June 30, 2013

The Sympathy Gene

"Honey, talk to the hand . . ."
Is there a sympathy gene? If so, I think I may be missing it. I also think my daughter may have inherited the lack of a sympathy gene from me.

Last week, I got up too quickly from my desk and banged my knee on the edge of the desk. And not just any old bang, but the father, son and holy spirit of all bangs! The dead centre of my patella struck the sharp corner at full speed. I found myself sprawled on the floor clutching my knee with tears in my eyes and trying to breathe deeply in and out through the pain. I went straight into calm birth mode but without the, y'know, HIDEOUSLY PAINFUL ACT OF GIVING BIRTH.

Francesca, who had observed the whole thing, had perched herself on the chair I had so recently and dramatically vacated. As a little involuntary sob escaped my lips she peered down imperiously at me from on high and said "Well don't cry about it. Just get up mummy. You're fine."


So here's the thing. I make a really concerted effort to show sympathy when my children hurt themselves. I hug them, say things like "Ooooh, that must have hurt darling" or "Naughty chair/step/table/corner", and distract them with teddies, stickers, television, food or whatever comes to hand. (Yeah, yeah, food as comfort. Sosueme)

But my poor beleaguered husband is a different matter. Let's just say I am sympathetic to a point. The point being just shy of 'man cold' accusations, and a damn long way from "Oh you poor darling. Let me give you a massage, then get into bed and I'll make you some chicken soup from scratch."

I may even have uttered the words "Well don't cry about it. Just get up. You're fine" under my breath as John battled some awful lurgy. A certain toddler, her sharp ears unsullied by Bruce Springsteen concerts, blue light discos and Like A Prayer at MAXIMUM VOLUME on the Walkman, appears to have stored those phrases for later use.

As I hobbled to my feet under the disinterested gaze of my daughter, my tears turned into gobsmacked laughter and as I looked at her I thought, good grief, she's a mini-me. And like me, she reserves her sympathy for her children. Pink Teddy, Tiger, Baby and all her other imaginatively named 'children' receive warm cuddles and "Don't worry, I love you's" from her every day (despite the fact that most of their injuries are inadvertently inflicted on them by their loving mother). Her sister's dog was sung Oh Darling by the Beatles on rotation by way of a lullaby last month. The dog!

The next day, Francesca accidentally knocked my freshly made, unsipped, much anticipated smoothie onto the kitchen floor. With the smoothie still all over the floor, I quickly grabbed my phone and asked her to repeat what she said:

By now of course it was a bit of a joke, but please note the steely gaze beneath the cute exterior when I ask her to repeat what she said. If her handwriting is crappy too, she's going to make a hellava doctor.*

* No offence to doctors, most of whom are brilliant, warm, engaging people, but we've all had the doctor with the unaccountably shite bedside manner, yes? I'm talking to you, unknown doctor, who after inspecting my friend's ankle x-rays insisted she walk through the hospital with a huffy "it's not broken!" It was later discovered she had severe ligament damage. She was in a lot of pain. She was also sitting in a wheelchair, which I could have wheeled her in. Naughty doctor.

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