The pain hit the other day—suddenly, sharply—on my right side. It was mid-afternoon and I was home alone. I lay down on the living room floor and gripped my belly. As the next minute passed, and the pain worsened, my mind began to churn…
Am I dying?
Should I call an ambulance?
What should I do?
Of course, I didn’t want to overreact, but I also didn’t want to underestimate the problem. How could I judge how serious this was?
So I called my wife. Or I should say, I tried calling her, but I ended up just screaming at my cell phone.
Right out the window
Because I run a blog and a forum, I might seem to be savvy, at least to some extent, with modern technology. But the truth is, this all goes right out the window when it comes to cell phones.
I know I’ll sound like a dinosaur when I say this, but I have no interest in cell phones and I use mine very rarely. I write a lot of email on my desktop computer, but I’ve never in my life sent a text message. And, unfortunately for me, I had just gotten a new cell phone (because the old one—a very old one—had finally conked out), and I still hadn’t figured out how to use it.
So there I was, writhing on the living room floor, unable to call my wife, or anyone else for that matter. Of course, I could have crawled over to our home phone, but I was too busy crazily punching buttons and shrieking in frustration.
Staggering down the street
Maybe, in a way, I should be grateful to my cell phone because all that mad exertion seemed to help ease the pain. My side still hurt horribly, but I got to my feet, put on my shoes, and staggered out the door to our neighborhood doctor.
The doctor, though, took one look at me and told me to continue clumping down the street to another doctor—she didn’t have the proper equipment to perform the needed tests. So, zombie-like, I shuffled and groaned my way to the next clinic, around 10 minutes on foot.
Once the tests were completed, the diagnosis was still uncertain, but the doctor thought it was probably a kidney stone. Years ago, back in San Francisco, I had had a kidney stone on my left side and wound up in the emergency room in excruciating pain. I suppose I should have put two and two together, but it was my right side this time and the sensation was somehow different.
In any event, he had me lie down for an hour with an intravenous drip (which I stared at—drip-drip-drip—for what seemed like days) then sent me home with some medication. And by the next morning, I was feeling almost fine again.
A few days later, I went to the health center in town for a checkup and the results showed no particular problems…well, except for the fact that I’m shrinking. I now seem to be several millimeters shorter than I was last year. (And I don’t have that much height to spare. )
An important message
The other upshot of this incident is an important message for us all:
Take care of yourself. Listen to what your body is telling you. Yes, raising bilingual children—along with everything else in our lives—demands persistent effort, but the foundation for this effort is our own good physical and mental well-being. If we’re not healthy, not only will we be less effective at raising bilingual kids (and everything else), we likely won’t be very happy, either. (Believe me, I didn’t feel very happy squirming and moaning there on the floor.)
This means we need a reasonable amount of regular downtime to relax and recharge our energy. If we don’t adequately do this, well, our bodies may finally force us to take that downtime by becoming ill. It’s wiser, naturally, to build that time into our lives so we can avoid this situation.
My own recent health scare shows that I need to do a better job of this myself. It’s a challenge, frankly, because my natural tempo is high, and I’m often focused on a long list of tasks each day (half of which don’t get done)…but I’m now trying to make this a higher priority.
Toward that end, I’m making a more conscious effort to get out of the house, and away from this computer, whether it’s playing in the park with my kids or taking little trips on the weekend. In fact, we took a long, lovely hike the other day at a beautiful gorge called Sandankyo, about 90 minutes by car from Hiroshima. It was a perfect chance to relax and recharge (while still providing that necessary exposure to the minority language—Oh, no! I can’t stop!), and we’re already planning another little trip for December.
Here are a few sights from our hike at Sandankyo…
The very center of success
Because our own well-being underpins every aspect of our lives, it could be said that the idea of taking proper care of our physical and mental health is at the very center of our success at raising bilingual kids. So I encourage us all to create a healthful balance of downtime by regularly disconnecting from our work routines and digital habits to play and dance, to hike and breathe. And when your body might be sending you a message, through some type of ailment, listen to it closely and take suitable steps to restore your health and keep yourself well. I know all this is easier said than done, but when you suddenly lose your good health—as I did the other day—you realize, so clearly, how profoundly precious it is.
Take a peek at another recent trip we took to an old silver mine!
Make History. Raise a Bilingual Child.
And here’s another health scare I once faced! (It’s a true story!)
I’m glad you are feeling better! I’ve heard kidney stone pain is excruciating—worse than childbirth, people say! Your hike looks so restorative. Getting outside, no matter what the weather, is a great way to restore mental and physical health. I wish I could blog more often, but because I homeschool my children, I choose to forego some sleep in order to write. The nights when I don’t blog are the nights I’m trying to restore health through sleep. But sleep makes me a much more patient mama. I hope you can maintain your slightly slower pace!
Michele, thanks for your kind thoughts! Yes, we definitely need sufficient sleep, too—another thing I’m trying to monitor. Because I tend to wake up rather early (generally before 5 a.m.), my kids and I now have roughly the same bedtime!
Even if you can’t properly get out – take regular 10 minute breaks from the computer screen. Have a stretch and stay hydrated! This will work wonders for anyone who spends long hours at the computer. Thanks for all your posts. I am trying to incorporate your advice as much as possible. My daughter is now 14 months and I speak English (mostly) while my husband speaks Swedish. She is starting daycare this week where it will be only Swedish! Hoping it goes well!
Melissa, thank you for the helpful advice—I’ll do my best to get out of this chair more regularly!
I send best wishes for your bilingual journey! Just keep at it, day by day, with your strong support for the minority language.
I hope this site can continue to be helpful for your efforts. You’re also warmly invited to join me and many more “keepers” of bilingual kids at my forum, The Bilingual Zoo!
Hello Adam, I am glad to read that you are well now.
Your message rings so many bells. I am a mother of 2 trilingual toddlers and I work from home. Since they only go to daycare 2 days a week I work crazy hours every night. I cannot remember the last evening I had off. I am exhausted. I know it but I am always buried under lots of work. When I am with my children I do not answer work emails or phones calls unless there is a deadline really close. I want to be with them as much as I can. They are very active and like all multilingual kids very clever (and I am saying this as an objective mother very proud of her children 😉 ). They do require a lot of stimulation and they are very inquisitive. I love it but it wears me out.
I am even thinking of scheduling time off in my calendar!
Filipa, thank you. I think it’s true that your situation will likely improve as the children get a bit older and a bit more independent. However, it does sound very challenging and very tiring, so I wonder if it’s sustainable in this form until then. Have you pondered further options for care, maybe even options that could provide the minority language exposure you seek, like a regular babysitter? As I realized sharply, without our good health, we can’t be very effective in any area of our lives, whether with our kids or with work, so I would encourage you to think creatively and resourcefully about how you might be able to reshape these circumstances in healthful ways.