The Reluctant House Dad: How Do You Know When Your Kids AREN'T Crying Wolf?

14/08/2014 16:53 | Updated 22 May 2015

The Reluctant House Dad: How do you know when your kids AREN'T crying wolf?

Like me, my eight-year-old son is a rather sensitive soul. But there is one big difference between us (aside from the 41 year age gap): I would rather cut off my own arm than tell anyone I was in physical pain, then bite off my own tongue denying I was in any way inconvenienced from the act of cutting off my own arm.

My son, though, reacts to everything as if The World Was About to End. A tap on the arm from his six-year-old brother; a push on the shoulder from his 11-year-old sister.

A trip, a stumble, a slip, a scrape. All are greeted with the same 'AAARGH! CALL AN AMBULANCE I'M GOING TO DIE' reaction.

He doesn't just cry wolf, he screams packs of the animals. And it is very, very wearing.

But it's also worrisome. We have reached a point where instead of comforting him, we react to his latest trauma with raised, 'Whatever...' eyebrows and stern 'What Now?' words. It's not good.

This issue was brought into stark focus over the summer holidays. We were staying with my Successful Other Half's folks in North Yorkshire and had gone out to an adventure playground to keep the kids amused.

Now Child 1 is a Very Robust Child Indeed. Her idea of the perfect day out would be to jump out of a plane without a parachute, and so leaping off the top of an eight-foot high climbing apparatus was meat and drink to her.

Unfortunately - like his father - Child 2 decided he would not be beaten in this game of Climb, Leap and Land, and so insisted that he could do whatever his sister would do, on the long-held and misguided principle that She's Only A Girl.

And so, she climbed, she leapt, she landed. And then did it all again several times.

But when it came to Child 2's turn, it took him an age to Climb, another age to Leap, and then a few milli-seconds to Land Very Awkwardly.

Only we didn't realise how awkwardly because his screams of pain were so loud we thought - well - we thought he might have stubbed a toe.

That's the problem with crying wolf - all reactions are on the same seismic scale i.e. off the monitor.

For the rest of the day, he lay around the house with a Woe Is Me look on his face, while sporting a baggy-fitting tubular bandage that did nothing to keep his damaged foot supported.

He insisted on being carried everywhere, winced when he put any weight on his foot, and cried when I tried to get him to wiggle his toes.

His mother and I looked at each other: was he putting it on? Yes, we concluded. He's always putting it on.

But the next morning, he was still professing to be in pain.

The true test was whether he could join his sister and brother for a trip to the fair. He could - but only just. He hobbled and stumbled around the attractions, barely summoning the energy for a candy floss, let alone a ride on the bumper cars.

"I think we need to take him to hospital," I said.

"Seriously?" my wife replied.

"You don't think he's putting it on?"

"Not this, time, no."

We both felt very guilty for not only ignoring, but scoffing at, his plight for so long.

And I eventually cracked.

"I'm taking him to hospital," I said.

"No, no, there'll be no need for that," the mother-in-law stepped in.

"There's a doctor in the next village. Let's see what she has to say."

I bundled the boy into the car, drove him through the countryside and landed at the doorstep of Dr Reassuring.

She checked out my boy's foot, diagnosed bruising on his metatarsal.

She suggested painkillers and a good rest and then concluded this: "I can't believe he's not making more of a fuss. He's in a lot of pain. He's obviously a very brave boy."

Brave? Child 2? Just when I thought I knew my son inside out, he leaves me gobsmacked. I won't doubt you again, son.


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