Pediatrician visits are one of my least favorite parts of Adulting. Unless there’s a bone sticking out of an arm, a cough that sounds like a barking seal, or someone’s forcing me to take my kids to a check up, I try to steer clear.
Deep down, I know everyone there wants to keep my kids healthy, but there isn’t a place I feel more judged than the pediatrician’s office. I walk in feeling like a pretty confident parent and walk out wondering if they’re going to call Child Protective Services. So when I recently had an appointment for a sick child, I dragged along all four of my young kids with dread.
As we entered, it was like a scene out of World War Z, with a horde of snivelling, snotting mini-zombies in the “Sick Child Area” trying to amble their way into the “Well Child Area,” where desperate moms tried to ring fence their bright-eyed, bubbly voiced, rash-free youngsters. I became Brad Pitt and forced myself into the land of the living, despite the fact I was pretty sure my kid just had an ear infection (They’re not contagious, I told myself). I spent all winter dousing my kids in hand sanitizer and avoiding indoor play areas for the fecal havens they are. I refused to be taken down by any of these kids.
I saw the medical secretary eyeing me. Did she watch me unethically slip into the germ-free utopia, or was she miffed that I walked in at 9:09, one minute before she would’ve canceled my appointment?
Eventually I was called to the desk to fill out…The Forms. Seriously, I think my last mortgage had less paperwork. With the stress of remembering all the birthdays, finding insurance cards, and checking medical history boxes, all while holding down my part of the zombie shield, more than a few beads of sweat surfaced on my upper lip.
The secretary gave me a tight smile, “I noticed you missed your 18-month-well-child appointment for your youngest; can I get you to fill out the developmental questionnaire while you’re here?” I could see her mentally categorizing me as one of those mothers who neglects a regular relationship with the pediatrician.
“No, I’ll pass. I can personally guarantee after four kids, I’d notice if they couldn’t put a Cheerio in their mouth.” In fact, lady, they live on Cheerios.
She narrowed her eyes at me and said, “I’ll let the nurse know.” Great.
After a half hour of managing my traveling circus and trying to avoid adding a broken fish tank to our bill, it was our turn. The nurse called my child’s mispronounced name and we stepped through the doors into The Spanish Inquisition.
As the barrage of questions began, I became distracted with the way the nurse addressed me. “Mom, can you have your child step on the scale?”
Mom? No. I did not birth you. I’m not your parent. If you can take the time to ask 173 personal questions about all the ways I’m screwing up my kids, you can also dig just a little deeper into the chart for my name. It’s on all of the 36 forms I just filled out.
She kept them coming: “So how much sleep are your kids getting? Do they drink juice? How many fruits and veggies a day? How much screen time? Are they socially adjusting? What color is their poop?”
Really? If I told you we watch 10 hours of TV a day while downing gummy bears and that their poop is cheese puff orange, what would you do about it? Send me a tutor to provide supplemental educational activities? Perfect. Go shopping at the grocery store while holding my hand and footing the bill? Wonderful.
But if the solution is a lecture and handing me a stack of pamphlets I’ll use in the campfire the next time we make s’mores for dinner? Back off and let me parent.
“Oh, and the nurse tells me you don’t want to fill out your developmental questionnaire?”
I glared at her and she backed down.
After the exam,“Yeah, everything looks pretty good, but since you’re here we can get you all caught up on the vaccines you’re missing. Your son is overdue on 6 of them.”
Add to the list of things they don’t tell you before you become parents: you will have to hold your children down while people in cheerful scrubs inject your precious child’s thighs while said child stares at you with a “Traitor!” accusatory look on his face. All of my kids (and I) started crying as they poked my youngest with multiple injections. I’d rather go through labor.
After they finally released us from their clutches, I re-wiped my upper lip and got our crappy stickers, and then the secretary asked if we wanted to make our next appointment.
“Umm, I’ll call you,” I mumbled, still a little shell shocked.
“Watch for your patient survey in the mail! Have a great day!”
If pediatrician offices want to increase their patient satisfaction scores and appointment attendance rates, I offer this piece of advice: Hand out little screw top bottles of Chardonnay at the door right by that hand sanitizer dispenser on the wall. Parents can grab on the way out, kind of like the sticker the kids get to pick if they managed to make it through an appointment without breaking something expensive.
Want to add a personal touch? How about something like:
Dear Parent, We’re sorry that coming to our office is complete hell for you. Have a drink on us tonight. Kick up your feet, rest, and repeat “I am doing a good job,” despite the numerous instances today that suggested otherwise.
P.S. Don’t forget to keep your car seats turned around until age 2!