Pain Mismanagement

October 21, 2010 at 10:00 am | Posted in Giggles, Lollipop | 14 Comments
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As I tucked Lollipop in over the weekend, her pitiful eyes locked on mine. She’d been to the doctor earlier in the day. Three shots. One flu mist. Lots of tears.

I brushed wet strands of hair from her freshly scrubbed cheeks and noticed her forehead was a little warm. She jumped at my offer for some children’s Tylenol, so we finished our lullaby and went to get some.

I stood up. She sat up. Her head connected with my chin. I bit my tongue (and bit back a thousand expletives). I closed my eyes and grunted. Lollipop looked at me and said in a mildly chipper voice, “Just say ‘Ouch!’ Mom. You’ll be fine.”

I was not comforted. It hurt. I wanted to curse or shriek or bang my fist on her carpet till the cartoon stars above my head settled. I wanted to cry a little bit. I wanted some sympathy, dammit.

Instead, I said: “Ouch.”


As I was settling Giggles into his new big-boy bed last night and reminding him for the 237th time to “stay in your bed, Buddy, stay in your bed,” I beaned my head on his top bunk. Again, I squelched the words that wanted to come out of my mouth and settled for a loud “Unnnnnnhhhhhhh!” (or something like that).

Giggles sat up and patted my shoulder. “I’ll kiss your boo-boo, Mommy,” he said. “Mwaaah! All better!”

It was endearing. It made me smile. But my head still felt like I’d had 14 beers, and the noise from the ceiling fan all of a sudden sounded like a volcano exploding.

I wanted to react. To overreact. And I wanted someone to pay attention to my theatrics. To say, “Man, I know that hurt.” To squeeze me in such a tight bear hug that I forgot the pain, or most of it.

Instead, I said: “Thanks, Buddy. I do feel better.”


Two injuries in as many days left me with two conclusions. One, I gotta keep my guard up when I’m putting my kids to bed. It’s clearly a dangerous job, especially for über-klutzy, over-caffeinated me.

And two, I just might need to rethink how I respond to my own children’s injuries. Because in their words, I heard my own voice. How many times have I said, “You’re okay. Just say ‘Ouch!'” And, “There, I kissed it. All better!” And did it comfort them? Did it make their pain any less real to them?

I doubt it. It sure didn’t work for me.

I wanted sympathy. Empathy. Hugs. If nothing else, a zerbert to take my mind off the hurt.

Maybe they do, too.

How do you respond to your child’s boo-boos? Ever had your own words played back for you? Did they sound hollow to you, too?



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  1. I’m all about a ‘you’ll be fine’. Mr6 is a total drama queen and wants a plaster cast for a paper cut. I used to react. Now I’m like ‘meh, call me when it falls off’. Did somebody say ‘boy who cried wolf’?

  2. When my Munchkin hurts herself, I go to her, hug her and ask her to show me the bump and then say something along the lines of ‘Oh, I bet that hurt. Here, let me kiss it. Is that better now?” When she nods and snuggles in, all’s well. What my little girl plays back at me are things like ‘Mommy, crap?’ when I dropped something or whatever and am clearly biting my tongue. Makes me cringe every time.

  3. Been there, done that, more times than I care to count (darn those bunkbeds!).

    I think I have a different perspective on pain, being an ICU nurse and seeing so much of it. We are taught that pain is so subjective, and what may seem like a “little boo-boo” to us may be the cause of a huge amount of pain to another person. So I try to always sympathize with my kids…like you said, sometimes another person making a big deal of your pain is all it takes to make it feel better. Acknowledgement has power.

    To your credit, I’m positive I have said some expletives out loud when I banged my head on the TV in the van or pinched my finger in the seatbelt. Good job holding back and settling for an “ouch”. 🙂

  4. Something I learned in childbirthing classes is that soothing touch really works to disrupt pain signals. So when one of the girls bumps or gets pinched, I rub rub rub the area or close to it. Of course, for big bangs there is always ice. And the power of a mother’s kiss cannot be overestimated.

    It’s especially hard for me to judge their pain sometimes, too. Kate is so tough, she sometimes barely reacts to a fall or a bump. “I okay,” she’ll say, bouncing back up and going on her way. Flora, on the other hand, is full-out dramatics, screaming, squeezing tears out of her eyes, the works.

    Also: that blow to the mouth made me wince. It’s a wonder sometimes that we parents manage to keep our front teeth. The top of a kid’s head is HARD.

  5. What an excellent point, Stacia! Usually the reason I brush it offis because I know if I give her an extra amount of attention she will eat it up and become a huge drama queen. If I give her a quick kiss and tell her it’s okay, she moves on and forgets about it. But I hear you. And when I hurt myself I just want to cry and be hugged. Maybe I should soften up just a bit more…

    • That’s my logic, too, Shannon: Don’t make a big deal about it, and they won’t either. But, clearly, I need to teach myself that lesson, too!

  6. Each kid needs a different response. And none of my kids respond well to me brushing it off. But if I ask for the level of pain, they can let me know “teeny bit, little, medium, big pain?” They’re pretty honest about it and it’s helpful to know.

  7. My daughter thinks everything can be solved with a bandaid. Unfortunately I know that a day will come when it will require something more than Little Kitty bandaid. I am dreading that moment.

    Wishing you some injury free days Stacia…

  8. When my daughter hurts herself, which is A LOT, I always hug her and rub her back. I kiss the owie. Usually she jumps out of my arms before I’m ready to let her go. My daughter has actually started coming to me when I bump myself on something and asking if I want her to kiss it. It doesn’t help the pain, but her concern touches me so much that I do kind of forget.

  9. I don’t have a go to reaction. Other then waiting to see how they react. The simple look gets a ‘brush it off’. Tears often get a squeeze, but overdramatic hysterics get nothing.

  10. Oh dear what an interesting thought. Though I have found myself if I don’t give into the pain the faster it goes away.

    I usually give hugs and kisses when there are tears flowing and sucking on ice goes hand in hand with a boo boo, however I am like Kate none of this is administered if there is too much overdramatic hysterics… I only deal with real tears 🙂

  11. I always kissed their boo boos away. Hubby used to say I was giving them a false sense of security. They grew up fine, and they’re not wimpy like me!

  12. I’ve struggled with this too. I always considered myself the nurturing one but my husband is in fact much better with the boo boos with my son, to the point where my son will look for daddy when he gets hurt. I feel helpless and at the same time try not to make a big deal of it so that he doesn’t end up freaking out at every bump or cut. At the same time, my husband recently told me to “stop crying” when I got upset about something. It did NOT help at all and it reminded me of how important it is to validate our children’s need to let feelings out and just cry sometimes.

  13. I thought of this post last night when my eldest daughter got up shrieking in pain after a day too filled with physical activity. As I said ‘never mind’ this post came to mind and I rephrased it. 🙂

    ( For some reason after dance class which SHE LOVES she always gets bad pains in her legs poor baby!)

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