The first was when, pregnant with my daughter, I mentioned to Simon’s doctor that I was contemplating an altered immunization plan. As she laid into me – basically accusing me of accusing her and all other doctors of organizing a conspiracy to give children autism – I dissolved. Partly, I think, because I really liked her. I really liked her, and so I asked the question I’d been nervous to ask – what do you think about delaying vaccinations – and got an angry lecture. The pieces I remember are:
After that I don’t remember anything other than my desperate need for a tissue.
“If you really think that all of us in the medical profession are part of some conspiracy, and that concerned parents like you are the only ones privy to the truth….”
I switched doctors. I also, by the way, went with the traditional immunization schedule because our crazy traveling does put our kids at a higher risk for many diseases at much younger ages. In our case, I believe the risk scale tips in this direction. However, the point is that though she was right, she was not the doctor for me.
I’ve been happy with the switch. My new doctor is patient and empathetic, and she always answers my questions in two ways: what she’s supposed to say as the doctor, and what she has done as a mother.
But, today, there was just not enough empathy to pull me through the horror.
Simon. Have I mentioned that he can be a bit fearful? Doctors are on the list. Usually, it ends up fine, but he is a remarkably healthy kid. He has never in his life had to go to the doctor for illness, so it’s been well over a year since his last appointment.
He was nervous. I was nervous because his nerves often lead to coping mechanisms that are less than pleasant.
It’s always the little things. The nurse asked him to take his shoes off so she could weigh him. Sy freaked. Screamed. Refused to take his shoes off, refused to stand on the purple footprints, screaming, refusing, screaming, refusing.
Finally, we got him on the thing and the nurse asked him to put down his toy airplane. This is where I start to move from embarrassed to frustrated. She insisted she couldn’t weigh him with the plane, which sent him into another screaming/refusing cycle. So, she picked him up and held him down on the baby scale while he screamed. I think it is worth pointing out that letting him hold a 4 ounce airplane wouldn’t have skewed the results as much as a thrashing boy being forcibly held onto a scale.
Here’s the thing: I understand that his behavior is unacceptable. I also understand that she has to do her job, and she doesn’t have all day. But I am this child’s mother, and I also believe that had I been given another minute, I could have gotten him through it. I also believe that her decision to force him on the scale has now put us past the point of no return – now his anxieties have been confirmed, and he will not settle down for the rest of the appointment.
So, I just grit my teeth and restrained him while she took his temp and measured him. This is when the tears just started to flow. I knew he wasn’t being hurt, but I was just upset that I couldn’t give him the time and attention to deal with his fears. Okay, I was also pretty pissed at Simon for being such a brat.
Oh, well, I decided. We will now be put in the exam room for the eternal wait. This long, wait, which normally makes me crazy, I will use to my advantage to calm him down. Only this time there is no long wait. The doctor and some sixteen-year-old intern waltz in right away, and Simon goes ballistic again.
At this point, I am an emotional wreck.
Doctor: I’ve never seen him like this.
Me: Well, sniff, yes, sniff sniff sob, we’re usually here for his sister, not him, snort, sniff.
Doctor: But still…
Me: It all started, sniff, snot dripping embarrassingly out of my nose, when the nurse forced him on the scale. Sniff sniff, When he has all control taken from him, it can push him over the edge. I understand she was just doing her job, but it really sob freaked him out.
Doctor: He’s four and cannot be in control all the time.
Me: Sob, I realize that, I’m not saying, more snot, he needs to be in control all the time…
Doctor: See what his preschool teachers have to say about his control issues, and if it doesn’t fix itself, we’ll see what next steps we have…
Me: But, sniff, sob, choke, um, this, sniff, isn’t normal, sob for him.
With the tears and snot freely flowing, I hear the words coming out of my mouth and know how they sound: My baby is perfect, it’s your fault, etc.
And that is NOT what I mean.
What I mean is this: I am angry with my son for his unacceptable behavior. But, I also realize that his behavior is rooted in fear. When he refuses to put away his toys, I force him to do it. When he refuses to stop whining, I punish him. Even when he is acting out of fear, there will be a punishment (bye-bye ice cream) but the kid is afraid.
When he is afraid of a large, friendly dog who I know will not hurt him (his fear is unfounded), I do not force him to let the big dog lick him. I give him space and time.
My emotion today stemmed from the fact that I couldn’t give him those things (no one’s fault, just the situation), and then I felt as though he and I were being unfairly judged as a result.
The thing that really stinks is I still have to take him to the allergist and the dentist. How acceptable is it to wait until the big teeth come in?
Leave your comments, and please - at least one of you tell me I'm not crazy.