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


  1. I have a friend who could use that prune juice advice, thanks! Know any good remedies for warts, other than the requirement for months of daily treatments? My 5-yr old daughter has several on her fingers that seem to be multiplying.

    Comment by Kevin B | June 13, 2005 | Reply

    • Colloidal silver is good to get rid of warts. Hypnotherapy worked for my son too.

      Comment by Marilyn | August 27, 2009 | Reply

  2. I’ve recently heard that dandylion “milk” will eliminate them with little or no scaring. Might be worth a try?

    Comment by Simon Peter | June 13, 2005 | Reply

  3. Ok, not giving her the prune juice is tantamount, in my very personal opinion, to child abuse. Poor little thing.

    My sister-in-law is nearly a Munchausen by proxy mother. She is convinced that her daughter has celiac disease, even though doctor after doctor after doctor has told her no, she doesn’t. While we were going through the diagnostic process for my son’s developmental difficulties, she actually told me to keep looking for a doctor who would “tell you what you want to hear”. Yeah, Ok.

    So she has her daughter on this horribly restrictive diet and the poor thing hates it. Here’s the rub: I’ve seen her father give her pizza, chicken wings, and cake, all with absolutely no digestive problems whatsoever. He just says, “Don’t tell your mother.”

    ARGH! Of course, he’s just as much to blame, as he won’t stand up to his wife. It drives me BATTY.

    Comment by Candace | June 13, 2005 | Reply

  4. “stymied”, this blog is very educational, so much so I might have to cancel my subscription to word of the day at πŸ™‚

    Simon p. How do you milk a dandylion?

    Comment by keldar | June 14, 2005 | Reply

  5. Kevin: my son gets them on his hands, too, and I have to admit the most effective way we’ve discovered is a quick trip to the doctor’s office to have them frozen off with liquid nitrogen on a swab. Apparently it burns like heck, but boy, does it work! Dandelion milk is probably much more comfortable, though…

    Simon: I’d never heard of dandelion milk as a cure for warts. Folk remedies are intriguing, no? I figure it would be worth a try – one of those “can’t hurt, might help” scenarios. How long does it take to work?

    Misfit: I agree, it is tantamount to abuse. The little mite suffered, entirely unnecessarily! And your poor niece. She suffers absence of things, rather than presence of pain, but also unnecessarily. So does her nice Auntie take her out for all sorts of forbidden (and nourishing) treats?? How old is she? In time, of course, she’ll be able to eat what she wants to eat, never mind her mother’s neurosis.

    Keldar: “Stymied” is pretty colloquial, and probably a little old-fashioned now. Something in one of your previous comments, and now this: I’m suspecting you’re not North American. Am I right?

    Speaking of words, I’m curious about your name. Is it simply your surname, or does it have some more arcane significance?

    Comment by Mary P. | June 14, 2005 | Reply

  6. Correct, I;m form the UK πŸ™‚

    Comment by keldar | June 15, 2005 | Reply

  7. Sorry, never finished reading. Keldar is a pseudonym I use online.

    The name goes back to some interactive gaming I did in my youth πŸ™‚

    Comment by Keldar | June 15, 2005 | Reply

  8. wow this made me sick…and not the poop part (I have bowel problems too) but just that the parents were so selfish that they didn’t want to make their poor child comfortable. You must have been sad to see her leave knowing she’d be constipated all through elementary.

    Comment by pluckymama | February 15, 2007 | Reply

  9. It was distressing, all right. Still kind of makes me ache thinking about it, even though it’s been years since I’ve seen the family.

    Comment by MaryP | February 15, 2007 | Reply

  10. A further comment on prune juice. I am on chemo for lymphoma, working very well but of course the usual chem constipation. I have raised amount of food fiber, take psyllium and drink water, but the regminen of 4 oz prune juice eveningtime seems to give complete relief.

    Why didn;t the cotor mention this? Probably too concerned with Neulasta at $4000 a dose, he never thought of something as cheap as a $3 large bottle pf prune juice. BIll

    Comment by Prof Harris | November 24, 2007 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: