Intimate Opportunities

No, not what you think.

I'm thinking about opportunities to connect and simply be with people, the ones that will make a difference years from now.

Here's a typical decision.

My d-i-l, an up and coming therapy doc, did something really wonderful. She's young and idealistic and she put herself on a registry that searches for people who agree to willingly go through dialysis to become stem cell donors. Plasma phoresis can be a brutal procedure. They stick a catheter in your vein for hours, perhaps in the neck. But there are types of leukemia that respond to healthy stem cells, and it's a rare opportunity to save a life. Her DNA made a match.

D-i-l went through dialysis for 6 hours, and days of hormonal preparation that made her sick and crazy (she felt a little off, she tells me). My son was with her the whole time.

It wasn't easy and it wasn't risk-free. Without the procedure, the person she matched (and she has no idea who this person is) had little to no chance of survival. We don't know if it worked, either.

So why do I mention this? Not to brag, although I'm incredibly proud of her and fall off my chair at the thought of these generous, wonderful, idealistic kids.

I mention it because healthy people her age (early 20's) are really independent. They'll tell you, I don't need you with me, and maybe they don't, but if you're not there when they need you, any procedure, even a minor procedure, can be a pretty lonely, empty, scary experience.

But the default for young people is often, "I don't need you, I'm cool." And sometimes they are, sometimes they're not.

If you offer therapy to a kid in college, it's likely the kid will say, "I don't need it." By the way, it's a GREAT time to get therapy, college, if you're lucky enough to have the opportunity to go to college.

It can be a real relief to parents when a kid says "I don't need it" when it comes to therapy And parents who are still on the fence about the actual benefits of therapy will say, "Okay, good."

You know what I say, right? Every one needs it, at least for a little while, at some point or perhaps several points in their lives, if only to deal with everyone else. So on that score, push the idea with your kid. Tell the kid to just go, try it.

Kids in their early twenties, even in their teens, maybe at any age, want to be independent and should be encouraged to be independent. But almost all of us have one foot in childhood, even if it's an unconscious foot.

That piece of us that's in childhood wants company. It's a healthy, social piece, assuming it's not a whiny, overly dependent personality disorder (we'll get to those another day).

I remember once telling my mother I'd stay overnight with her when she was in the hospital. She said, "No way, I don't need it," but she thanked me for it. I'm not patting myself on the back. I feel I'd have been a snail not to have stayed. It's not a question of being a good person. It's a question of quality time and being there for someone.

But back to young adults. When your kid is going through a medical procedure and tells you, "I can handle it alone; you don't have to be there with me," don't buy it. Be sure that SOMEONE in the family or perhaps a close friend is there. It doesn't have to be you, but someone.

If it is you, it's an opportunity. It's one of those snapshot memories you two won't ever forget. Remember the time. . .?


(As I was writing this I ditched the computer to get a cup of coffee and caught an NPR story on daughters pulling away from mothers during adolescence, and I thought how that ties into this, how it's not so easy to create these memories when your kid is itching for separation. So for sure, we'll have to talk more on that another time.)

But working people like me feel we've missed too many opportunities for intimacy with our kids. ANY opportunity you have to be alone with your kid that gets you out of the everyday hum drum is something to really consider seriously, if they'll let.

Sometimes you have to construct the opportunities, create them, take a kid on vacation overnight even, alone with you, perhaps. The time together doesn't have to be a medical procedure. Any time will do. Family vacations are fine, but they're also potentially really stressful.

Going fishing works, or to a spa maybe even. It can be hard to find a good hook.

In my family, going out and buying a new marine fish made for intimate snapshot memories. Picking it out, bringing it home. You bring fish home in plastic bags. Plastic bags can break.

These kinds of memories go in the What We Won't Ever Forget Book of Life.

You could be writing it right now maybe, at least working on the intro.

Copyright 2007, therapydoc


Emy L. Nosti said…
Have you been spying on me? My parents are near MKE but my docs are in Madison, so I've done just about everything alone except for the surgery. Which hasn't bothered me in the least (actually I prefer it as sometimes I don't get a word in edgewise to my docs).

Except in March, I did a radiation treatment. All I had to do was pop a pill and avoid people for a few days. No problem, or so I thought. An intern ordered the wrong treatment because, I kid you not, he didn't know the FedEx schedule for the pill, when I objected and nuc med called my doc to double check, unbeknownst to me they assigned the intern to that task and he asked the wrong questions and relayed the wrong msg again, insisting his order was right, and then 5 or 6 different docs tried to intimidate me into a treatment that would cause me a lot of unecessary hell (aka extreme hypothyroidism+no iodine diet...and it WAS intimidation, they all stood over me in the tiny room in their white coats and treated me like I was crazy to refuse treatment).

