Love takes a break

By Mir
April 22, 2010

I have guilt. I have guilt over lots of things, but right now I’m talking about the guilt I feel whenever one of you pretty people feels compelled to comment “You’re such a good mom!” or something similar, because I know the truth, you see.

And the truth is not some sort of hipster self-deprecating “Oh no I’m not” thing where I just feel that it’s not edgy enough to cop to being a decent parent, either. I mean, I am a decent parent. Sometimes I’m a GREAT parent. But most of the time I’m a decent parent. And occasionally? I am a terrible parent.

The “you’re so awesome” accolades invariably seem to come within a day of me doing something cringeworthy and then I think to myself, “Lord, if only they knew.” But most of you do know, I suppose, because most of you are parents as well. And that means knowing that sometimes you say or do things of which you’re not proud, and often hoping that your children’s memories are short and their resilience is endless.

Right now our family is stressed out on several fronts, and that means I am not always the parent I want to be.

In this corner, we have Monkey—darling, sweet, perfect-just-as-he-is Monkey—and a nearly completed school year that makes me want to set myself on fire and throw myself into oncoming traffic for not having FIXED IT, somehow, sooner. So after a tremendous internal struggle, after months of research, after countless “discussions” (which is what we parents call them when we don’t want the kids to know we’re actually arguing), I came around to a place where I am ready to say yes to homeschooling.

We would just have one more meeting with the school—the last ransom negotiation, I called it—to lay out what we felt he’d HAVE to have to succeed next year, and then when they said no, we could go on our merry way.

Except that… they said yes. (Technically, I guess they said, “Yes, but,” though that’s a splitting-hairs conversation for another time.) And Otto had asked me, several times, “What are you going to do if they say yes?” And every single time I had laughed and said, “They’re not going to say yes.”

But they did. And now I have no idea what to do.

So there’s that.

In the other corner, we have Chickadee—lovely Chickadee, who emotionally/socially is just starting to come into her own, but who’s still mired in medical mystery between Season 3 Of The Mystery Rash and some perplexing anemia—and after a ridiculously long string of doctors’ appointments and drama, we may be on the cusp of figuring out what the heck is going on with her. That’s good news. Even better news: One Particularly Scary Disease we were worried about has been ruled out, so we’re feeling a little relieved.

Now, the thing you have to know about Chickadee and this skin thing is that she complains bitterly, ALL SUMMER LONG, about how it’s itchy and it hurts and she looks terrible and she hates it. And truthfully, I don’t begrudge her that one bit; it IS itchy and it hurts and she DOES look terrible and of course she hates it. But (you knew there was a “but” coming, right?) she also seems unable to connect the dots between the various doctors’ appointments and tests and the possibility of getting better.

Put plainly: She also complains bitterly about missing school to go see the doctor, having to put any kind of medicine on her skin, having to take any kind of medicine, submitting to any exams, etc. And then there is the matter of having her blood taken.

This is where we get into me being a lousy parent, by the way. You might want to grab some popcorn.

Maybe it is unreasonable of me to expect Chickadee to—for lack of a better phrase—kind of man up about this stuff, but she’s 12 now, and I know she understands that yes, no one likes going to the doctor and no one enjoys wearing a paper gown, but this is all to help her get BETTER. She’s not a toddler; she’s a young woman, and a bright young woman at that, and yes, we’d ALL rather be reading books on the beach and eating ice cream, but this is how it is. I definitely get exasperated with the whining when she seems to be just kind of complaining for complaining’s sake.

But the kicker here is that Chickadee has a needle phobia, and GUESS WHAT! When you have a mystery medical condition they often want to take your blood. Multiple times. And I have tried prepping her ahead of time and I have tried not telling her until we got to the lab, and no matter what I do, Sam-I-Am, my darling daughter turns into a squalling toddler when the time comes.

And I turn into the world’s worst mother.

I KNOW it’s a phobia. I KNOW that that means her reaction is irrational, but that she can’t help it. I KNOW that she is genuinely terrified.

And after a hard month and a stressful week and a long ride into Atlanta and consultation with three different doctors and lots of old unanswered questions and a smattering of new ones, I just. didn’t. care.

“Stop it, Chickie,” I sighed, as she began sobbing the moment her butt hit the chair at the designated station. The tech was looking at her in surprise as she wailed, just sitting there, untouched.

“I’m going to use a butterfly,” the tech told her, showing her the tiny needle. “It’s the smallest needle we have. And my daughter is older than you, now, but she always hated having her blood taken, too, because she was scared, and I’m the only person she ever lets do it, because I make sure it doesn’t hurt.”

Chickadee barely looked up, and continued sobbing. The tech talked her through assembling the test tubes she needed, then took a look at her arm (while Chickadee cried), and I held my daughter’s hand and kept saying really helpful things like, “You’re being silly, working yourself up like this” and “It only hurts because you’re upset, not because it ACTUALLY HURTS.” You know, I was a paragon of support and all.

And then the tech put the stretchy tourniquet around Chickadee’s upper arm and my daughter BEGAN TO SCREAM. Like a caged animal being poked with a stick. And I wasn’t sympathetic, I was mortified.

Three other hospital employees rushed in to see if someone was being murdered. I hissed something about how she needed to STOP IT RIGHT NOW and also that one of these people would hold her down and she didn’t stop flailing around, and as she quieted just a bit, the tech stuck the needle in, and she screamed some more.

Screeched like a banshee.

I put my free hand over my eyes. I had a brief memory of the “stop crying or I’LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT” days of my own childhood. I tried to will myself to count to 10.

“I’m going to go get you some cookies.” I opened my eyes to see a nice older woman leaning in towards my daughter, who was still carrying on. “What kind would you like? We have Oreos, and animal crackers, and I think some graham crackers. Tell me which one you’d like to have when this is all done and I’ll go get them.”

The tech was halfway through her tubes. Chickadee slumped against the chair, tears streaming down her face, wailing, “Make it stop. Stop. Please stop.”

“Oreos, animal crackers or graham crackers?” I snapped at her. “This very nice lady wants to reward you for acting like a feral toddler. PICK ONE AND SAY THANK YOU.” I was horrified by my own voice.

