What's In A Sigh?

A few years ago I took one of my daughters to the doctor. I was concerned that she was having difficulty breathing. She would take long, ragged breaths and then slowly let them out. It happened so frequently that I thought maybe she had asthma.

The doctor listened to her breathing, asked her some questions and then asked me to step out in the hall with him. "There's nothing wrong with her lungs. I believe what we have here is sadness and stress. We often hear of sighing with relief. Just as often, sighing is a sign of sadness, stress and loneliness."

I was blown away. She was only in the 4th grade. We weren't dealing with any extraordinary family issues. She was a good student. Her teacher loved her. What could be so bad that my sweet daughter was actually suffering this physical symptom? I became a detective, determined to find out.

When my sleuthing was completed, I'd learned a lot about my little girl. I'd learned that she sat on the curb at recess and watched other kids play. I learned that she was afraid to invite herself to do things with others, so if they didn't invite her, she spent recess alone. I learned that she was so lonely at school that she thought of little else when she was at home.

She'd never told me these things before. When I'd asked how school was, she'd say it was fine and then tell me about her teacher or a good score on a paper. When I'd asked who her friends were, she'd named a couple of girls in our neighborhood, because she was embarrassed to admit she didn't have any real friends.

I was heartbroken. What kind of mother can't intuit this kind of pain in her daughter? How had I spent so much time with her and not known of her suffering? I went to work immediately. Working with her teacher, we helped her find a good friend. And the sighing stopped.

At times I've been guilty of minimizing the struggles of our children. I think, lucky them, they don't have to pay bills. They don't have to work a crummy job. They don't have to deal with demanding church callings or mortgages or a bad economy. Their lives are so easy.

Not so. In their limited experience, the social struggles, the homework, the sometimes not-so-nice teachers and even their parents' stresses weigh on them, causing them to worry, to stress and sometimes to sigh. Sighing means something. I watch for it now and when I see it, I try to help my kids cope and resolve the problem.


Lisa said...

{sigh} oh man. this still breaks my heart. it was a physical manifestation of an emotional issue. because of this, i watch for any little thing in my kids that could be along those same lines. life is so hard for our kids...and watching our kids suffer isn't a picnic either. love you!

Mindy said...

This makes me wonder how many things I miss about my kids' struggles. What great detective work, and what a loving, caring, mom you are. Thanks for posting!

Leslie said...

i still remember when you told me this on the phone. i think i was at work. i remember you started crying and i starting crying. once you told me, i couldn't think of anything else. it broke my heart. it breaks my heart every time i hear of any of my nieces and nephews struggling with a lack of great friends. i know how that feels and good friends who are loyal are so priceless.

i am grateful for good friends and especially family who are also brilliant friends.

of course, i always hope that aaron jr never has to struggle with this problem, but you just never know... he might.

alison said...

I am so glad that you brought this issue to light. I will be more aware now to try better to discover any type of struggle my kids may be dealing with. I hate to think of how many others that I have missed.
My mom was aware enough,and noticed that my son was not acting like his normal self. She had to idea to have a little Nana chat with my son. Come to find out that he had been dealing with ALOT. To personal to discuss, but I will forever be in debt to my mom for having that intuition and knowing what questions to ask. I have learned a lot from that experience, and hope that with each turn in life, I will be able to be more in tune with my kids. I know that as parents we can never be perfect, but it helps to read of others experiences and try to do better.

Thank you Karey, for sharing your experience with me. It reminded me how important it is to slow down and connect with my kids one on one and really, really listen to them.

Amy said...

One of mine is having some of these moments. I noticed it last night and then JUST talked to Jon about it and what we can do to help. Then I logged onto fb and saw this post! It kills me to know she's struggling. But it's reassuring to know Jon and I can help her. Thanks for sharing your experience with us Karey!

Scott / Lori said...

You know as time goes by I think I am realizing the same things you did. Growing up is so very hard. It's amazing we make it at all. Thanks for the reminder to be watchful of our children.

Kristi said...

How horribly sad. I'm glad that you dug a little deeper to figure out what was causing such heart ache.