The Bionic Monkey

By Mir
April 8, 2009

There are things I understand about genes, and other things I don’t. Like, I understand that I can make a clover with my tongue because I have a pair of recessive genes which allow me to do so, and I also understand that I have hazel eyes because I have one BROWN eye gene and one BLUE eye gene. I understand that each of my children have half their genes in common with me, and so theoretically that means we will have many things in common. I even understand that some recessive genetic things will cause my children to be very different than I am.

But I do not understand the recessive bionic gene.

Okay; it’s probably not a gene. Or even, necessarily, a group of genes. But I still don’t understand it.

And after 9+ years of living with it, it still surprises me each and every time.

Here is what happens to me, when I am sick: I whine. And fall into bed. Or if I’m already in bed, I refuse to get out. Or I get out, but I complain about it. A LOT. I know that you are EXTREMELY SHOCKED to learn that I’m a whiner when I’m sick, but yeah. I don’t like being sick and I have this whole sharing-my-feelings thing going on, and so there you have it.

Here is what happens to my ex, when he is sick: He is more stoic than I am. He might complain, a little, but for the most part he just gets up and meets his responsibilities and saves the whining for after everything has been done. He’s not bionic, but he’s a lot less whiny than I am.

Between those two gene pools, we have somehow bred a Bionic Monkey. Recessive genes? Chemical X? Freak radioactive spider bite? We may never know, but here we are. Because here is what happens when Monkey gets sick: Absolutely nothing.

Well, not NOTHING. But nothing a normal person would identify as dealing with illness.

Part of the follow-up to Monkey’s terrible, horrible, no good very bad day at school was that I had to talk to the school about what might have set him off, and how we could avoid such an incident in the future. See, Monkey’s sensory issues mean that he has a 504 Plan and lots of people who are ready and willing to help him cope with all of the sorts of things that regular kids don’t need help with, but that send Monkey into a tizzy. The problem was, everyone agreed that there had been “nothing” that looked like a sensory overload situation that day.

And I had to be “that mom,” the one that maybe they think is a little nutty and overprotective, and explain that Monkey’s allergies are really bothering him. No one laughed or rolled their eyes (that I noticed), but I could tell they were wondering if I’d finally gone ’round the bend.

But I hadn’t. See, Monkey’s head has been all cloggy and we’re doing allergy meds and the Neti pot and decongestants, and the kid was feeling positively miserable, as one would naturally feel if one’s head was packed full of goo. But because Monkey is bionic, that meant that if you said to him, “Hey, dude—how’re you feeling?” his answer would always be, “Fine.”

He wasn’t fine, but in the developmental parlance he is “somewhat impaired in identifying feelings of discomfort as such,” and “a poor communicator when it comes to explaining his physical experience.” Or, you know, he’s just bionic.

So we’ve been doing the whole routine of all the aforementioned stuff, and as the week wore on the kid just looked worse and worse. When he came home from school on Monday afternoon, he dragged his backpack behind him and his face was pale and his eye sockets were two giant purple bruises. “Wow, Buddy, you feeling okay?” I asked him, trying to keep the alarm out of my voice.

“Yeah, I’m fine. What’s for snack?” he answered.

He perked up after some graham crackers and milk, so I reminded myself that he’s bionic and probably okay, but when he ASKED to go to bed early that night, I could deny it no longer. The kid was sick, for sure. (Throughout the last few days, I’ve taken his temperature a half-dozen times. He’s never had a fever. You know, due to the whole bionic thing.)

So yesterday morning we went straight to the doctor, first thing, and Monkey spent the car ride complaining that HE WAS MISSING MATH. Ooooookay.

When we finally made it into the exam room, I explained that I was pretty sure he’d developed a sinus infection. Maybe we could just get an antibiotic and be on our way? First there were a number of questions for my boy. Like, “Have you experienced a loss of appetite?” (Monkey answered in the affirmative*, even though I’m pretty sure he’d scarfed down four pieces of pizza just a few nights ago.) Sadly, the doctor decided to culture Monkey’s sinuses to confirm infection. And that involved taking a miniature Q-Tip with a VERY long handle and shoving it up the kid’s nose and swabbing his brain. (Monkey, during the procedure: “Ow?”) I thought for sure that this whole culturing thing was going to delay relief for the poor kid, but little did I know that it was our LUCKY DAY.

