Mothers and sons

The little boy sat clinging to his mother, beating her chest to get her attention while she was trying to give me the details  of  his  medical  history.  At  20  months  he  had  chronic  discharge  from  his  ears  and  no  amount  of  antibiotics would clear it. He had many sets of grommets fitted, the one after the other, to no avail. His hair was coarse and sparse,  his  little  body  painfully  thin,  his  belly  enlarged  either  through  malnutrition  or  parasites.  His  actions  were repetitively either sucking his thumb, or wailing and beating his mother’s chest to demand her breast. She told me that she had not had a decent night’s rest since he was born. In a tired, mechanical way that mothers develop to deal  with  difficult  offspring,  she  held  him  to  quieten  him  down  and  unbuttoned  her  top  to  offer  him  a  withered breast. She looked at me with such confusion and despair in her eyes that I could virtually feel at that moment how close  she  was  to  breaking.  He  grabbed  the  breast  with  both  hands  and  angrily  demanding,  sucked  at  it  while putting up one hand to reach a wisp of her listless hair to twirl around his fingers to satisfy his tactile senses while she  just  gave  and  gave  and  hated  every  moment  of  his  selfish  intrusion  into  her  space.  He  commanded  and dominated, she passified and complied, terrified of his control of her. When I pointed this emotional co-dependency out to her, she looked startled but also very defensive … “But he is sick! You have no idea how high his fevers can go …. I don’t know what to do any more …. Most of the time I just sit with him and allow him to suck! He won’t eat, he won’t sleep in his own bed. None of my other children were ever like this. If I can just get his ears right, he will stop doing this, I am sure. Can you do anything to help? Have you ever treated this? My father is a doctor and will be very angry if he knew I had come to see you, but a friend of mine suggested I try you.”

The torrent of words kept on pouring out. She was desperate, that was plain to see. Yet, she had no confidence in any other healing method except  so-called modern medicine, and to her dismay it wasn’t curing her son’s illness. Only complete desperation could have driven to seek help from other sources.

The little boy took in every word his mother had said, looking at her moving mouth from where he was holding her drained breast in his mouth. When her attention had shifted away from him for too long, he started the wailing and squirming  from  scratch,  disrupting  her  flow  of  thoughts,  redirecting  her  energy  and  attention  back  to  him.  It fascinated  me  to  observe  her  control.  At  20  months  he  had  the  whole  family  at  his  beck  and  call  and  he was  not going to relinquish his power easily! The key to his recovery was to enable his mother to take back her position as his parent and to parent him more than mothering him.

Read more…