Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pain and Parenting

OK so probably not the best title for this post but all I could come up with. At the beginning of this week my oldest son, Dallen, had an orthodontist appointment. He was getting a devise in his mouth to bring out his bottom jaw a little. He and I were told ahead of time that his teeth, jaw would be sore for about a week after this device was in.

So I sat there for about an hour and a half while they worked on Dallen, afterward the orthodontist wanted to talk to both of us just for a minute. He showed me on a demo model exactly what the device looked like, how it worked, showed Dallen any details on how to clean it. He was very nice. Then he again reiterated that his mouth would be sore for about a week, then spoke to me saying: "so any complaints of pain he has are sincere." OK so what does that mean.

I didn't know exactly what he meant by that so I didn't really say anything and we left. But I have been thinking about it ever since. I took a few minutes to look up the word sincere at Wanted to be sure I was using it correctly, maybe all these years I really didn't know the acceptable definition. I found this: of deceit, hypocrisy, or falseness; earnest: a sincere apology.
2.genuine; real: a sincere effort to improve; a sincere friend.
3.pure; unmixed; unadulterated.
4.Obsolete. sound; unimpaired.

OK so, yes, I have been using it correctly. Was the orthodontist really saying that any pain Dallen is having is "not false" or it is "earnest", really? Why would I think otherwise? I have never heard the word used with regard to pain before. Isn't pain a really subjective sensation? How is one person to judge if complaints of pain are sincere or not?

My mother was a very authoritarian parent, very much in control of her children. She often used punishments as her means of behavior modification. But she never questions my pain, not that I remember anyway. Tooth pain, ear pain, stomach pain, headache etc. never questioned that it was real or "free of deceit". How would you tell someone that their pain was not "genuine"? I can't even relate to this. And why would a child be less than truthful about pain? I guess I have really thought that children were less than truthful because of fear of being punished (to put it simply). So if there is some kind of fear attached, would a child be punished for having pain? I guess I could see it if the child was in fear of something else, unrelated to pain, and used the fib about pain to get out of that particular punishment. hmmmm I might have done that as a child had I thought of it. ;-)

All this had never crossed my mind before. I have never, nor would I ever question my child if he told me he was in pain. We would just work to figure out what kind of pain and what we could do to help him feel better. Which we have been doing, since he has been in some pain this week.

Visits to the orthodontist always give me lots to think about. Like the time Dallen's front braces popped off a few hours after he had them put on. He was sitting at his computer and one by one, four of them popped off. He looked at me and said "mom I think one of my braces came off." I replied "nope, four came off." So the next day we were back at the orthodontist's office and the assistant asked me if "he pulled them off". What? What was she asking me? I just replied "no, why would he, he is the one that decided it was time for braces, and he is ready for this." I mean we have talked about braces for a while and I just told Dallen when/if he was ready for braces to let me know and we would look at our options, so this year he said he was ready and wanted to move forward. So, do parents have braces put on children who don't want them? I guess they must or she wouldn't have asked that question. Right?

I forget sometimes what more traditional parenting looks like. Maybe that is a good thing.


Deanne said...

I think the sincerity comment comes from the common practice of parents disregarding, minimizing, and outright contradicting what children feel - emotionally and physically. I've heard many a parent tell their kids, "It doesn't hurt that bad. You're fine." or some variation of that. MANY parents presume to know what their child is feeling better than the child his/herself does. They assume that the child is "over-reacting". They base their judgement of the situation on how they feel and experience pain and how they were conditioned to think about pain. "Don't be such a baby. That's nothing."

I agree, it is very strange when you think about it, but it is also unfortunately, pretty common. That's why there are so many adults who doubt their own feelings and perceptions. They have had years of conforming to how they think they should respond. And if these adults don't respect their own feelings/perceptions of pain, why would they respect anyone else's?

(Well, that was a long comment. I guess you really "hit a nerve" with this post. ;P )

Pamela Waterman said...

I've had three teens in braces (one needed five years, three phases, but it was worth it). I also went back for adult braces last year at age 53 - also worth it - no more gap! But pain is pain, even though now instead of saying it's time to tighten your braces, they say it's time for an "adjustment." Yeah, right. Anyhow, a couple of ideas for pain: you probably know about taking ibuprofen an hour ahead of an appointment get it started working. We've also used small cold-packs held to the cheeks, and the classic "take them out for a smoothie, frozen yogurt or ice-cream" - it really does slow down the movement of today's heat-sensitive wires. Also, rinsing with salt-water helps when something newly installed starts rubbing. Lastly, there are ideas for braces-friendly recipes at, under the Just for Kids section. Best wishes!

Sylvia said...

I've seen parents often say, "that didn't hurt" after a child falls. Makes me want to scream!

My Mom regularly told me I was "too sensitive" or "it can't hurt that much" when I complained of pain.

Denying a child's pain -- physical or emotional -- is a common mainstream thing.

and, yes, most kids get braces when they don't want them.