Because Monkey ALSO has an ear infection.

Yeah. Um. Have you ever had a kid with an ear infection? The pre-verbal ones scream continuously, and the ones old enough to talk will tell you “MY EAR! MY EAR! MY EARITHURTSSOMUCHMAKEITSTOP!” Unless they are Monkey, in which case the whole bionic thing prevents them from ever saying a single word about their ears. Which are also bionic.

So the doctor finally gave us a prescription for Zithromax, and I was sitting there silently wondering if I could take Monkey to school, because he had no fever and was still saying he felt “fine,” but I didn’t want to ask because what sort of horrible mother sends her kid to school with an ear infection and a sinus infection?

“Excuse me, Doctor?” The doctor turned away from his notes back to Monkey, who was—I swear to you—politely raising his hand. “Would it be okay for me to go to school now? I already missed math, but if we go now I can probably get there in time for science.” I stifled a giggle as the doctor raised his eyebrows at me.

We were given the green light to go pick up his meds, give him the first dose, and send him on to school. So that’s what we did.

Except we also stopped for a donut, because even Bionic Monkeys deserve a chocolate glazed after having their brains swabbed.

*Last night when I made not-his-favorite-thing for dinner, I exhorted him to eat—and he already looked ten thousand percent better than he had that morning—but he looked me in the eye and said, “I’m experiencing a loss of appetite.” I’m pretty sure that officially makes him a bionic smartass.


  1. BethR

    Now, the bionic smartass gene? Yeah, he got that one from you :-)

    I’m sorry Monkey is feeling poorly, but hopefully he’ll be back to better soon!

  2. Dustin

    Yeah, definitely a bionic smartass, but wow: also, an awesome kid.

  3. MomCat

    Your footnote – priceless!!

  4. exile on mom street

    Yay for bionic kids!

    Mine is currently running around doing backflips off of the furniture whilst having a double ear infection and fever. When asked if his ear hurt, his response was, “Maybe.”

    I figure the smartass bit will come when he’s older…

  5. ImpostorMom

    Man what a trooper. I know when I have a sinus infection I’m a whining pile of goo. This has been THE WORST allergy season. I swear I was so happy we had so much rain a week or so ago because it meant I could breath for several days in a row. Damn seasons.

  6. Lylah

    Chemical X. Definitely Chemical X. He’s, like, the smart, good, sweet version of Mojo JoJo.

  7. Tammy

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure the Bionic Smartass Gene is definitely not one of those RECESSIVE things. ;) But, it’s presence is a sure sign that the recipient Monkey is feeling better.

  8. Debbi

    OMG!! You have my kid! LOL, we have the same thing here, he has NEVER complained and had 3 ear infections in his lifetime. The doctor was amazed that I didn’t know! Hope he is feeling better soon!

  9. Mama Bear

    What a tough kid that Monkey is. Is it possible he is of Scandinavian descent, because that’s how my entire family behaves all the time. Well, most of them anyway, Mr 19 is definitely of the whiner gene, must be the French in him. We’ll be missing out on part of allergy season with him as he is away in college this year, I’m sort of looking forward to that part.
    Feel better soon, Monkey, not just act like you’re feeling better, actually do feel better.

  10. Rini

    It’s wonderful that they are so proactive about getting Monkey whatever help he needs!

    Here’s hoping he has less need for his bionic abilities in the near future…

  11. dad

    Genetically, I am both whineriferous and a smartass.

    So how does that fit into the whole family tree gene pool coping skills personality thing. I’m confused but I’m not letting anyone near me with a brain swab.

    Love that kid.

  12. Rachel

    I pink puffy heart monkey, and not in a wierd sort of way… He is the best! I hope he feels better soon, even if he has felt fine through all of this. = )

    Also, I am glad I had swallowed my soda when I got to the footnote, or I’d be cleaning my monitor instead of typing this commment.

