Parents need to become experts in learning how to wait without losing their minds. You need to expect long waits for everything from blood draws to procedures. Many parents find themselves getting nervous or angry while waiting for the doctors to appear during "rounds" each morning (when the attending physicians, residents, and interns move from room to room in a large group), then feeling let down when the visit lasts only a few moments. If you have questions to ask the doctors, write them down and tell the doctors when they come in that you would like a moment to discuss concerns or ask questions.
Our emergency bag had two sides. The most important was mine, because our hospital provided nothing for parents. I would pack deodorant (plus an extra set of clothes), a book I had not read (I survived on romance novels that I bought at the used bookstore, four for a dollar), decent lighting, a soft sweatshirt top and bottom to wear at night, paper and pen for taking notes, and clean socks. You might laugh, but I can deal with a scared, irritable kid for a L-O-N-G time as long as I have clean soft socks!
On the kids' side was an art kit with play dough, crayons, pencils, markers, scissors, glue, finger paints, clay, and reams of paper It also had plastic cutlery, and some cookie cutters for the play dough. I always brought the game, Trouble, since it's self-contained and the dice are enclosed in the little bubble. The pieces fit nicely in a plastic sandwich bag (or medication bag). The lifesaver was a Game Boy, games, and batteries. They provided hours of enjoyment. We also brought a Lego table with blocks. Since we are usually neutropenic, or in isolation for some mysterious complication, we bring our own games. Monopoly and Battleship are both long games that can take an entire morning to play.
We also made it a habit to always bring Matthew's special blanket on any clinic or ER visits. We left it in the car, or I snuck it in the trunk of the car. I cannot imagine trying to have him in the hospital without it. He does not carry it around, but it is always there at bedtime.
I also kept a box of stuff for me to do in case of incarceration at Club Children's. In particular, the box had pictures and photo albums. One nurse remarked how organized I was, but I pointed out that the album I was putting together was of Matthew's first birthday. He was almost 6 at the time.
It helps for both caregiver and child to come prepared for long waits each time you go to the hospital. Some progressive (and well-supported) institutions have VCRs, toys, and games available, but usually you need to bring your own things. Have your child pick out favorite card games, board games, computer games, drawing materials, and books. Remember to bring food and drinks. Some children will take comfort from having a favorite blanket or pillow along with them for a day in the clinic or during a lengthy hospitalization. If your child is scheduled for surgery, you can bring a good book, a model airplane project, a jigsaw puzzle that several people can work on together, your holiday card list, or a recipe file that needs revision.
You don't have to go too crazy. Make sure you watch the videos or eat the popcorn or flirt with the nurses or taunt the residents or leave notes for the cleaning lady or chat with the security guard or make coffee for all the parents or pretend you like puking or show the nurses how to hack into the hospital mainframe or paint your face with Butt Paste. Or all of the above, if you like. Just do something.
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Although nobody gets a parenting manual or bible in the delivery room, it is our duty as parents to try to make our kids as well rounded, happy and confident as possible. It is a lot easier to bring up great kids than it is to try and fix problems caused by bad parenting, when our kids have become adults. Our children are all individuals - they are not our property but people in their own right.