“Oreos,” she squeaked. “Thank you. Is it almost done? Can it be done?

I rubbed her opposite arm in weak apology while the cookie lady left. She reappeared about ten seconds later with two snack packs of Oreos and set them on the table in front of my daughter. Then she grabbed a chair and scooted up so that they were knee-to-knee, and leaned in again.

“I got you two packages because they’re kind of small,” she said, matter-of-factly, as Chickadee continued to whimper. “And I did NOT get them for you to reward your behavior—” here she paused to look meaningfully in my direction, with a glance that may or may not have conveyed that I was, you know, being a bitch “—but because I REALLY like your haircut.” She finished with a grin and a wink, and Chickadee managed a weak smile in return.

And then the last tube was filled, the needle came out, and it was over. She sniffled through her Oreos and I apologized for not being more sympathetic. She sniffled some more and offered Otto a cookie.

“What can I do?” I finally asked her. “I don’t know how to help you when this happens. I get frustrated because I feel like you could choose to try to work through it, but instead you make it a hundred times worse for yourself by getting so upset. So tell me what I can do to help.”

“You can’t DO anything,” she said. “I hate it and that’s all. You can’t fix everything, Mom.”

Sage words from someone who gets hysterical at the sight of needles.

Today I’m sitting with the mantra that I can’t fix everything. There’s a lot that needs my fixing, yet, and plenty more than just needs me to stop being a jerk even when I’m frustrated, but today? I’m taking a break. Love doesn’t mean fixing everything. Sometimes it just means sitting with those you love and being okay with what’s broken.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone. I hope you get a break this week, and that it gives you the time to recoup and rethink and be better, going forward.


  1. RebeccaF.

    Yeah. Move forward. Sometimes that’s all we can do.

    Thanks for the good wishes and right back at you!

  2. Beth R

    Oh, man, Mir. I’m not a mom and my heart was still racing with yours. It sucks to not be able to make something better, and then to realize that you’re so frustrated you just want to snap. Good on you for NOT using my least favorite phrase of all time (you mentioned it above), even while recognizing the temptation.

    Big hugs to you and wishing you a quiet weekend to just lie on the floor and twitch. It sounds like you could use it.

  3. MomCat

    The apology is what matters in situations like this – we’re all human.

    P.S. We don’t think you’re absolutely perfect – just awesome.

  4. Julie

    Happy Love Thursday to you, too, Mir. I needed this today, the idea that you can fix it all, and sometimes you just need to accept and love a little more.

  5. Becky

    Oh man. Such wisdom. My kids are grown, and I muffed it so many times, partly because I didn’t know any better, partly because I pandered to my ex that I couldn’t see was a controlling idiot…until he bagged me for a bimbo. I want to go back and fix so much stuff. All I can do is apologize. And I think they are getting tired of hearing it.

  6. Jamie

    There’s always going to be something that needs fixing, so at least we have job security! My 6yo is a whiner. He can’t seem to grasp that whining, pouting, stubbornness and tantrum throwing are not going to get him what he wants, yet he still does it all the time. I need to figure out how to fix that! :)

    I’m not a fan of needles, either, but I guess as an adult, it’s a lot easier to “man up” about them. I just can’t watch them stick my arm – have to look away.

  7. Headless Mom

    Gah. With all of the crap that has been going on around here this week, I really needed to hear that.

    Be still, friend.

  8. mar

    Growing up, my parents never fought – EVER. Obviously, I grew up with a rather warped sense of how relationships worked! When I got engaged, and we had our first fight, I was sure that was a sign that we weren’t supposed to get married, that obviously if we were meant for each other, this would have never happened, blah, blah, blah. Boy, was I stupid. After reaching adulthood, my mother confessed they were angry at each other All. The. Time. Turns out much of what I saw was everyday politeness, but no actual talking. That gave me no tools to work with in my own life, no examples of how to disagree, talk it out, and move on. Miraculously, I am about to celebrate my 22nd anniversary!

    I think it’s ok that Chickadee knows that you can mess up, and own up to it, and move on. It releases her from the burden of feeling she must be perfect all the time, and lets her know that it’s ok to make mistakes, and apologize, and try harder next time. I think it’s a great gift to show her that it’s ok not to be perfect! (I am an excellent example of this to my kids everyday!)

    P.S.-We joked my son had his face on a “Wanted” poster at the blood lab place for years – worst patient ever!

  9. divrchk

    Yes, I can’t fix everything. I just need to accept what is sometimes and know that some things are not forever. This year has been hard. I thought it would be so much easier than last and that’s just not the case. New challenges that I never dreamed that I’d face… Parenting is hard, huh?

  10. mamalang

    I swear our daughters were meant to be twins. I have lived this same experience (without the creeping crud, but other health issues) time and time again. I, too, know it’s irrational for me to be angry at her irrational behavior, but knowing doesn’t stop that trigger from going off. We finally came to an agreement, and it works for us most of the time. But it’s hard knowing that you can’t fix (or even help them fix) everything.

  11. Nancy R

    Ugh! We all laugh about the time daughter #2 worked herself up about shots for…kindergarten? Second grade? and let out and ear-piercing SCREAM…followed by, “That’s it?” But I’d take 10-1 odds that she’d have the same build-up and scream if it happened again tomorrow.

    All shots/blood work for our household earns the reward of a milkshake so I do a lot of “I know. I know. It will be over soon and we’ll go get shakes.”

    When I donate blood I can’t stand to watch them insert the needle, but once it’s in I don’t mind looking at the tubes and such…I bring a book or goof around on my phone (funny stuff is best) to distract me while they’re doing the needle stick. Maybe Chickie should come up with a list of things she think might make her laugh and distract her from what’s happening and you could try a new one each time – like a science fair project.

    Conduct a science fair project to take away the feeling of BEING a science fair project…poor Chickie…and poor Mir&Otto.

  12. paige

    This is a sucky lesson as a parent. We’ve spent the past two years dealing with mental illness issues with my teens. Stuff I couldn’t fix. We could help, and we did, and the therapists and the psychiatrists did and the medications did their part, too.

    Our kids are better than stable, they are thriving. They are not, however, “fixed”.

