Everything I Know About Raising Children

There are things on my mind this morning that I can’t say.  My life has always been an open book, but these thoughts come from pages that just can’t be read by everyone.  It’s a hard choice when you are blogging, and are a naturally open person, deciding how much to reveal.  It’s taken me a pretty good chunk of life to be wiser about those decisions.  Suffice it to say, there are things on my mind that I can’t push aside, and they are affecting my attention and my actions.


Everything I know about raising children, I learned from my sisters.  I don’t know if I can fit it all into one post, but I’ll try.  Please excuse the listing, but it helps my brain stay organized.  (Ha!)  Just a bit of  background:  I was the last of six daughters to become a mother.  My daughter’s closest cousin is three years older than her, and her eldest cousin is 24 years older.  Because of the wide age span among the sisters, I was able to see some of my nieces and nephews raised to adulthood before I was a mother.  Indeed, my eldest niece and nephew had their children at the same time as I did.  So, I not only saw my sisters’ techniques in action, I was able to see the long-lasting affects of their choices, the finished products, if you will.  That has given me a list of both do’s and don’ts. 

1.  Speak quietly.  My parents come from the “spare the rod and spoil the child” generation, and children were there to be controlled and yelled at.  When I first observed sisters 4 and 6 with their children, I was shocked to see what they accomplished with a soft voice.  Moreover, the peaceful atmosphere in their houses was enviable. 

2.  Don’t hit your children.  Controlling a child’s behavior by fear (a perfectly acceptable concept in earlier generations) doesn’t achieve the desired effect; it teaches them that the biggest, most powerful person always wins, and to not get caught.  No wonder that big, powerful teens sometimes turn the tables.  Research is starting to bear this out, by the way.  I raised a perfectly good 20 year old on one spanking.  Another story.

3.  Expect the best from your child.  Okay, we learned this from our parents.  Their expectations from us were formed by their knowledge of our capabilities.  The child who had real problems with math concepts was not expected to bring home an A; the child who learned readily was expected to bring home all A’s. 

4.  Don’t just talk about loving your children- show it.  Hard lesson.   Yelling I-Love-You-This-Hurts-Me-More-Than-You, punctuated by lashes of the belt, doesn’t get that message across.  Generosity with your time and attention, physical affection, letting your child know they are a valuable family member and you enjoy being around them…that says love. 

5.  If you are a parent, grow up.  Being a parent means your child’s welfare and best interest comes first.  Period.  You may not  use drugs, quit your job precipitously, fail to bring home groceries, stay out late without making adequate provisions for your child, choose to buy porn instead of children’s books, expect the school to take care of your child’s fever or sprained ankle.   You may not allow your child to take care of you.  You will be a parent every day. 

6.  Set an atmosphere of acceptance and tolerance in your household.  How do you expect your child to interact with the rest of the world?  Do you want them to consider other people as inferior?  Do you want your child to judge them based on their race or gender or sexual orientation?  Do you want your child to be able to peacefully co-exist with their classmates and co-workers?  Then they have to learn that at home.  Stop with the racial slurs and stereotyping and blonde jokes.  Invite people of all backgrounds into your life so that your children see them up close and know them as individual human beings.  Take your child out of your neighborhood and out of your comfort zone. 

7.  Get medical care for your child.  Don’t let your own discomfort with needles or dental work prevent you from following public health guidelines.  Don’t make your child a victim of the latest fad, such as not getting immunizations because you fear autism.  Let your child see you having discussions with the health care provider about care.  Help your child to know what things are emergencies and what things can be handled at home with a kiss and a Band-aid.  Be an example by getting proper care for yourself. 

8.  Expose your child to new foods.  Cook and buy variety.  It is a handicap to go into society with limited likes and a reluctance to try new things. 

9.  Don’t stay in abusive relationships.  It has been proven again and again that witnessing abuse, even if you are not the target of it, produces lifelong changes in behavior, including  increasing the likelihood that your child will grow up to become either a victim or a perpetrator.   

