Thursday, February 5, 2009

Gum: To Chew Or Not To Chew

Isn't it interesting that the rules our parents imposed on us as kids seemed so darn unfair, and yet seem so reasonable now that we ourselves are parents? Case in point: gum. I wasn't allowed to chew gum as a child. I was always infuriated at this rule, and vowed that my child could chew gum no matter what! Now that Laura is here, and could potentially choke on that unassuming piece of gum, I'm sure you can guess that I changed my mind.

As you may or may not know, choking is essentially my biggest fear in children. This is why: When my youngest brother was little, about 1 or a little older, I was 14 or 15 and was in charge of him. He managed to find a leaf, and shoved that yummy leaf straight into his mouth. Then he proceeded to choke on it. It was one of the worst moments of my life. I thought he was going to die in my arms. You can't really do the Heimlich maneuver on a baby choking on a leaf, so the only thing I could do was open his mouth, stick my hand in, fish around for it, and finally, finally, pull it out. In retrospect, I'm sure he was not actually choking, because he was making noise, but still, it was horrible. I felt so powerless, so scared, so unsure of what to do.

Flash-forward to Laura's arrival. I was constantly obsessed with keeping her safe from choking. As she got older and started eating, she was always gagging and choking on her food (turns out her tonsils were huge and she couldn't swallow properly, but that problem is now solved!) So that only increased my fear of choking. And now here I am, terrified of choking, with a 4 year old who wants nothing more than to chew a piece of gum. And I absolutely will not let her.

This is a hard rule to enforce, since we chew a lot of gum in our house (the Army Man in particular). I hate having a "do as I say, not as I do" type of rule. I would always tell Laura that she had to wait until she was older, and she finally wore me down enough that I agreed to age 5 as the magic gum chewing age. On the way to school this morning, she reminded me, as she often does, that "when I am a big 5 year old I can chew gum!" Sigh. I can't go back on my word, yet I'm still not ready for her to chew gum.

But I'm starting to think that maybe she won't be ready then either. When we were at the dentist a few weeks ago for her conscious sedation, they offered her a piece of gum to chew after she had to swallow the medicine (to get the bad taste out, I assume). She wasn't allowed to drink water and I felt so bad for her, so I told her she was allowed to chew this piece of gum, that it was okay. I unwrapped it and handed it to her (it was a tiny piece of Trident) and she looked at it, turned it over a few times, and handed it back to me, saying "no thanks". I told her again that she could have it, it was fine with me, just chew on it and don't swallow it. Again she said she didn't want it, and snuggled a little deeper into my arms.

I wish I knew why she refused the gum. Did she just not want it? Have I pushed my fear of choking onto her? Did she think it was a test or something? Was she trying to make me happy? I guess I'll never know, but I have to admit, I'm glad she didn't take it. I'm not ready yet to see her be "big" enough to chew gum. As weird as it sounds, I feel like she won't be my little girl anymore. She'll be a big kid, and I'm just not ready for that yet.


Martha said...

I'm sorry that you are worried about choking, I hope your daughter will tell you her thoughts on this.

Michelle said...

Oh no....not the gum...Thank goodness we haven't breeched the subject yet. I'm sure it isn't far off.