I’ve always been very open with my kids about the fact that I take medicine. They see me take my morning dose every day – usually before I’ve poured their milk but after I’ve picked up the Duplo bricks that have been strewn across the floor and are inconspicuously yet hazardously lying in wait for me to trip over them – and then intermittently throughout the day, if they are with me when I take one of my three other daily doses of Sinemet. But whilst I don’t hide the fact that I take it from them, I’ve never explained why. My son turned four in January and my daughter was two last November. They’re still very young. I wanted them to be old enough to ask me themselves and to hopefully understand my response.
This morning, this happened:
“Mummy, why do you have to take medicine?”
I have to admit that I handled the situation pretty well, all things considered. ‘All things’ being: a) not knowing when the question would be randomly asked; b) not knowing how the hell I would answer the question, especially as I would be completely on the spot.
It came at a good time, actually, because my son has been learning about the brain at nursery. I asked him what the brain does, and, after he’d given me his explanation, I told him that the brain also helps us to move our body parts by telling them what to do. For example, if he wanted to kick a ball, whilst he would just go ahead and kick the ball, it was actually his brain telling his leg/foot to do it.
Now, I’ll admit that the fact he was pretending to be Spiderman (spinning imaginary webs and eating breakfast cereal, as you do) was somewhat of a slight distraction, but it was a now or never moment, so I persevered.
I went on to explain that the part of mummy’s brain that sends the messages to move her arms and legs doesn’t work quite as well as everyone else’s, so I need to take medicine to help it work better. He seemed quite satisfied with this response, though when I asked him to relay my explanation, his response was that he couldn’t do ‘all that talking’. Not quite the response I was hoping for. Soon after, however, my husband came downstairs and offered us a chance to recapitulate.
“Charlie, why does mummy take medicine?”
“Because her brain doesn’t work.”
Kind of, I suppose.
At this point (having obviously corrected him by adding the word ‘properly’ to the end of his phrase), to avoid the potential scenario of him responding to a stranger asking ‘How are you today, young man?’ with ‘Mummy’s brain is broken’, I offered the supplementary information that mummy is in fact really quite clever, as well as (unrelated, I know) witty and attractive. Best get the important facts straight.
In seriousness, as my son gets older and both his ability and desire to know and understand develop and grow, he will continue to ask questions and I will openly answer him, and his sister. And I will use the word ‘Parkinson’s’ when I feel it’s necessary, but that time isn’t just yet.
For now, it’s a start, and not a bad one.