galen reminded me of how, at her age, he used to feel faint sometimes, and how I would let him stay home occasionally, for 'mental health' days. I also remembered that when my daughter Emma was eleven she also had fainting spells when she was in a room, like a church, that was too hot or too crowded. I was not a fainter, but I was a skinny child who grew tall rather quickly and was hungry almost all the time. I did have many a pre-pubescent nose bleed and lengthy bouts of lethargy, which may have had something to do with the fact that I hated school and which caused my sympathetic parents to let me stay home a great deal during my twelfth year of life. I told much of this to the doctor (leaving out the part about hating school) and he concurred, in his lovely Scottish accent, that such things may just run in the family.
I am often being told that my daughter is too skinny. When she was ten, another mother who has four strapping, solid boys asked me if there was something wrong with her. "Does she eat anything at all?" I responded that I had been a skinny child, too, and obviously had turned out alright. (I have been a nice medium sized girl since about the age of eighteen, with healthy child-bearing hips to prove it.) Still, her question bothered me because her opinion was shared by several other local mothers. If she only knew the food consumed in our house, the money spent on good quality groceries and local organic meats, the care that went into cooking and baking healthy and wholesome meals, she might see the situation differently. Our youngest has always had a healthy appetite, too, but she is not one that overeats, especially when it comes to sweets. Perhaps, in this day and age, it is just less common to see a thin child. The doctor agreed with that, too.
One thing my youngest daughter is, that may contribute to her local reputation as a 'delicate child', is incredibly sensitive. She has moments of extreme joy when something good happens, and moments of great despondency when something bad happens. She sees other children act rudely or meanly to each other at school and comes home quite upset if she has not been able to make them stop, or victorious if she has. If someone is mean to her, she takes it in stride, but it sometimes eats away at her anyway, and I am left to put her back together with hugs and kisses, with a warm muffin and a cup of tea or cocoa. When she is at school, it is as if she has her antennae up all the time, absorbing all that goes on around her. She also puts 120 percent into everything she does, and as the school secretary told me recently, "She goes all day long!" reading to the little ones in her lunch monitor group, helping decorate bulletin boards and writing skits for plays, helping other kids with their work, working hard to play the sports which do not come naturally to her. And, if she sometimes doesn't have enough time to eat her lunch, she is going on little fuel until after school when she can come home and spend the next hour making up for it.
My daughter is not only a particular body type, she is also a particular personality type, and perhaps, more often than not, the two go together. My job as her mother, and our job as parents, is to celebrate and support who she is and not dwell on what she is not. She is intelligent, creative, sensitive, talented, thoughtful and kind. She is not overly robust, happy-go-lucky, tough or sporty. She will probably never become an emergency ward nurse or a construction worker, but she just may become a play write, an actress, or a librarian. As the poet e.e. cummings said:
To be nobody-but-yourself - in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else - means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.
If that is true, I don't wonder she is exhausted sometimes. Still, I am aware that we can make some little changes at home, and we can look into ways to strengthen our daughter, to help her achieve the balance she needs to grow in health and in happiness.
The photo is from depositphotos.com