Cellphone parenting
Making a medical decision by phone may not have been my finest hour, admits a mom of three.
My youngest daughter Grace, 12, inherited many wonderful things from her late father. Her mathematical ability, her tenacity, and sadly, a tendency to eczema (we don’t do allergies in my family).

She also has a stoic nature and that she did inherit from me. When the two collided recently it was a bit of a disaster really. Her eczema flared up and she didn’t tell me how bad it was.

Being my unobservant self I didn’t pick up on how bad it was, which is a sad reflection on how self-absorbed I have been recently and the misplaced vanity that refuses to admit that I need to get bifocals.

By the time she showed me, she had a bad infection in swathes of eczema all over her body. So I made an appointment for her to see our doctor, who declared it infected with a bug of some type or the other and put her on antibiotics, tons of cream and expensive soap that isn’t really soap.

That night she crawled into bed with me, something she never does, and I stroked her rather feverish body.

The next morning - I am ashamed to say - I left her at home. I am too much of a wuss to even understand what family leave days mean or whether I am entitled to them. Plus I have always applied the stern Protestant work ethic that me having children is not actually my employer’s problem.

‘Mom, it’s worse’

When she phoned me to tell me that more patches were appearing and they were more pus-filled, I felt a mixture of panic, guilt and tension.

I had things to do, meetings to go to and now an ailing, scared child (at this point you can all chip in on the comment section and tell me I am a very bad mother, but do leave your numbers so that I can call you if I need help in future).

Then a brilliant idea struck. ‘Darling,’ I said, ‘won’t you take close-up pictures of the really bad bits and SMS them to me.’ So she did and I had a fit.

This was epic infection. I phoned the doctor and we decided that she probably needed to see a specialist. So I moved lunch break up and picked up tearful little girl with scarf wrapped around her face and rushed off to hospital.

The specialist was sweet and kind and said she needed to be admitted and go on intravenous antibiotics and have many potions rubbed on her at regular intervals.

The hospital stay of 2 nights was a breeze really, Grace quite liked being there and the drugs kicked in and she started to improve.

She got better.

But did I?

What kind of mother asks a 12-year-old to SMS pictures of something that is causing her pain? Perhaps a mother who is trapped in old ways of thinking about work and family and what is really important.

I felt guilty about putting children before work and I felt guilty about not putting my child first. And, I found it weird that I had reached a point in my life where a cellphone camera could be called on to replace the loving direct gaze of a mother. In a way technology saved the day, in another way it reminded me that I had failed on all levels.

And the thing that keeps sticking in my mind is not the gory pictures I have kept on my phone, but the SMS message that read, ‘Mum what if the doctor can’t fix me?’ That plea will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Have electronic devices made parenting easier or just more complicated?

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