We covet our children’s trust. Young children follow our lead with particular eagerness. However, their trust has limits. Instinct and a nascent capacity for reason which depends more on imagination than knowledge occasionally override the comforting influence of Mom and Dad.
Doctor visits prove especially difficult with my four year old. No child greatly enjoys being poked and prodded by a stranger in a weird setting with scary-looking implements. Even so, my son’s response to doctors lands on the extreme end of the spectrum, reacting to an ear exam in much the way I might to waterboarding.
A recent illness proved trying for all parties concerned. Noting an aggressive infection in both ears, the doctor prescribed an external and internal antibiotic. For ten days, we had to administer ear drops morning, noon, and night, on top of an oral suspension. For ten days, we had to wrestle our son to the ground and struggle against his full might to force the medication upon him. Each episode was torturous for him and us. For him, because he may not have understood what was going on and did not consent regardless. For us, because we could offer little comfort aside from the assurance that the deed was for his own good and would be over soon.
In such moments, I wish I could meld my mind to his and upload my knowledge and experience. I wish I could convey now the wherewithal which will someday enable him to endure life’s medication. Of course, if I could do that, my job as parent would be done.
Unable to flash our knowledge to our children’s minds, we mete it out over time, drilling through repetition past layers of doubt, pride, and rebellion. Until we succeed, until our children reach a point beyond which they can effectively care for themselves, we act as custodian.