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Munchausen’s Syndrome

“Munchausen syndrome is a type of mental illness, in which a person repeatedly acts as if he or she has a physical or mental disorder when, in truth, they have caused the symptoms. People with Munchausen Syndrome act this way because of an inner need to be seen as ill or injured in order to get the sympathy and special attention given to people who are truly ill.”

– adapted from the Cleveland Clinic Website

I think Simon is afflicted. I’m sure it’s not that uncommon, but he has two new “games”. One is to fake fall, look up at me (or whomever else he wants attention from) with Bambi eyes, and say rather cheerfully, “I fall down.” Then I say “Oh, no little boy! Do you need help?” And he replies, even more cheerfully and usually with a series of head nods, “Yeah!” I then help him to his feet, give him a big hug, and watch on in amusement and he runs a few steps, twists his legs, and spirals down to the floor, always with a hand down to catch himself. One mustn’t run the risk of actually hurting oneself when pretending to hurt oneself.

His other game isn’t so funny, as it involves actual injury. We’ll call it plaintive for now. It’s summer, and Simon is trying all sorts of new activities. He’s running faster, trying to climb more things, and is generally outside much more than he was in the winter. He’s also wearing shorts and short-sleeve tees, so the physical evidence of these adventures is writ on his scabbed, bruised, mosquito-bitten arms and legs. Truth be told, he looks a mess.

Toddler obsessive-compulsive that he is, he notices all these little marks and they bother him. “I have a little scrap,” he’ll say, while pointing to the injury. (Not a typo, he pronounces it “scrap” not “scrape”.) Or, “I have a little scratch.” Or, “I have a little bruise.” Each sighting is as though the injury just happened and requires attention from us, usually in the form of a kiss.

Except for two days ago, when he pointed to his scraped knee and declared:

“I broke my knee. I need go see Dr. Kawen.”

Poor Doctor Newstadt. Simon never wanted to fake or exaggerate an injury to go see him. As well, I think that if over two months after his checkup Simon is still talking about Dr. [Karen] Abrams in such a favorable way, then we really should begin seeing her as our primary. Of course, then we are substituting one bad lesson (Going to the doctor is scary!) for another (Let’s fake being sick to go see the pretty, nice doctor!).  I’ll just go with the bad lesson that results in the least amount of screaming in the office.

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