    Oh, and you look pretty today. = )

  13. divrchk

    My daughter is bionic too. I’ve taken her to the doctor before b/c she didn’t seem quite right and they would say, she has a double ear infection and her ear drum might rupture if it doesn’t get better soon! Um, does your ear hurt? No… Weirdo!

  14. Burgh Baby

    I am one of those bionic freaks, and apparently have passed it on to the kid. She has taken to making me look like a REALLY FABULOUS parent by not complaining at all, not whining at all, and not even acknowledging that maybe her head/ear/throat/whole damn body hurts. By the time I catch on to the little charade, she is usually so full of infection and crap that her ears are about to explode. I loooove the looks from her pediatrician when I answer, “I had no idea” to their questions about how long she has been feeling under the weather.

  15. Jennifer Joyner

    Ha! Just be happy its Monkey who is sick and not Chickadee. Something tells me she doesn’t handle illness so blithely!

  16. Megan

    So I’m wondering if it’s a no-happy-medium thing with males. You know,it’s either “I have man-flu and I’m DYING! Right now! Here, on the sofa! But DON’T MIND ME or anything, as I DIE,” (note: my Male Child is one of these although not the worst case I’ve seen) or, “ribs? Broken? What ribs? Couple broken bones is no reason to stop mountain biking!” (note: direct quote).

    I tend towards the bionic end of things. I’d like to claim its my stoic philosophy and person discipline but actually I don’t have the patience to be ill!

  17. Lori N

    Let’s hear it for bionic kids! The latest from my 9 yo daughter – “Mom, my ear feels funny & kind of echo-y.” No fever, goes to school, ends up with a 99.9 degree fever at lunch & comes home. On a lark I take her to the doctor. Diagnosis: ruptured eardrum because of a severe ear infection. Complete with fluid leaking out. Oy!

    This is the same kid that mentions she has a slight sore throat & rings the bell on the rapid strep test. I personally remember ever incident of strep as the worst pain a person can experience this side of childbirth. It would also take me 3 days to clear it — not this chica — 1 dose of antibiotic & she’s ready to go & complaining I won’t let her do anything because she’s still contagious.

    I’m the mom who is constantly at the doctor’s office because I cannot figure out my kids’ illnesses. It’s a 50/50 chance that the diagnosis will be a cold or the bubonic plague – I’ve learned to just go in and have them checked out. They love me there. :)

  18. Heather

    The only way I can tell that my child doesn’t feel well – she is cuddly. Double ear infection runs around like a crazy child – the only time she told me her ear hurt was when she had swimmer’s ear. Otherwise it is business as usual. I also spend a lot of time at the doctor’s office using the cuddly theory – so far it has worked 99% of the time.

  19. Sarah @

    Don’t mothers of bionic monkeys deserve chocolate glazed doughnuts for all of their effort too?

  20. Karen

    Oh sweet Monkey….I hope you are feeling better soon.

    My mom and granfather are that way. You never hear a word until they are at deaths door and I am the one whining they are sick and haven’t told anyone.

  21. Paulla

    I just have one word for you, as his mom.



  22. Crisanne

    I’m actually relieved to hear he just has sinus and ear infections. When I saw on Want Not that he’d had his nose swabbed, I feared it was the flu.

    On the Bionic child issue-I took my son in for his 6 month check-up and the doctor said “Has he been tugging at his ear? He’s got a terrible ear infection.” Me “Huh???” Sadly, he’s four now and still has issues. At least he’s a happy kid, or I’d be out of my tree by now!

  23. pam

    I never realized it before but my kids are bionicle too. Bionicle Smartasses!

  24. O.G.

    It’s like ubreakable

  25. Brigid

    We have to keep a watchful eye over the bionic ones… My 2YO ruptured his ear drum not too long ago. He sat on my lap for 1/2 an hour crying, then got up and went about his day. It was the gunk coming out the next day that was the lightbulb moment for me. His doctor now knows that when I say he’s not complaining, that doesn’t rule anything out!