    I hate that, I really do. I like to fix things and make them ok. If it helps, I had a gigantic phobia of needles at Chickadee’s age and it abated during my teen years. Now I’m fine about them. She will come to grips with it when she needs to.

    That doesn’t help now, but…just keep keeping on.

  13. el-e-e

    But see? You communicated your way to the finish on that one. So the truth is, you’re still AWESOME. ;)

    I won’t know how to respond when my own kids are big enough to teach me profound things like Chickadee. (Well, I mean, they already DO teach me profound things, but not on purpose.)

    She’s pretty awesome, too.

    Hugs to the both of you.

  14. dad

    Parenting….it’s even harder than math.

    Do you think you would be better off if instead of screaming like a banshee, Chickadee did what I do when confronted with a needle? Pass out! It’s much more quiet and refined. Except for the “clunk” when I hit the floor.

  15. Jess

    I can fix it! How about a shot of Jack Daniels? One each for you AND Chickie. ;)

    On a more serious note, I think that twelve is just about the worst age for having to deal with doctor crap. Having to put on the paper gown is so much worse when you’re all adolescent body-conscious-y. It does suck to not be able to fix something for your kid, though.

  16. elz

    Hugs my friend, hugs all around. No need to feel guilt about taking credit for parenting triumphs. I think we all have shrew-like days, and then a few Mary Poppins moments interspersed. (I hope my kids remember more Mary Poppins than Mommy Dearest, but that’s another story.) Awesome parents don’t always know the right answers, they can’t fix everything, but they try to know their kids and prepare their kids for life. That’s all we can do. And, you ARE awesome at it and you SHOULD take credit. Answers will come, eventually.

    Aside- I was completely fine with needles until I was a teen-ager, now I am kind of a baby about it. Weird, huh?

  17. anne

    I have one with a needle phobia too. He screams, he runs, he fights me. He’s 12 too.
    I occasionally can’t help but say “You are just making it WORSE”.
    Mostly I just inform the people ahead of time, and hold on for the ride. It’s embarrassing, but I’m trying to learn that it’s not my problem to fix. Although I don’t learn very quickly, apparently.
    Bribes help a bit. Bribes that he’ll submit to the shot, etc, without running out of the room.
    You might try giving her a lollipop to stick in her mouth.
    Or earplugs – for you I mean :)

  18. Jean

    Aw, Mir. I can sooooo relate to just wanting the offspring to just knock it off and deal with it, already. I think all we can do is what you did – tell her how it frustrates you and ask her how you can help. Unfortunately, there may not be a good answer. I know there usually isn’t when I ask. Therein lies one of the many rubs of parenting.

    I will tell you that the reason I love to read your stuff is because you can make me feel like I’m not the only parent who loses my temper or screws up somehow and at the same time inspire me when you’re at the top of your game. See, I wouldn’t get that from someone else who always presents the Pollyanna side of things.

    Hope the blood work offers up some answers, especially after all that effort! Good luck.

  19. Parodie

    I work as a chaplain at a children’s hospital, and that is the hardest thing to learn. You can’t always (often!) fix but you can help by just showing up. Hard to do, though, because you have to enter into the other person’s pain and helplessness instead of standing outside it.

  20. Em

    I don’t think people tell you you are a good mom because you are doing everything right. I think people call you a good mom because you love your kids, you fight for them, you let them know you love them in ways we (or I anyway) am in awe of and when you have no more to give to them, you still give them more. THAT is why you are a good mom. If you handled everything perfectly, I think I’d have to hate you.

    This year, we brought my 8 year old’s therapist to her flu shot. Seriously. And instead of being grateful for the person calming her through her phobia, teaching her things I can’t and generally making the experience better, I was mortified and felt like a side show. Even seeing those words “my 8 year old’s therapist” and worse “we had to brought my 8 year old’s therapist” make me squirm. I think the doctor’s offices see everything… certainly by the time you or I get out of there they have :-)

  21. DixieChick

    OK, I just had to put my two cents in too :) YOU ARE DOING FINE!! Stop beating yourself up! Sheesh! When I was a kid, I was terrified of needles. Terrified. One time I think I had half the hospital at my chair, wondering what on earth they were doing to me. And you know what my mom (a nurse nonetheless) would say? She would tell me “Now that is enough out of you, you’re being very childish, and if you don’t stop, you will be grounded.” Was it pedagogically sound? No. Did it work? Sort of. Did I blame my mother for everything that went wrong in my life later? Of course. Would I have done that without the needle incident? Of course.

    Please be NICE to yourself. You’re doing awesome, and yes, I know what life with an Aspie is like, and so I know that “awesome” can be translated into a wide variety of things. Things that do include losing one’s temper, making idle threats, and doing just about everything one should not do. We all do that. Or at least you and I do :)
    Just please love yourself too, on this Love Thursday?

    p.s. Sorry if I’m all hippie-flower-love-a-tree, but I hate seeing parents beat themselves up…

  22. Aimee

    Being awesome and being human are not mutually exclusive. You have got a righteous amount of STUFF to deal with right now, and everyone has a breaking point. What makes you a great parent is that you can recognize when you’ve not been perfect, and then apologize and move on. There are a LOT of parents… hell, a lot of PEOPLE, parents or not… who can’t do that and don’t even try. So yes, you are awesome. :)

  23. Megan

    Oh dear oh dear. See, I was a hypochondriac as a child and then grew up and was so embarrassed about the drama (Oh! the! pain! I! might! almost! feel!) that I swung totally the other way and have, for example, walked for a mile on a smashed toe without saying a word because… well, not quite sure WHY because honestly, but I’m pretty sure I WON and the toe (and life in general) LOST and that was totally worth it.

    ANYWAY point being that I am, and know I am, very unsympathetic about things I don’t think are that painful – and yes, now and then I twig how ridiculous it is that it’s MY idea of what hurts that matters. And there has been more than one occasion when I had to pull myself up sharp to keep myself from telling my weeping, teeny-tiny-splinter bearing child to just man up. So I do what you do – I try to keep patient, fail now and then, and then at least TALK about what happened so we all have a chance to say what’s making us crazy. Granted, I still feel lousy about it later, but at least my kids know I care and am not an evil mother who totally wouldn’t mind if that little splinter turned out to be tainted with Flesh Rotting Bacteria and cause them to DIE.

