Tuesday, 12 February 2013

When the attention turns to someone else

Julian has spent the last (almost) nine years getting the vast majority of our ‘medical’ attention, and as it’s integral to our day to day life, for me it can become just a part of my daily grind.  I didn’t realise how much of his emotional well-being was centered on the consistency of that particular kind of attention until this morning, so you could have knocked me over with a feather when he burst into tears after being told that, for a change, someone else in our house was sicker than he was.

Our second son, Ayan (who was given the all clear for his CHD early last year, when an echo showed that it had repaired itself) gets bronchial asthma when he has a cold, and it can last up to a few weeks.  There’s the constant coughing, the runny nose, post-nasal drip and of course, the dreaded wheezing.  These last few days have been particularly bad for him, and we had to dig out his puffer and spacer and couple of days ago, taking his spare one to the Primary School this morning. 

I can only assume that Julian had a particularly bad night’s sleep (probably because he shares a room with Ayan, and there’s that coughing & wheezing thing he has going on right now!) because he woke up cranky.  Make that bad-tempered.  Actually, scratch all of that.  He woke up just plain mean this morning, and he took it out on two people – Ayan and I. 

I managed to ignore the snide little remarks, and the sarcastic comments that were made towards myself – I understand a bad night’s sleep, I am a Mum after all! – but when he started to take aim at Ayan, I had to step in.  Well, let’s be honest.  I barged in, protective feathers puffed up and everything!  Sometimes as a Mum, you have to go to bat for your kids, against your other kids . . .

I was prepared for the back-chatting, I was prepared for arguments, I was prepared for anything!  Except, that is, for tears.  Wow.  I cornered Julian in the kids bathroom after he lashed out at Ayan, and informed him in no uncertain terms that the way he had spoken to his younger brother was unacceptable (and all over who could wear socks inside!), that Ayan had had trouble breathing last night, as well as this morning, and that he was sick.  His outburst of “Well, I’m sick too, don’t you care about me at all?” shocked me to the core, and actually hurt quite a bit.  Didn’t I care?  I almost burst into tears myself!  Instead, I fell back on a parent’s best ammunition.  I agreed with him.  “Apparently not.”  Followed by, “That’s why you’re making your own lunch today!”

I can’t tell you how much that accusation upset me.  Didn’t I care?  I had to hold back all the comments that were rolling around in my head – If I didn’t care, why am I going to spend all day in hospital with you on Thursday?  If I didn’t care, why is it always me in the back of an ambulance with you?  If I didn’t care, why am I the one that rings up and makes sure your medication has been ordered?  If I didn’t care, if I didn’t care, if I didn’t care . . .

I didn’t recognise that Julian was becoming dependent on having my constant attention for his health.  It’s always there, whether it’s in the forefront of my mind, or chugging along there in behind everything that happens during the course of day to day life.  Even if he’s not aware of it, he’s always got my attention.

I didn’t know that giving this attention to someone else would make him think that he was no longer on my ‘Mum Radar’.  How could I?  He has 3 younger siblings, and my attention is always divided amongst them, my husband, and whoever or whatever else happens to be around me at the same time!   

So, now the question is, do I change how I’m handling the division of my attention?  No.  Absolutely not.  Instead, this has made me realise that I’m due for a sit down discussion with Julian – again.  It’s time he understood that whilst he requires a huge amount of our attention, there will be times when someone else is going to need it more.  His IPAH will always be humming along, will always be there, and we will always be alert for even the slightest of changes in his health.  However, and this is the clincher, this doesn’t mean that he necessarily needs more attention, all the time.  And right now, his brother needs me more.

Julian (back) & Ayan (front)
Has anyone else had to deal with a similar situation, and if so, do you have any hints or tips for me?  This Mum of 4 could use your advice! 

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