Feed on

Malaise or Ennui?

It’s a custom in our family that upon remaking the acquaintance of our pediatrician at Simon’s annual exam, we so enjoy our visit that we return one to two weeks later to continue the conversation.

Two years ago that conversation was about anxiety. Last year it was to determine whether or not Simon had an ear infection. And this year we returned to Dr. Newstadt’s offices to discuss… Ennui? General malaise? I wasn’t sure, but Simon hasn’t been right since he fell ill on the 6th, not really right anyway. We get flashes of right, like a super-animated swim lesson, an excited game of pickle-ball with his grandma, a string of board games with his Bubbie, or a happy trip to the ice cream parlor.

Unfortunately, these flashes punctuate a period of generalized off-ness. He’s tired a lot, he’s complaining of headaches, tired legs, and stomach aches, and he’s experienced a dramatic diminishment in coping skills. The report from school has been that Simon falls apart most days at around 11:30. If he makes it to lunch, he falls apart soon after. Feelings are getting hurt on the play-ground, and loud noises are once again bringing him to tears. He’s lost some of his sparkle. Last Saturday at basketball he seemed sluggish the entire game, never ran when possession changed, and actually asked the coach if he could come out and rest. Twice.

It’s hard to know what to do when the symptoms are vague and inconsistent. I have found myself see-sawing like mad. Maybe he’s just tired. Maybe he needs a nap. Maybe he didn’t eat enough breakfast. Maybe the class was unusually loud today. Maybe they were misbehaving and it was the poor behavior that was upsetting Simon. Maybe he’s a hypochondriac and we need to push him to buck up. Oh look! Now he’s fine. Now he’s having fun. There are those dimples! Maybe it’s all over with.

Maybe. Maybe not. I can’t tell. That’s when, if you are lucky, the village comes in and makes up your mind for you. This Thursday, Simon’s teachers and the school director each pulled me aside for a chat. Ms. Diana suggested a trip to the doctor to investigate an ailment like mono. “Have them do the special blood-work,” she suggested in her Russian-German accented English. “You know, just to see if there’s something wrong. And if it’s something about school, please tell me. I want to help him.” Diana is not the touchy-feely type, so her palpable concern was both deeply touching (she really cares!) and deeply worrying (something must be really wrong).

That was at morning drop-off. At pick-up, I was met at the door by Ms. Andrea. I knew I was about to get a bad report even before she opened her mouth. I could tell by the sympathetic look on her face and the tilt of her head.

“Rough day, Mama. He had a hard time at circle time with the noise, he cried during science when it was loud, and he said he couldn’t eat lunch because the room was too noisy for him. He’s still listening and learning, but something is wrong. I think it’s time to see a doctor.”

As she delivered the news, Simon stood staring at me with a wan complexion and dull eyes. He looked pathetic.

I went home, booked the appointment for Friday, and cursed myself for canceling the appointment I had previously made for that day after a particularly good stretch of hours. Then I got out my old books on sensitive kids, difficult kids, and anxious kids and wondered if two years of progress and transformation was evaporating before my eyes. Then I looked at the evaluation form I am due to have Ms. Andrea fill out for Simon next week and, I am ashamed to admit, worried how Simon’s “off-ness” might affect his recommendation.

As you can see, Simon’s not the only one back-sliding over here.

If it was hard to book an appointment when the primary symptom was “not quite right,” being told to do so by three educators made it a heck of a lot easier. As it happens, we have the beginnings of an answer. Upon examination, Dr. Newstadt found a low-grade fever, swollen tonsils, and enlarged lymph nodes in the neck. Preliminary blood-work for strep and mono was negative, but we’re doing a culture to verify the lack of the former and will do more involved blood-work next week for the latter if he still seems off.

To be honest, the diagnosis hardly matters at this point. If Simon has viral tonsillitis, the Rx is rest, fluids, food, and time. For mono or something similar, it’s the same. Only bacterial strep would lead to a hasty recovery after being medicated. The main thing is, we understand why Simon has been dragging and not coping well. And I am once again reminded of the priceless value of having a group of professionals to nudge you along the correct parenting course when you are unsure of the way.

2 Responses to “Malaise or Ennui?”

  1. Amanda says:

    Poor Simon! Even if it is “only” tonsillitis, I had that on and off for 7 years until they FINALLY removed them, and it makes you feel lousy. Feel better, little guy!

  2. blg says:

    Just logging in to catch up and this was the first one I read.
    Can’t wait to read that he is back to his old self.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.