It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Prune Juice and Parental Validation

Alice suffers a bit from constipation, and so each day that she comes, I give her four or five ounces of prune juice. She generally drinks it right down, and it helps quite a bit. Alice’s parents are delighted: so simple, so effective!

This recalls to mind a child I cared for some while ago, who had, according to mother, suffered dreadfully with her bowels since birth. As a result, she often had fissures around her anus, was beginning to get hemmorhoids, and routinely was given suppositories to help her pass a movement. (Sorry to the squeamish among you, but these are the realities. The child was genuinely suffering) Nothing they did seemed to help, doctors had been consulted to no avail. The poor thing would probably suffer with it for life. Mom knew she didn’t drink enough – many young children don’t – and that perhaps she could eat more vegetables. Many young children could!

I decided to try the obvious, and bought a jar of prune juice. Half a cup the first day, then increased by an ounce each day. I discovered that if she was given 6 or 7 ounces in the morning, which was easily done, as she liked the stuff, she passed a perfectly normal movement mid-afternoon. Now, 6 or 7 ounces is a lot for a child that age; clearly she did not have standard-issue innards. How nice to know she could be helped so easily!

I told mom. She looked disgruntled. I hastened to assure her that this was in no way denying the reality of her daughter’s problem. Were I, as an adult, to regularly imbibe that much prune juice, I assured her, I’d be suffering the opposite problem! She admitted that her daughter hadn’t been complaining about BM’s lately. I encouraged her to try it at home.

They never did.

Every Monday, she’d come constipated. By Tuesday afternoon, with two days of prune juice inside her, she’d be flowing comfortably again. For weeks this went on, and nothing I could say could encourage either parent to try my very simple prescription. There were no grandparents to consult. I was stymied.

Let me emphasize that they were loving parents. They adored their little girl. She was likely to be the only one, and she was doted upon. However, she was also Special. She needed Special Care. She had a Special Problem.

I’ve seen this before, I’ll probably see it again: parents who get some sort of validation by having a child with special needs, whether behavioural, physical, or emotional. These parents don’t really want a solution, or, if there is a solution, they want it to be big and dramatic. Prune juice, I’m afraid, was far too mundane.

Poor little girl!

June 12, 2005 Posted by | controversy, parenting, parents, quirks and quirkiness | 11 Comments