    Dude. This parenting gig!

  24. Kelly


  25. bob

    Love means, knowing that you can’t fix it, that you still agonize over not being able to.

    Just ’cause you lost your cool with Chickadee doesn’t lose you your super mom badge. didn’t even tarnish it.

  26. Lori

    I almost spit my coffee out when I read your dad’s comment and I’m posting in on my frig tonight. Maybe it will come in helpful when I’m losing it over sixth grade math homework with my memory challenged son.

  27. Beachgal

    wow do I sympathize with the needle issue. My son is six and screams like a banshee for shots, and he’s never had blood drawn so I can only imagine how that’s gonna go over. Hopefully she’ll work through it soon. With you in her corner, I’m sure she’ll overcome.

  28. Sharon

    I rarely cry when I read blog posts, but the tears were flowing by the end of this one. Your words brought back all the years I struggled to figure out the very thing you now know ~ sometimes love means just being there for the people you love. I talked with each one of my grown children yesterday, each one busy working hard and making their way in the world. There’s not much for me to do most of the time but listen and be supportive and love them all the time. Funny thing, your name came up in conversation last night when I was talking to my daughter. We think you’re an amazing woman and wondered when it would be a good time to tell you. This seems like the perfect time.

  29. Karen

    Let me just preface this by saying: I have no kids. Well, I’ll have one in July but that doesn’t count here. I wonder if Chickadee would be more in control (if that’s even the right way to phrase it) if she were to go get her blood drawn by herself while you sat in the waiting room. No more “Mom buffer” to apologize for her behavior and explain her fear of needles to complete strangers so the onus would be on her. Maybe it would help her to feel more in control of the situation, more grown up and so less scared? I always know that I am much more wimpy (even at 34!) when someone else is around to pick up my slack and explain away my behaviors.

    Regardless, good luck with everything!

  30. Mama Bear

    Everyone who has responded has a needle story, or a you are a good mom story, and they are right, you are a good mom, but it doesn’t mean you can or need to fix everything.
    My 16 year old had a heart ablation at age 12. The nurse took 9 (!!!) tries to put in the IV. Since then, serious needle phobia. The docs have since put her on Xanax for every blood draw we have, and they are frequent. But that medication leaves a seriously loopy child on your hands, and sometimes just isn’t enough to stop the crying, and often you can’t plan a thing for when she has taken the Xanax.
    Chickie knows you can’t fix it, but crying is her release for the tension she can’t fix either. Let her cry, hold her hand, rub her shoulder, stare in her eyes, teach her lamaze breathing, keep whispering in her ear (my daughter loves me to rub her ear)- this is not the first child that the lab has dealt with who is scared of needles, and you aren’t the first mother to be mortified by their behavior. You didn’t shock anyone, and Chickie suffered no ill effects. It will make her stronger, she might still cry, but she’ll be stronger afterwards when she feels like she worked through it even though she didn’t want to have anything to do with the needles.

  31. Scottsdale Girl

    Here *hands Mir a glass of wine*. FIXED!

    So I have this friend, and she is a bit emotionally/psychologically unstable. And I do this same thing with her. MAN UP, GOD! It’s not all DOOM! OY you’re so melodramatic!

    Surprisingly, I end up apologizing for being an ass more often than not. It’s hard to just accept things as they are and come from a loving place…but we must learn to do just that.

    Hugs to all…

  32. liz

    Aww, many hugs to you and Chickie! I’m so sorry you both have to go through that. Someone else might have suggested this and you probably already know about it, but would the doctors consider a numbing cream before poking her with the needle? I know that it exists, and it might help her be calm if she knew she wouldn’t feel anything.

  33. My Kids Mom

    This might sound even meaner, but what do you think would happen if you or Otto weren’t in the room with her? Would she freak out the same for just doctors and nurses?

    And, hey- we like reading your blog because we’re under no illusion that you ARE a perfect parent. We understand because we’re far from perfect too.

  34. Patricia

    Um, but you are doing just fine.

    Want to know my secret? I used be terrified of dogs. No, no one has any idea where it came from, but I decided that all dogs wanted to eat me (yes, even that calm one over there licking its butt ignoring me). I would scream, I would run, I would raise my arms high (somehow encouraging dogs to jump all over me). I would freeze with fear. I would cry. To this day, I can remember the feeling in my stomach when I so much as thought about a dog. I would not want to go to people’s houses with a dog, I would not ride my bike because there was a dog behind a fence that might bark at me. Oh, yes, my fear of dogs, as irrational as it was — was debilitating.
    My mom tried everything. There was the calm understanding; the rational explanation of how I was making it worse; the rolling the eyes and saying get over it already; she tried it all. I’m rather sure that my mom was still pulling me off the roof if I saw a dog well into high school. (Famous family story goes that I went so far as to lock the car door when I saw a dog on a leash on the street — yup, INSANE.)
    So, one day, in college mind you, I decided that would no longer be afraid of dogs. Yes, it was that simple — outwardly, inside I was dying a thousand deaths — I chose not to be afraid. I may never be a greater lover of dogs (despite owning one of my own now); but I would no longer let the thought of a dog trap me into my house.
    The thing is, the fear never really goes away. I still (at 36) talk myself into not being afraid, every single time. An unexpected dog will take me aback quickly. The only change wasn’t that I’m no longer afraid, it is that I chose to hide it better.
    So, she’s right, there is nothing you can do — and here’s the best part, nothing you do will make it worse. She will wake up one day and chose to not be afraid. Her rational mind will work on her to push back the fear at least as long as she needs to sit there. And when she does it — it will be because she wants something MORE than the fear….like having blood drawn to find out she (and her husband) are having a baby OR when she finally decides that the skin rash being over is worth more than the fear of needles. Until then, you react, do the best — wait until the fear storm passes.

  35. Javamom

    Good grief.