  26. Barbara

    Well, done, Momma Mir.

  27. Katie in MA

    Awww, poor bionic Monkey! I’m sorry he’s feeling “fine”…hopefully that donut sent him straight into “Awesome!”

  28. Katie in MA

    (And if the donut didn’t do it, hopefully science made up for it!)

  29. Randi

    Mir, you have created the one thing every woman wants: a man who doesn’t whine and act like a 2 year old when he’s sick.

    Can you clone him?

  30. BethRD

    I’m kind of bionic myself, and my mom has lots of stories of getting the fish eye from the doctor when she took me in for ear infections too. As an adult, I can say that I feel pain and feel sick and so on, but for whatever reason I’m more able to ignore it and go on with my life than average.

    My husband, however, is, um, whatever the precise and exact opposite of bionic is (bless his heart, in Southern parlance). It has taken me a long time to figure out that when he’s, say, bitten his tongue, he emits the amount of whining and moaning that I save for when I’ve had my middle cut open to extract a baby. If not more. Sadly, my older child has inherited the not-so-bionic gene, and requires an emergency medical intervention for every tiny scrape. I’m hoping my younger one is going to be a bit more on my side of the genetic spectrum!

  31. Abbey

    Yeah, have had the bad mom moments when my allegedly fine two year old’s eye started swelling and I had to argue that they should see it, not just give us drops. Turns out he had double ear infection and sinus infection that had spread to the cavity behind his eye… felt horrible, but promise he had been perfectly normal…. is tough on the mom’s but amazing kids

  32. Tracy

    He’s got to be bionic. I suffered with ear problems my whole childhood and to get off the couch or out of bed was a huge ordeal. Good for Monkey–he has a VERY high tolerance for pain. Lucky you!

  33. Jo

    OMG, Mir, the more I read about Monkey, the more I think we are raising his twin brother (but 2 years younger) over here. Barley is all signed up for “Math Camp” this summer. Even though we’ve warned him that it is essentially summer school with one trip to Great America thrown in. He keeps reminding us how he LOVES math and this is going to be SO FUN! Same sensory issues…and same stoicism. Sheesh…

  34. Nancy R

    Bionic Smartass. Hee!

  35. The Mother

    That’s not genes. That’s KID.

    I could ALWAYS tell when my kids were coming down with something. Because they would be HOLY TERRORS the whole day before.

    Just when you were ready to MURDER them, they finally came down with a recognizable symptom.

    And then you feel like a heel. Bad mommy.

    Been there. Done that.

  36. Flea

    I think maybe he’s related to my Oatmeal Head. He’s a bionic smartass too.

  37. Visionsister

    Ow my brain! I’ve had that swab thing, and it really hurts! Poor Monkey.

  38. JennyM

    I married one of those bionic characters and it’s pretty annoying. The fact that he carries on with nary a complaint no matter what really takes the wind out of my whineiferous (TM Mir’s Dad) shenanigans; or at least it does when I’m not too busy whining to think about it.

  39. Emily in IL

    I said it before, I’ll say it again – Your children CRACK ME UP!

    Hope he kicks this bug quickly.

  40. Jess

    Monkey is awesome! Hope he feels ten million percent better! (Yep, I missed math, too. Heh.)

  41. caroline d.

    ummm, whiny pile of horrible sicky mess? That’s me. When I am sick, I cry, whine, get angry, and cry some more.

    Do you think he could lend me that high tolerance of pain for the next time I give birth?

  42. mamalang

    I took my son in for a tummy ache that wouldn’t go away, and walked out with a prescription for an antibiotic. For the inner and outer ear infection in both ears. That he never complained about.

    I’ve had earaches. They hurt. Bionic they must be.

  43. mama speak

    Yeah, my kids have that bionic gene as well….sick, “I’m fine.” Fever…stops wearing shoes and tops becuz they’re hot. Shots…nary a whimper.

