I collected my 6-year-old-daughter from school and was sad to see she was holding an ice-pack on her knee. She was not crying and had clearly done it some time before. In fact she seemed happy enough. The teacher explained that she had strained her “ankle” and that the pain had gradually moved up her leg towards her knee. That’s when I thought: “There’s more to this than meets the eye!”
My daughter has been “entertaining” many injuries in the last few months, until I have realised that this must be an emotional project she is working on. On the one hand she seems fascinated in a healthy way with the workings of her body, her muscles, joints, blood, etc. And on the other hand she goes over the top in wanting attention for minor cuts and scrapes, and we often sit there doing a full-blown emergency dressing from the first-aid kit her dad bought her as a present. She often asks me to take her to the emergency services for these cuts, and I have spent many conversations with her setting limits about her insistence that she needs a wheelchair. She can do a very convincing job of being a person in need of crutches, not only physically but in her whole expression of the role.
On the day when she had an “ankle/knee” injury from school, I took her home and gave her lots of gentle, focused attention and listened to all her descriptions of how it happened. All went well until we did some Playlistening before the evening meal. I find it helps to offload irritations that have built up during the school day and feeds into a smoother bedtime routine.
One of her favourites is to fly on my feet as I lie on my back, her hands and feet moving wildly as if she is swimming through the air. On this occasion she was pushing against her physical limits And really trying to fly over my head, and she said clearly: “I want an injury,” with a twinkle in her eye! Next thing she flew over my head and as I tried to hold on to her, I twisted her right wrist.
She was screaming in agony and I bundled her up and onto the couch to assess the situation. I ripped her tights off thinking it was her leg And then she told me through her sobs it was her her arm. I rushed to get one of those floppy ice-packs And put it around her wrist. Then I started Staylistening.
As she cried she was stammering: “I need the emergency services. I have to have them! You don’t know how much this hurts!” I was sitting on the floor so our faces were on the same level and I tried to listen to her deeply. I put aside my guilt and let go of any concern because I could see it was going to be fine. I said occasionally, “You’ll be fine. Let’s just wait a moment. It’s OK. Oh, my darling.”
The whole crying episode lasted about 10 minutes. She started to come out of it and I offered to have a good look at her wrist and compared it with the other one and concluded that it was indeed swollen. I stayed close with her for supper and listened to her talking about doctors and her pain without agreeing to do anything or fix it for her. I was extra gentle and connecting with her through her bath and on in to the bedroom, and I allowed a lot more room for her expressions than I would normally.
We did more Playlistening after the story as she asked me for some “rough play.” She jumped on her bed with me holding her hands (including the one that had been injured), counting herself up to 100! I manoeuvred her to lie down and gave her a gentle massage to calm her down. I lay down with her and I left before she was asleep. As I left the bed, she pulled on me and said, “Stay with me,” and I gently said that I was going. To my surprise she said “OK, then please, can you cover me.” I left the room And that was the sleep routine done. Considering she has had ongoing issues about letting me leave her while she is still awake, it was a very impressive conclusion to the day’s events.
I had gone through a range of emotions from collecting her in the afternoon, to the guilt of hurting my own child in play, and the concern for her well-being. But at the end of the day, after all the Staylistening around the injury scene, and all the connecting time that has gone on in the past, instead of feeling shattered, I actually felt empowered. And my daughter has been able to offload some more emotions around her emotional project.
Join Laura Newman in her Parent Study Group and fill your emotional cup before the holiday madness sets in.