    Do you think she would want to go “endure” the next set of needles with you waiting in the waiting room? I mean, you can still hear her scream, but if she’s mature enough to know that the screaming will happen regardless of whether you or Otto or her dad or the president is sitting beside her…maybe it will give her that just one little bit of “hm…I’m alone here” and perhaps the bravery may seep through just a tad more? Or perhaps that is not what YOU feel like doing…

    I have no answers. I have a toddler girl who complains for the sake of complaining, mostly just to hear her own voice, endlessly, and the drama she exhibits makes me sometimes wonder what kind of a tween she’ll be…your insights are immensely helpful (and entertaining) and better for me than any so-called parenting book written by so-called experts…

    Happy Thursday to you too.

  36. Alicia

    To see it from her side…
    Total irrational fear of heights here. My dad forced me to ride the chair lift. I screamed like very much like a 5 y/o while my 5 y/o sister patted my hand trying to make me stop. After, Dad apologized because he didn’t understand how I could be that scared. It made it better and I forgave him.

    So we know you make me mistakes and owning them does make it better!

    The best part…I recently rode one with my son so he wouldn’t have the same fear.

  37. Wendy 2

    If it makes you feel any better, I have a 14 year old daughter who reacts the exact same way. try to give her a shot and she screams and cries before you even have the needle out. I react pretty much the way you do. Suck it up and deal with it has been said once or twice. I can totally invision the exact same situation with my daughter and I.

  38. Tristan

    “Love doesn’t mean fixing everything. Sometimes it just means sitting with those you love and being okay with what’s broken.”

    I read your blog nearly everyday and have never commented, but this line has me willingly coming out of the Land of Lurking to thank you – this has struck a very deep chord within me. It reminds me that I’m not alone, despite feeling that way, so much of the time – and how lucky I am to be surrounded by people who love me as much as they do.

    Thank you again.

  39. Dawn

    Oh, Mir. I have been there with the child with a needle phobia – and a nasty mis-diagnosis that required lots and lots and LOTS of bloodwork. It’s six different kinds of fun, isn’t it? I think the only approach is to continue to talk in a soothing voice as if it’s actually helping and pretend it’s not stressing you out at all (as MamaBear suggested previously). And you can only hope that your head doesn’t explode while you try that. I used to try approach on occasion and it didn’t work any worse than anything else and my head didn’t ever explode. I’m still here and only missing a few of my marbles. Allegedly…

    We praise your parenting because we, too, have done the snarling and the dirty looks and had the not-so-stellar-momma moments. But you CARE. And it shows.

    This parenthood gig is a pretty silly system when you think about it. We train for the most important job of our lives by learning from observing how other novices treated us when we were children. And they learned from novices, etc., etc.. It’s a miracle the species has survived.

  40. Gaylin

    Bad parenting is not getting annoyed and frustrated by a screaming child.
    Bad parenting is beating your child when you get home from the screaming child blood test.

    I think you deserve a couple of Oreo’s yourself. Except they have gluten in them . . . ice cream?

  41. Fabs

    Yep, made me cry again (twice this week). ;-)

    Do you think she acts like that just for you? Would she do it if Auto took her? I know my kids act worse in those situations when I’m around!

  42. Nelson's Mama

    When my oldest was five she spent two weeks at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital with pneumonia, (what was even more fun was that I was 8 months pregnant). The longer the hospital stay got the more hateful and rude my darling daughter got…she was tired of being poked and prodded, but I was totally mortified.

    I finally snapped one day and squeezed her, my pregnant self, her damn IV pole in the itty, bitty hospital bathroom and spanked her.

    Not my finest parenting moment…but you just move on and do better the next day.

  43. Katie in MA

    One bad moment (or bad day!) does not a momma make. Easier said than done, but then again, EVERY real mother understands!

    Also, try to give yourself a bit of break about how you react to Chickie. Just as she can’t help control her phobia-related reactions, we can’t help our own mothering-reactions when our children act certain ways. If that nice oreo-fetching nurse was facing her own child, she would have reacted entirely differently. It’s just the laws of parenthood, time without end, Amen.

    Hang in there – all of you!

  44. Ani

    Re Chickie:
    My needle-phobic 9-yr-old and I get to go for allergy shots every week. Same wailing, crying, carrying on. Ice pre-shot, chewy candy in mouth during shot, hold hand while nurse does the stick…been there done that.

    Promised chocolate cookies and milkshakes…done that.

    Taught him Lamaze breathing…done that.

    Gritted through clenched teeth that he needed to STOP IT and GET IT DONE…done that.

    Finally declared that if he carries on again I will take away most precious possession (Nintendo DS)…done that. Oddly, that one worked, two weeks so far. Fingers crossed.

    And the shots will continue for years. Ugh.

    Re Monkey:

    Do you in your heart WANT to give the school one more chance? Or are you emotionally and psychologically DONE with having to deal with it? Particularly since they agreed to do some things before and failed. Just because they said YES does not mean you have to accept their offer. You can register him for both and decide later this summer.

    No one is perfect, but we admire those who continuously try to improve and figure out what’s best. So you still get kudos for not selling your children on eBay.

  45. Kira

    I would totally get the words “You can’t fix everything, Mom” tatooed on me somewhere if I could figure out how to print them in the attitude I hear it in my head.
    Because it’s true, I CAN’T FIX EVERYTHING, and it annoys me that I can’t seem to get over the fact.

  46. Becs

    Ok, I’ve come up with a completely different suggestion: let her give the dog a shot.

    Well, all right, that does sound kind of callous towards the poor dog – but maybe watch the vet give an injection? Or one of those paramedic training things where you practice injections on an orange?

    Other than that, there’s this very informative DoctorMama post about the coping strategies she used to deal with her own needle phobia. The mental strategies are maybe a bit too fertility-treatment-focused to be quite what Chickie needs, but the thing about crossing your legs and clenching your opposite fist sounds pretty cool.

  47. 12tequilas

    Mir, I don’t have time to read these comments now, so I might be repeating myself, but your story here rings so true. If I thought about it I could come up with several similar stories in which I was you. But from the outside looking in I can tell you that Oreo Lady was there to do what needed doing because you couldn’t quite do it, only because you are too close. It is MUCH easier to cheer up someone else’s child in such a situation.

  48. 12tequilas

    Not repeating myself. Just “repeating.” You knew what I meant.

  49. ChristieNY

    I used to do like your Dad and just pass out at the sight of the needle. When pregnant with my first son my doctor said that fear of needles & blood are often genetic and completely looking away from both can help tremendously. I’ve had blood taken a gazillion times since then (have even become a donor) and as long as I don’t look, I’m good.

