Why Don't I Hear Sleep Screams?

In theory, parents should be the most sympathetic people in the world. But, as Homer Simpson observed, in theory communism works. And it seems like there's a limit to our sympathy, just like there's a limit to how many cheeseburgers you can stuff in your mouth. And like a toenail in you burger can reduce the cheeseburger eating number to zero, certain stimuli can greatly reduce the amount of sympathy we are capable of.

Are you still with me?

I've found that one thing that reduces my sympathy to near zero is the way Sam cries when he gets hurt. Something about the pitch of his crying, combined with the fact that it happens so often and over such small injuries, makes it really hard for me to care. The problem is that I get desensitized by these little "stub your toe because you're running around when I told you not to anyway" injuries, so even when he's genuinely hurting I have a hard time really showing the concern that I really should.

Case in point: Saturday night all was well, until the very moment Sam laid his head on his pillow. At that moment, he decided to report an earache and start crying. I dosed him with some tylenol, and he went to sleep... only to wake up screaming a few minutes later. That screaming continued pretty much all night. Of course it woke up his sister, so by around 4:30 we were all up, just enjoying the symphony, despite all the pain medication we could administer.

I sent Katie to bed to take the second shift, looking for the earliest-opening Instacare facility I could find. And so shortly after 7 a.m. I bundled the kids into the car and left early, fearing that his increasing screaming would make it harder and harder for Katie to sleep. (It was a measure of her fatigue that she later reported hearing him only once.)

So we sat in the waiting room of the Instacare at Riverton Hospital, with a couple other parents who were waiting for it to open, while Sam continued his screaming. (As a side note, if you've ever seen the Simpsons episode with the "screamapillar," it was kind of like that.) While we were there, I finally tried to hold him and give him some sympathy (largely so the other parents didn't think I was a jerk), but it really didn't make any difference.

They immediately gave him more Tylenol with codeine, and several prescriptions, probably mostly to get him out of there. And I should feel better about things because the doctor said he had a grown man in there the day before with a much less severe ear infection, who was reacting much the same way Sam was. Anyway, we started giving him his medicine, and eventually things improved. I must mention here that I am seriously impressed with the amount of fluid that drained from his ear throughout the day. So I was certainly doing what I could for him, but it's hard to show the emotional sympathy when your brain is being short-circuited by the screaming.

And now I've typed "scream" so much that it no longer looks like a word.


)en said…
I feel like it's a combination of so many times not sure what to believe and thus being a little suspicious, but also you kind of have to desensitize a little, don't you think? I sort of shut down a little bit in those cases, where it seems horrible, but i don't know how horrible, because I'm afraid of what could be. Also, as the parent, i think there's an innate ability to be calm so as not to aggravate and heighten the emergency and fears of everyone else around you. This comment is a stream of consciousness.

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