10.  Let the youngest child capable of a task be the one to perform it.  This makes the younger children learn and grow and feel valuable.  It lets the older child know that you appreciate her greater knowledge and ability.

11.  Listen to your child.  They have important things to say.  They need to run their thoughts and experiences by you.  Your voice is not the only important one in the home.

12.  Listen to objective voices.  If family members or teachers are saying they notice traits that are a problem, don’t let your love for your child send you into denial.  Investigate.  Get professional evaluations.  Don’t deprive your child from being all he can just because you don’t want to face the truth.

13.  No–No 13!  This is enough for one day.  Take a break.  I don’t have to write like the house is on fire.  I’m going to live a long time. 



Everything I Know About IVs

Every so often, I remember that I am reporting on this journey with systemic lupus.  It has been sixteen years, and lately I am experiencing a rapid, unprecedented improvement in all symptoms.  I credit everything:  my B-cell killing therapy, years of mostly vegetarian eating, changes in my state of mind, prayer (mostly from other people)…I’m always supportive of multifactorial responsibility.  These are things I can do now that I couldn’t do six months ago:

1.  Get ready from start to finish and leave my house in 30 minutes.

2.  Stay up until 4 a.m.

3.  Ride my exercise bike at 8 mph speeds for 10 minutes or more.

4.  Take a bath, brush my teeth, and not need to rest afterward.

5.  Hurry from one end of the house to the other.

6.  Go to the mall and other places that require reliable, long distances of walking.

7.  Plan for more than one big activity per day.

8.  Wake up without oral ulcers. 

9.  Schedule appointments in advance and be pretty sure I won’t have to cancel at the last minute.

10. Pick up things that have fallen on the floor immediately, rather than waiting for extra energy.

11. Carry many pounds of groceries up the stairs from my garage into the house.

12. Sit for three hours and not get huge leg swelling.

13.  Taper my prednisone below 10 milligrams daily.  (I am currently at 7 with no symptoms.)

That’s progress!!

A ways back I mentioned that I wanted to do some “Everything I Know” posts.  One aspect of being chronically ill prompts me to start with this one.  When you have an illness that requires frequent blood-drawing (venipuncture) and occasional intravenous  (IV) therapy, the quality of those procedures can drastically improve or negatively impact those experiences.  I knew this from an early age, having started with serious medical problems at age 19.  I was determined to be adept at procedures so that they would not be additional torture for patients who already had to cope with illness or trauma.


Everything I Know About IVs I Learned From…

…two incredibly talented, African-American students in the class ahead of me at Jefferson Medical College.  The two guys were friends, and not only were they some of the smartest people I ever met, they were willing to mentor anyone who asked for help.  They were masters of preparation for every medical encounter, from exams to patient care to the competitive, universal, sometimes antagonistic Socratic  teaching in clinical sessions.  These are some of the things I learned:

1.  Read first.  There is something written on every topic you can imagine, and it’s your duty to find good sources and learn from them.  Don’t just rely on what the instructor or professor says or the books they recommend.  Figure out how you learn and find a source that teaches it that way.

2.  Practice, practice, practice, practice, practice…you get the idea.  We used foam pads to stick our needles into at first.  We practiced pushing IV catheters into them and having the catheter end up centered under a single ink line.  We used suture kits and practiced surgical knots until they could be performed without thinking.  It was inexcusable to have your first practice be on a patient. 

3.  Lay out your supplies in advance.  You should have everything within easy reach, keeping sterile things untouched.  You should not require the precious time of a nurse to hand you your supplies. 

4.  You don’t have to make a patient scream with an inhumanely tight tourniquet.  Tourniquets only need to be tight enough to obstruct venous blood flow.  Arterial blood still needs to flow into the limb.

5.  Leave the tourniquet on adequate time for veins to fill.  Unless your patient is a healthy athlete, you can’t get a good idea of possible puncture sites in 30 seconds. 

6.  Look first.  Examine the limb that you’ve tied off, top, bottom, sides, from end to end, so that you don’t miss any visible possibilities.