    Just wanted to throw that out there, any way to come up with a plan in advance to not look and just concentrate on something else entirely through the ordeal, maybe with the promise of a super special reward afterwards? Knowing there is “only a pinch” and that’s it really helped me (and my 6 year old since he started having blood taken recently for a bacterial infection).

    You ARE an awesome Mom, by definition, none of us Moms are perfect. It’s how you handle those not-so-perfect moments that MAKE you so awesome! =)

  50. Lisa

    When I was young, I had to get a shot….in my hip. I screamed and cried. I was at least as old as Chickie. My mom was so mean. She never once tried to be nice, even after the incident. I remember her being mad the whole way home, even though I was laying in the back seat because I felt to sick.

    Fast forward, I have a daughter like yours. She has stopped the freak out when confronted with the needle, but I will never forget the experience I had, which has made me better at dealing with her, not perfect–I have said and done exactly what you have done. But Chickie knows you still love her and you are trying. And that is what counts!!

  51. Kristina

    I am sorry but I had to laugh because I have so been there. My oldest two are 1 year apart. We went to get kindergarten shots, the Dr. decided to do both. So when asked by the nurse who wants to go first my dear sweet son (who is younger) raised his hand. He got his shots cried and life went on. Then it was my daughter’s turn. It took two nurses, one doctor and myself to hold her down. Screaming and kicking the whole time. I was exhausted, embarrassed and ready to never come back here again. Out of all five of my children she is the most stubborn and strong willed child. I believe she will do fine in life. You too will laugh at this some day. It will be a great story to tell.

  52. Amy

    Every time I read your posts about Chickie, I always think about myself (because she reminds me of myself of course) and everything I put my poor mother through. I too had the needle phobia (the only thing that cured it was having to give my own self shots). When I was younger, I had to have the allergy skin tests. My dad took me back and my mom stayed in the waiting room. She still talks about how the entire doctor’s office could hear me screaming the entire time (over an hour). Of course I’m the girl who had to be held down, at 21 years old, to be given a shot when I was sick. And I cried during my entire second round of allergy tests (at 24) even though they did give me a cartoon to watch.

    You and my mom should form a support group!

  53. Kat

    Thank you thank you thank you.
    My daughter turns 13 today. I few months ago she had to get one shot. It took her dad and three nurses to hold her down while a 4th drew her blood. She had to get another shot shortly thereafter, and it was just me and the nurse who was drawing the blood. She screamed and screamed and screamed and I had to pin her down with all my might. The nurse gave me one of those looks that said “what the he** kind of parent are you?” I was mortified, I was mad, and at the same time, I was so upset that I was abetting her torture. I didn’t know there were any other kids out there that still carried on like this at her age. I’m so glad I’m not alone.
    It’s not us, right? It’s them?

  54. Cathy

    It seems to me that your love and compassion for your children show that you’re a great mom, even on the days you feel like a terrible one.

    My husband and I are planning on kids in a couple of years, and I hope I can be as good of a mom as you are.

  55. Kim

    De-lurking to say… wow. I’m all teary yet again. Thanks, Mir.

    My 10-year-old never got all his vaccines because of his reaction to needles and I kept thinking “next year he’ll be older, he’ll be fine.” I really really needed to read this right now because I think we have to do some of them soon, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get him to BE CALM and TOUGHEN UP and I can hear myself saying really terrible things to him, but really, I can’t snap my fingers and make his phobia go away. So, thank you. You help me be a better parent.

  56. Kethrim

    I too have a needle phobia. No idea why it started, and it only got worse as I got older, to the point where I went about 5-7 years without getting a shot. I knew what was happening, but could not control my actions, because the phobia had such a grip on me. I’d cross my arms and tighten up, jump off the exam table and not let anyone touch me, and one time, hid behind the door. It’s embarrassing to be so afraid and unable to control it. Even thinking about getting a shot or seeing someone get a shot on TV would trigger the phobia. Luckily, perhaps, I didn’t have any real need to get shots during that time (middle school through most of high school), so I was able to just avoid it.

    I’m still phobic, but now able to control it, and that didn’t happen until I decided (at age 17) that I wanted to get shots for my own health, stuff like the Hepatitis B series before I headed off to college. I went to see a hypnotherapist for about three sessions. Didn’t like the therapist, hated being hypnotized, but seeing her gave me the support I needed to let myself do what I was never able to do on my own- let the fear go enough to let myself get the shot.

    When I went to get the shots, they used a Shot Blocker, basically a fat U-shaped piece of plastic with blunt spikes all on one side. The nurse presses it against your arm and the needle goes in through the hole in the U- it helps desensitize the area, and did help a lot. The other thing that really helped was finding the one nurse who was really good at giving shots so that they hurt as little as possible (yes, shots will always hurt for me), and requesting her every time.

    That’s all just shots, though. I’ve never had my blood drawn (the one time they tried was the hide-behind-the-door episode), and I know that it’s a little different experience.

    Anyway, the point is that it is possible to get through the phobia at least enough to be able to function.

  57. Emma

    I think we are all sometime good parents, sometimes great but oftentimes nowhere near as good as we want to be. For what it’s worth I think you balance it pretty well!!

  58. Jenna

    Take this moment to love yourself this love Thursday.

    You’re not perfect. Eh, that’s okay. You know why? Because you regret it, you apologize and then you try harder next time.

    That’s more than most parents/people/politicians.

  59. Lucinda

    I’m crying for you right now because I can only imagine how much you must be hurting. I have a few banner moments that I wish with all my heart I could take back as a parent. And in every instance I was tired, overwhelmed, at my absolute limit where I just didn’t know what to do and what I did still seems like the worst choice I could have made. And it still hurts.

    Like so many others have said, the fact that you regret at all speaks to the love you have for these kids. We do our very best and that’s all we can do. We don’t see all the “bad” things you do as a mom. But we see the heart in what you do and how you are doing your very best. Not perfect of course. No one is. But I don’t think I could have faced what you have faced any better. That’s for certain. Take care.