In other words, I needed someone on my team. I had started to doubt myself, couldn't get hold of any family, and started having a meltdown of sorts. Finally they pulled dad out of a meeting and he told me what I already knew to do but needed to hear anyway: refuse until hearing directly from my endocrinologist (I hesitated before that point because I thought I was talking to the doc who actually called her [and he was providing incorrect made-up answers to my concerns], thought maybe I really did misunderstand, and didn't want to pull my endocrinologist out of an appt for a third time that day).

I don't think I'll change my MO, but I will make sure someone'll at least be available for the important procedures if I do run into a problem. I don't trust my judgement while I'm busy slobbering over myself.

Well, brevity is apparently not my forte; I thought I could summarize that better, but I haven't even mentioned the locum tenens doc who was so unqualified for his duties that he misinformed me that I could eat prior to the procedure. Ugh! (Who me, still angry?)
therapydoc said…
E, that's pretty horrible. No more tough guy stuff, please.
Emy L. Nosti said…
Eh, no more trusting doctors, that's what I say. (See, told you I wasn't still bitter.)

Really, I'll be keen on having them around when they figure out that it's my appt and my doc and my health, not theirs. If I need to be stubbornly independent to receive care that makes ME comfortable, so be it. Maybe you should add that caveat: don't smother or monopolize or inappropriately chime in if your kid does invite you. It will ensure future exclusions.
Guilty Secret said…
I loved this... two weeks ago I went for a bike ride with my mum and two of my bothers and I remember thinking at the time: this one is definitely going in my What We Won't Ever Forget Book of Life. (Although, I didn't have a name for it then...)
Sooo important!
Thanks. By the way, I linked you and I'd love a link back when you get the chance...
therapydoc said…
SO much to say on your last comment, but not now. I imagine you've tried to train them.
therapydoc said…
The SO much to say was for Emy.
GUILTY, thanks. Done.
Emy L. Nosti said…
Heh, let me guess...we need therapy, right? I know the C word could scare just about any parent out of their wits and I sympathize, but they're apparently there to allay their fears, not to support me. I've already answered 90-100% of the Qs they ask (in a non-technical way that they understand) other words, they're wasting the time I have with my doc to discuss unanswered Qs. Still, going it alone for the smaller stuff doesn't bother me in the least. Anyway, sorry, I'll shut up no way do I mean to be dismissive of what you said as it sounds like generally good advice.

Oh, wanted to say, your d-i-l is amazingly selfless and brave. I used to donate blood before my diagnosis, but as even tiny needles scare the crap out of me, plasma phoresis sounds like something I'd only do for kith or kin. Hard to imagine going through that and not even know if it worked...btw, why are they being so secretive? HIPAA?
therapydoc said…
That's just the way the registry works. Maybe the privacy act has something to do with it. Don't know.
Smooth said…
My friend's wife just had a biopsy done yesterday on her cervix and he's got to go to Europe, and he will be in Europe when her test results come in on Monday or Tuesday while she is alone in the states. She told him he should go. I intimated that he shouldn't and that he should postpne his trip; it was none of my business, but I wouldn't want to get the call by myself while my husband was in Europe, I would want him in the same room as me when that phone rang. It's sad that we feel compelled to do what our bosses want us to do but not what our wives really need us to do.
therapydoc said…
Maybe she is okay with it. There's no law, no one answer for anything. I throw this stuff out as food for thought. You're most definitely correct, however, that people shouldn't automatically say Aye, aye, sir. (Unless the sir's the mate).
Anonymous said…
One of the big reasons my marriage is on the rocks is that my husband has no understanding of the value of the kind of intimacy-building encounters you describe. He has also refused to be physically (let alone emotionally) present for things like our daughter's OP or a court date I had. He sees no value in it for himself, and can't understand why I take such stock in it. But you are so right, these kinds of encounters are opportunities, and passing them up has consequences, especially over time.
therapydoc said…
DEBBIE, All true, but you'd be surprised how much you can still get out of a marriage with a guy like him, assuming he/you aren't cheating on one another and inflicting intentional pain.

Commitment tends to be the key. What a person doesn't "get" at one stage of life, he often "gets" at another.
therapydoc said…
EVERYONE: I don't know why comments aren't working today on blogger. Be patient, okay? I'm sure the Help Function will work eventually. Thanks.
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Anonymous said…
d-i-l is incredibly selfless and brave. I donated blood even though im dead scared of needles i used to bawl but i wanted to do it so i did.

this really touched me "When your kid is going through a medical procedure and tells you, "I can handle it alone; you don't have to be there with me," don't buy it. Be sure that SOMEONE in the family or perhaps a close friend is there. It doesn't have to be you, but someone." i was temporarily paralyzed and my parents wouldnt go home so i told them to go get some sleep and go shower and rest and that i could handle it but to be honest i couldnt i crashed emotionally completely when no one was there... i couldnt walk i was completely dependant on others... it was just bout the worst thing ever.

Great read.
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