7.  Feel, feel, feel.  Full veins are palpable under the skin if you use a gentle touch.  This is crucial in darker skinned patients where you may not see the blue of a vein through the skin.  You should develop such sensitivity that you can “feel the red blood cells slipping past your fingertip”.  You can also feel the tough, hardened cord of a vein that is sclerosed and which doesn’t have enough of an opening to thread with an IV. 

8.  Determine the course of your selected vein, and mark it with a pen if necessary.  Your IV will only thread if you hit the vein and push the catheter in the right direction.  Pushing directly against the wall of the vein, instead of into the lumen, results in a punctured vein and big bruise.

9.  Make your puncture swift and sure.  Draaaaaging your needle slowly through the skin is undeserved torture for your patient.  Keep one finger on the vein while you are sticking, so you don’t lose track of your target.

10. Tape neatly but securely.  Your patient should be able to use the limb while the IV is flowing. 

11.  Clean up after yourself.  Anything else is unfair to the nurses. 

All of this sounds very straightforward, but there was one additional element.  My guys insisted that you treat every patient with respect and compassion.  They never entered a room without knocking, introducing themselves, and announcing what they were doing.  When they sat down to start the IV, they would be in conversation with the patient.  Not only were they describing what they were doing and preparing the patient for it, they were chatting and engaging the patient in an experience outside the procedure.


Great teachers.  Great friends.  Thanks, guys.


Everything I Know: A New Series

I was driving to town today and had an idea.  It was so compelling that I pulled over to the shoulder of the road and dug into my bag for paper and pen so I could write it down.  In case you haven’t noticed, I am a fiend about education.  I welcome opportunities to learn, and I think that most of the more interesting and capable people I have experienced approach new knowledge welcomingly. 


I’m not talking about school.  To me, education takes many forms and happens in a myriad of places.  What amazes me is that there are many skills and subjects that have been taught to me by specific individuals, and I remember them well.  For some reason, learning experiences are memories that are well-marked in my cranial maze, and I can often trace the path from a lesson to the effects it has had on my life. 


This may sound like I’m about to get really deep, but I’m thinking of lessons that range from how to cut meat on your plate, to how to use a microscope, to how to comb your hair.  I am so process-oriented that I enjoy the recall of simple stuff like that.  Not only do I enjoy it, but I want to write it down.  Tonight I am setting up the birth of the “All I Know About…” series.  In each entry, I will choose a specific skill or body of knowledge and tell you about how I learned it.  And maybe, about why I learned it and what it means to me. 


There’s other stuff on my mind.  I spent yesterday afternoon with my daddy.  He was at home, sitting in his recliner, fully dressed but wrapped in two afghans, watching television.  His caretaker was with him, mostly for company, but also to provide a bit of watchfulness.  When my dad gets bored, he can get into things without realizing that he no longer has the strength or endurance to handle them.  Without turning off the tv, Daddy turned his full attention to me as son as I arrived.  We had only talked on the phone for several weeks.  He asked about most of the people (and dogs) in my life, and about my health, and my car.  He brought up some occurrences from my childhood, things that I don’t remember hearing about.  It was nice to know he had specific memories of me, separate from his whole brood of daughters.  All my life I’ve been known as one of “the Woods girls”, and I like to be assured that he could tell the difference. 


My daddy likes to maintain some control where he can, since he is ninety, and has lost some of the abilities and associations that he treasured.  Yesterday he was fussing about the choice of dinner, and saying he didn’t plan to eat “that stuff” because he had been hoping for fried chicken.  I offered to go out and get fried chicken from the nearest fast food source, and he was thrilled.  When I prepared to make the food run, he said “I’ll come with you,” and was up in a flash, putting on his jacket. 


We had a great time, driving through the neighborhood and down the main thoroughfare, looking for chicken and talking.  He complimented my driving, something that made me feel very good.  He’s always had strict standards about handling “an automobile”, as he always calls them.  Looking for that kind of approval makes me feel like a child again.  Well, hell, I am a child-his child.  That never changes.  This morning he called me before 8:30, checking on me and telling me how much he enjoyed my visit yesterday.  I am still in a good mood, recalling our afternoon together.