  60. Heather

    Yeah, I’m not a parent but I understand that even the best of moms have bad, bad days. (I did, after all, have a wonderful but also human mother myself!) When I say that I think you’re a wonderful mother, that’s all part of it – that being real, that acknowledgment of your weakness, and the desire to do better – it all compounds on top of the awesome things you already do to make you the beautiful person and great mother that you are.

  61. Aussiebeaut

    It’s the teaching moments that make us great parents. And you are!

    Not sure if it is available in the USA, but in Australia, you can buy a cream, over the counter, called “Emla”, it is Lignocaine and Prilocaine, you put it on half hour before, to numb the area. I am not sure if it really works, but even if it is a placebo, it seems to help my state of mind!

  62. Tracy

    I can see you have alot of advice, words of wisdom and support, so, I’ll just say, “Wait until she gives birth!” I’m just sayin’…silver lining in the cloud. ;) Happy Love Thursday, Mir.

    Oh, I love your dad’s response. lol

  63. Binkytowne

    This made me cry. I’m sorry everybody had such a hard time and hope everyone is feeling better today.

  64. Melissa

    Oh, I’m sorry you all had to do that! Feel free to ignore this suggestion, but I actually used to be the same way about needles, and it helped to have to say the alphabet BACKWARDS. For some reason, making me concentrate on something else kept me from freaking out about the needles. Of course this loses its power once you master saying the alphabet backwards really fast…and trains you to pass field sobriety tests…

  65. Dorothy

    I am 64 years old and I have a needle phobia. Pain has nothing to do with it. It’s the sight of the needle. I found a stash of needles from when I had home health care, and I broke out in a cold sweat. Couldn’t even pick the box up to move them. The thing that works for me when drawing blood is to not look at the needle. And talking, talking, talking. Doesn’t matter about what or if I’m making sense. Just anything to get through and out. Talk to Chickie and find out just where her fear lies. Also, I wouldn’t go in with my kids (when they were older, 6and up). They seemed to be more rational if I wasn’t with them.

  66. carolyn

    I didn’t read all the comments, so I’m willing to bet this is a repeat. I wonder what would happen if you let her go to the lab by herself? Just a thought.

  67. Karen

    Yeah..the passing out thing? That’s much worse.

    Did I ever tell you about the time my child was so fresh I finally resorted to spanking her…just once..on the behind? Right before a routine pediatrician checkup? Which she went to with a handprint on her butt?….Not a kodak moment.

    None of us gets it right every single minute, but for the most part you’re doing a great job so really you need to put the guilt where it belongs…in the trash.

    And listen to your Dad :-)

  68. Jenn

    I acted the same way when I was a kid. My parents used to try to bribe me with a toy, and then I would freak out anyway, kick a nurse or whatever. And then I would leave and ask for a toy, saying, “I wasn’t THAT bad!” (I never got a toy.)

  69. Celeste

    I had a bad experience in the hospital when I was six. The nurse could NOT find the vein, and she stuck me over and over, trying to find it. She would quit for a while and then come back and try again. Mom told me to stop screaming and behave myself, or she would spank me. I have been needle-phobic ever since.

    Looking away DOES help. And I have fainted, to my embarrassment. However, I usually lay down the law whenever I go for a blood draw. I tell them, “My veins are hard to find. You get one try. If you don’t hit it the first time, I’m leaving. So if you aren’t positive you can do this, find someone who can.” I know it sounds bitchy but there are people who are good at drawing blood, and people who are not. I just wish my mom had stood up for me all those years ago.

  70. J from Ireland

    You got me crying again this Thursday!!
    No, we can’t fix everything. Yes, we all have shitty parenting days. I think thats ok.
    May the force be with you.

  71. mamaspeak

    Celeste, good for you. I have hard to find veins myself. Worst part of both my girls births; the 1st one when the nurse told me they were “out” of butterfly needles and proceeded to tear the crap out of my arm w/her 6 tries to hit the vein. In the end, I demanded they go find a phlebotomist, who look at me & informed them that even if they got the IV one in, my vein would collapse from the needle size. In the back of my hand it went, 1 try.

    It looks like you’ve gotten lots of good advice on the whole needle thing Mir. I’ve got issues like I described here & I don’t like it, but it’s not a big deal to me. I give blood whenever I’m able, so there you go. Like THAT makes any sense.

    Go get yourself a glass of wine (or 4) and be happy it’s Friday (it will be when you read this).

    When I was 7, I broke my leg in a ski lesson. It wasn’t a bad fall, just the right kind of fall. Broke the bone clean thru. My mom was on the chair lift & saw it happen. Instructor told her I was fine, so she proceeded to tell me “shut up, quit complaining, stop being such a baby, I was embarrassing her!” as they splinted me up & skied me down the hill in the basket. And now, I get to tell the world what an awful mom she was for doing that. ;-) You beat Chickie to the punch, so there you go. ((hugs))

  72. Jennifer

    Mortifying. The best thing to do is have her go alone.

  73. Jennifer

    (which sounds cruel! I know! But I screamed and carried on until my mother sent me in on my own and suddenly I realized it wasn’t that bad after all)

  74. Brigitte

    See, we call you a good mom because most of us would have snapped and yelled at our kids to “just suck it up already!” several years ago.

    Or maybe just me, because I’m a bitch.

    That said, I agree with Celeste’s comment above, make sure it’s a GOOD phleboto- phleboti- blood-drawing-person, I’ve had a few bad ones and it sucks.

  75. vanessa

    Disclaimer: I am not a parent.
    But I do have phobias! and I can tell you that yes, they are genuinely scary–but people can fight them, too. It sucks and it’s hard and Chickie is right that you can’t fix everything and she just hates it, but people can fight them.
    And I think that you are a good parent–and furthermore, given that you are a good parent, it’s good for Chickie to see that you aren’t always perfect.
    That was a lot of uses of the word good.
    Hope they figure out her Mysterious Medical Condition soon!

  76. Dragon

    So I suppose it’s wrong that what I have taken away from this post is the phrase “acting like a feral toddler”, to be pulled out and used on one of my children when they are infuriating me?

    Join me in the Bad Moms Club. We have alcohol all day long and we serve cake for breakfast. And somehow our children will turn out just fine. I promise.

