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

20 comments:

  1. Hullo Rebecca,

    The first thing that came to my mind as I read this was 'much ado about nothing'. Not that it isn't right to pay attention within the fsmily, but rather the excessive - and somewhat negative - attitudes of others. Maybe I'm unkind and they honestly do have simply 'best interests' in mind, but I get frustrated that we seem programmed to look for worst case scenarios these days.

    I think you are doing the right thing by keeping it low key and are definitely best placed to keep her well with as much, or little, attention as she needs. It's clear that you won't make a mountain out of a molehill. I hope those around elsewhere don't make her feel she's under the microscope or that they're waiting for an 'I knew it!' kind of moment.

    Being Scots - I recommend porage!

    Cheers and have a good weekend together.

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    1. Thanks muchly, Al. Yes, I think most people mean well, and they do genuinely care about her at the school. But, I agree that some are too prone to see things from only their own experiences and perspective instead of looking beyond appearances to see what might be the reality of the situation.
      That's a good point about the 'I knew it' moment, too, because sometimes I do think we wait for that to 'prove' our own view of things.
      She loves porage, and had it for breakfast just this morning :)
      You have a good weekend, too.

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  2. Hmm, it might be an idea to up her oil intake and that of the B's vitamins. Some of the energy convertors need an oil in the intestine to be absorbed.
    Also it might be an issue with plummeting sugar.

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    1. Thanks for that, Vince. I have been giving her a B complex vitamin, but the oil could be helpful, too. I also have now been putting fruit juice in her lunch for that midday lull...she says it perks her up quite a bit.

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    2. I get a bit light headed even now when I'm in a building sitting down and my lungs are being restricted by sitting forward. But churches are notoriously badly ventilated especially in winter. And you'd wonder how, since the place has fresh air 70 ft above you. The thing is OC2/CO1 is heavier than air and the combo of the parish being freakish about heating bills which leads to them virtually sealing the place and the total lack of circulation of air you get a layer of pure poison along the floor. If your lads are a bit efficient then any material change will result in lightheadedness.
      I was having a further think about your scamp and her problem. It could be little more than she stood up a bit suddenly causing a drop of blood pressure to the head for those few moments before the heart compensates and that coupled with the stress of being in front of the class restricted air flow.

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    3. I think that is true for churches. We are often opening the side windows for some change in the air.
      I've since talked to my young one's teacher and she admitted that the classroom has a heating problem, making it stifling and close in there sometimes.She said that day had been particularly bad. I think it was a 'perfect storm' of events.

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  3. A scary thing, I'm sure, but I'm glad it was "just" a faint and not a symptom of something more serious. From what I understand, faints are often more traumatic for the witnesses than for the fainter!
    And, having a brood of skinny kids myself, I can certainly relate! If people only knew my grocery bills! But really, it seems like kids in general are just bigger than they used to be, making yesterday's "normal" look too thin. I was a skinny kid.

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    1. That's just what the lab technician said when she was taking her blood.
      I think the skinny kids eat the most - those metabolisms!

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  4. i had seizures as a child though mine were all at night...and i never remembered them...only waking to paramedics...i know you said it wasnt seizures but...and my nephew was just discharged from the army this week because he fainted and they found something that would disqual him...i think it is good in ways she is a sensitive child...far too many are numb it seems...i hope all continues to go well for her and this was just a passing thing....

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    1. Really? Wow. I guess you grew out of your seizures? And yes, I would much rather have her be sensitive!
      I hope your nephew finds an alternate career that he enjoys. Cheers, Brian.

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  5. It's good that the fainting wasn't anything serious. I was skinny and frail as a child, but that has certainly changed. Your daughter sounds like a caring and hard working young lady. She may have a high metabolism and burns off her calories quickly. Glad she is feeling better.

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  6. I don't think you should worry unless you discover she thinks of herself as fat. Sounds like her metabolism is through the roof.

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  7. Oh my heart hurts hearing stories like this, not beccaue I think there is a thing wrong with yuor baby. I am not a Doctor!! Simply because I have two girls and I know how I worry! I'm sure all will be well, and wish you all the best :)

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    1. Thanks, Stephanie :) She's doing very well these days, even with a bit of a cold.

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  9. I have three thin kids; one of which most people would classify as skinny (12 years old); all legs and arms - about 5'5" and "maybe" 92 lbs. lol

    I think you went through all the right steps to ensure your daughter's well being. And as for people saying she needs more weight; people will probably always say that while she is super thin. I gauge my daughter's health by her occurances of stuffy noses, etc. which are very few. She can win an ice cream eating contest hands down, and will stay the size and proportion she is.

    We're all different.

    Glad your little one is well and going about her business; and as you alluded, her future is in her hands.

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    1. Your twelve year old is like my daughter's friend Katrina, except I think she's even taller! Her dad is enormous.

      Thanks for your comments, and yes, my Katie is rarely sick, just always 'tired' when she has to go to school ;)

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  10. Oh Rebecca...this post is so intuitive and thoughtful to your little one!!! You know her well and that means you are mothering her well! I too, have some rather skinny children...yet they EAT and eat well...it is amazing how the comments of others can tear at one's mind!
    I am certainly GLAD that she is alright and her sensitivities make her wonderful...she will be driven to do GREAT things.

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I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!