So Matthew has these breath holding spells where he gets upset, holds his breath, and faints, right? You all know about these. He has had them since he was seven months old, it is a medical anomoly that has been researched in scientific studies, and I deal with it all the time. My greatest worry at this point in time is that he will fall and hurt his brain...he HAS fallen before, a couple of times between the toilet and the wall, once from our front step into the garden, and several times onto the floor or the pavement outside our house. Considering he faints every two weeks or so, and that when he first came he fainted 8 or 9 times A DAY, it is bound to happen sometime. IF I can get to him in time, I lay him down so that he doesn't fall, and so that the pressure on his Vagus Nerve is lessened which reduces the likelihood that he will pass out. If I am too far away I usually yell at him to lie down. If I say it enough times, it will get through to him despite his overwhelmed state, and he will usually lie down in time. Otherwise, CLONK! He's hit the floor.
Now, I know that other people are not as familiar with this condition, and almost no one has read the medical research on it, so I should be patient and understanding, but I get tired of explaining sometimes. The pet peeve part of this for me is people asking, "Does he do it on purpose?" or "Is he trying to manipulate you?" or "Is he just trying to get his own way?" or, my favourite "You can't let him get away with that, you know!" Like what am I supposed to do, spank him for fainting? That's rediculous. I DO occasionally get frustrated with him when he faints but that's because I feel like I can't control this very basic life function in him and it makes me panic. But I don't punish him for it.
The thing is, this is a documented medical condition and, though I didn't need the research to tell me what I knew intuitively, it is NOT VOLUNTARY. He gets overwhelmed and his inability to cope with a situation affects his ability to breath, and THAT stimulates his Vagus Nerve, which drops heart rate and blood pressure and causes the fainting. He is not trying to manipulate me, get his way, or misbehave. My intuitive feeling about it after having watched him faint many, many, MANY times, is that fainting is as overwhelming and scary for him as it is for me. Actually, more so. Hence, he does not do it on purpose. Plus, watching him do it and knowing him as well as I do, I know he is not choosing it.
An interesting addendum to this is that he never faints for anyone else but Brent or me. He has never fainted at daycare. He has never fainted for any of his grandparents (though my mom has seen it at my house, and Brent's mom saw it for the first time at the wedding in Prince George, but for those occasions I was there). He has never fainted in Sunday School. He has never fainted while being babysat by our teenage sitter or my friends. Weird, eh?
I know that kids will often 'act out' more with their parents than with anyone else because they feel emotionally safer with their parents than with anyone else. But this is not acting out. Now, he only does the breath holding thing when tired and/or hungry, AND is feeling an overwhelming sense of injustice, or is in quite a bit of pain (especially to his head). Does this mean he gets overwhelmed with us, his parents, because he is usually with us when he is tired and/or hungry, etc? Is it simply the amount of time he spends with us? Does he only allow himself to get very emotional when he feels particularly safe? That one rings true for me, but is interesting in light of the NOT VOLUNTARY claim I made earlier. Aren't we humans funny creatures?