  77. Kris

    When my son had a horrible phobia of needles similar to Chickie. One time I asked if a nurse could take him back because I realized I was the problem. I made it worse. If I was there he acted 10x worse. When I did it, it felt like a complete cop-out and horrible mom. But, the nurse who took him back had a different approach than I did and he obviously listened to her because I didn’t hear all the scuffle and crying from outside the room. Since that one time, I don’t have the same issues I used to have. He still hates needles, but I think that one nurse gave him the skills to get through it.

  78. JennyM

    I’m not a parent either, but I’ve been on both sides of that situation – the hissed-through-clenched-teeth “You are a rational and intelligent person and you KNOW there is nothing wrong or scary about this and you can CHOOSE not to behave like this so WHY are you DOING IT.” and the pants-wetting, helpless terror of something no one else understands.

    I am afraid of steep inclines. And we are avid hikers and skiers, both of which being activities where I display a pretty impressive degree of skill. I’m not sure what exact combination or factors or degree of declination triggers my primitive brain-stem terror response, but all of a sudden I will be beyond flight, beyond speech, paralyzed and shaking and cold-sweating, the only thought in my mind being “if you move, you will lose your balance and fall.” It’s not even that I’m afraid I’ll *die* — it’s that I’m picturing and, in my mind, experiencing, the tumble over rocks and trees and the way my bones will snap and crush, and THEN I’ll die…. yes, it’s completely irrational and melodramatic. Especially since I’ve fallen plenty of times with no ill effect.

    Do you know, though, that it’s much easier for me to pull myself back from the brink of insanity when I’m with strangers, because when I’m with my husband, for instance, I suppose I’m too comfortable not to give in to the fear and shut down instead of grasping for the tiny, far-away, rational voice that tells me I have to pretend to be fine because no one wants to be THAT GUY and that is ALL THESE PEOPLE WILL REMEMBER ABOUT YOU. If I’m with my husband, I have to insist to him (teeth-chatteringly) that he GO ON, FOR GOD’S SAKE because if he’s there, my primitive brain is all “HE CAN SAVE YOU, MAKE HIM SAVE YOU” and of course he can’t. It still takes effort that leaves me completely emotionally drained, but it’s there.

    So, I don’t know — maybe having you and Otto being there with her actually makes it worse? Not because you guys can’t handle it, but because you create enough of a comfort zone for her to give in to that terror response instead of fighting it. I know you’re not really looking for advice on how to “fix” this, and everyone is different. But I’ve always thought Chickadee sounds like a younger version of me, so I thought I’d share.

    Good luck with Mystery Disease and School Woes — you ARE a great mom, even when you’re a terrible mom, because, from what you share here, it’s obvious you recognize that you’re not perfect and that you make mistakes and you TRY. And I think that makes a great parent.

    Are margaritas ok for your dietary restrictions? Because if you’re ever up this way, I know a place where you can get them in glasses as big as your head.

  79. JennyM

    And, uh, holy long comment, Batman.

  80. Debra

    It sounds like you had some wonderful phlebotomists. Poor Chickee-pooh. I always feel so bad for my patients that have needle phobias. Some tricks I use. If they always use the same vein you can use a piece of ice and “freeze” the skin over the injection site before hand. Having the 2nd staffer there probably helped alot. Explain to them before hand that she gets vocal and loud but doesn’t fight. I would rather have a child that screams bloody murder than one that fights and kicks and bites. Having someone else (besides you)to distract her may help her. And this is going to sound really mean and horrible but it works sometimes: Sometimes Mom just has to step away for a minute during the procedure and come back for the “rescue.” I’ve seen numerous tweens who behave so much better after Mom steps into the hallway. The distress that Mom feels and the distress that the child feels feeds off each other. Sometimes having that caring yet detached staffer step in is all that’s needed. You will probably need a sedative while she’s away from you though. And please assure her that she will outgrown it. It may take years/decades but she will outgrow it.

  81. Heather

    I do not know if anyone said to drink lots of water beforehand – it really helps. I hate needles espcially bloodwork with lots of tubes. I had a nurse when we were trying to get pregnant who always made sure to remind me to drink a bottle of water in prior to my tests and no caffeine. I still hate it – but it is easier with the water.

  82. kate setzer kamphausen

    Yeah. I know this feeling too, Mir. I have a friend with a very frightening heart condition. She is VERY brave about all the needles, and yet… to see her, over and over again, in pain, in yet another ER, and I can’t fix ANYTHING…..

    well, it sucks so completely.

    Thank you for reminding me that I can’t fix everything either. Why that helps, I don’t know (maybe because it’s true??), but somehow, it does.

    A blessing on you this weekend!!

  83. Nicki

    Listen, I know it’s hard to admit when we have our meltdown moments. And they may be justified. And they may come out of frustration. And we may just be overreacting…like our kids or our spouse… Thank you for being brave and honest. It reminds all of us that we aren’t perfect…that even Mir in her infinite patience and abundant wisdom has moments.


  84. Clarity

    Oh my good god this had me dying laughing the entire way through…what a fantastic post. If hadn’t already loved you for years I’d definitely be head of heels right now :D
    My son has a needle phobia and after years of watching him scream I am pretty heartless myself. He starts crying in the waiting room because I don’t tell him what we’re doing till we get there or I’ll have to hear him obsess about it for days. We’re still in the full body restraint by multiple people stage, I’m just impressed that Chickie will willingly sit down for the torture!!
    That’s not bad parenting, it’s appropriate and as always hilarious parenting. Feral toddler? Literary GOLD my friend.

  85. Clarity

    Head OVER heels that is…my kingdom for an edit function.

    I think those of you who mentioned sending them alone with the nurse to have it drawn might be on to something, knowing my boy as I do I think it just might work. Thanks for that!

  86. Wendy Feller

    Sounds JUST like me and my kids! I hope you feel better in knowing that you are SO not alone and NONE of us are perfect, even though some people would like you (and me) to think they are. Thanks for sharing :)

  87. Gwen

    (7 year old boy) The dentist. Doesn’t help that we nearly always have to go back for fillings/sealing. Shots aren’t so good either. It’s hard not to be mortified. And it’s always exhausting.

    But it keeps me nice and patient when I’m the one giving shots!

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