    My brother had the super bionic gene…he literally feels next to no pain. Motorcycle pipe type burn on his arm (fajitas skillet laid on his arm while a cook at Chili’s) and he put a spray on band aid & continued to cook for the next 4 hours! My parents had to fight w/him to get him into the hospital. THAT is scary!

  44. Sarah G.

    I have four bionic kids. I literally had one get such a nasty ear infection that he first got Bell’s palsy on the left side of his face (it was utterly bizarre watching it freeze up during dinner) and blew an ear drum.

    Strep is our disease of choice and I can only tell when they have it when they want to take a nap.

    The Dr. is always stunned over how bad their throats look and ask, doesn’t it hurt? The reply… it’s kinda a scratchy.

    A stubbed toe however brings out all the pent up drama.

  45. Erin P.

    I spewed chocolate milk all over my monitor when he said he had a loss of appetite. Give that kid a high five for me!

  46. Aimee

    Gee, I wonder where that smartass gene came from?

  47. Jen

    Can I borrow some of those bionic genes? I think bionic gene therapy is in order for my boys. Even the tiniest hangnail or sniffle is reason for high drama and intense whininess with my two (and my husband, as well).

    Regarding Monkey’s sinus/allergy issues, try the Neilmed Sinus Rinse system instead of the Neti pot. It feels awful the first couple times you do it (since you’re basically shooting water up your nose at high speeds), but it works wonders. My husband was originally prescribed to use it after nasal surgery, but my whole family uses them now (they even have a kids’ kit).

  48. Trish

    I’m with you, kid. Got one of those Bionic Kids here too (“Gentlemen, we can rebuild him! We have the technology!” Sorry. Couldn’t help it :)). When he was 2 he (purposely) smashed his head into one of those big red cement balls out in front of Target, because he was in that “bounce your head on big rubber exercise balls” phase – it must feel good when they do that, on the rubber balls, but on a cement ball? Not so much. He cried for all of 10 seconds, then started asking for popcorn. Me? Lost about 6 years off my life.

    But hey, bionic (sometimes) beats hell out of the alternative. Stupid Man Cold.

  49. Erika

    When Jacob, my four-year-old, was two he had his first and last ear infection. He woke up crying and as soon as I touched him, I knew his fever was pretty high. He gently touched his ear and said, “Mommy, I need a band-aid for my ear.” It was the cutest yet saddest thing I had ever heard.

  50. Tiffany

    oh man Mir! I just dealt with this same thing! Emily(9) was dxed with an ear infection on monday(raging bad) and when asked sunday what was wrong with her because she wasnt eating she said her jaw hurt but didnt want any meds….fast forward to her brothers lunch at panda express and she is sitting in a chair trembling…nope not cold….never ran a fever or anything. this is maybe her 3rd ear infection of her life. If it had been me id have been crying like a baby over my ear hurting!

  51. crazyjane

    for the first 2 years of his life, my younger son, at every single well child check up had an ear infection. and i had no idea. no fussiness, no crying, no fever, no loss of appetite. it messed up his immunization schedule something awful. the worst part was the look the pedi always gave me. like he was wondering what in gods name is wrong with this woman? he is almost 10 now and still i never know when he is sick.

  52. Kris

    I wonder if it’s partially from the sensory disorder type stuff. Em’s the same way – would have a double ear infection, totally ready to pop, on a WELL child checkup. Felt like Worst Mother of the Year at those visits. Took her almost two weeks for me to figure out the child had a urinary tract infection. After hearing something from her teacher, it dawned on me. “Em, are you having bathroom problems?” “No, mom.” “Are you sure?” “No, mom.” “Does it burn when you go pee? Do you have to go a lot and only go a little bit?” “Yeah.” (Color me stupid for not figuring it out sooner because there were just so. many. clues!)

    And yet a paper cut sometimes sends her into seizures. LOL!

  53. djlott

    Mir, get a ear scope and learn what his ears look like when they are infected and when they are clear. Best money I ever spent. I knew when to take them in and when to look for something else.
    I hope Monkey is feeling better…. allergies are not fun!

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