I wrote this piece for a book publisher’s parenting blog. They were like, “Hey, can anyone write 750 words about how parenting can be ridiculous?” And I was like, “750 words? I could occupy all of the internet with that prompt, but here’s 750.” It ran last week. Hope you enjoy!
We pulled into our parking space at 9:38am. Yes, we were technically eight minutes late. But I’d managed to dress and feed four hungry tiny people, wrestle them into car seats, and drive here. Eight minutes late was a win.
Dr. Bergen’s receptionist did not agree. “It’s 9:42. Your appointment was at 9:30 . . . I’ll ask if they can squeeze you in.” As if the doctor had been waiting for us with bated breath since 9:15.
“That would be wonderful, thank you.” I politely replied. I had to stop myself from pointing out that never in the history of pediatric appointments has the doctor been less than twenty minutes late for a scheduled appointment time. Whatever, lady.
“You can fill out this health questionnaire for three-year olds while you wait.” She handed me a clipboard with a yellow sheet that listed a series of yes or no questions. I herded my cats to a cluster of germ-covered chairs while I balanced a baby and a clipboard, one on each knee. I assumed the questions would be basic family history stuff. Instead I found these:
“Do you offer your child fresh fruits and vegetables with every meal?”
Well, not EVERY meal, but many meals. I guess that’s a no?
“Does your child eat high-fat foods such as ice cream, pizza or fast food?”
Answering no feels un-American (and is a lie), so I guess I’ll be circling yes.
“Do you make sure that your child plays actively for at least one hour each day?”
Does Bo On the Go count?
“Do you have the Poison Control phone number stored in your cell phone?”
Yikes. This thing was starting to feel less like a health assessment and more like an indictment of my lousy parenting. I thought this form was just supposed to be a long, bureaucratic way to ask me if we have a family history of diabetes. I half expected to find these questions on the backside:
“Why did you even have kids if you don’t know how to feed them?”
“Do you limit your child’s screen time, or have you chosen to ignore the causal relationship between baby screen time and serial killer development?”
“Have you considered that maybe you aren’t cut out for parenthood?”
“Did you bring your child’s vaccine card, or do you not even care anymore?”
Twenty minutes after that fun exercise in parent-shaming, the medical assistant beckoned us.
I hustled our crew into the exam room, where we spent thirty noisy minutes waiting for the hopeful sound of the Doctor’s rat-a-tat. The baby nearly lost her mind when I refused to let her lick the floor. The three-year-old’s unrelenting requests for a snack were drowned out by the five-year-old’s neighs and gallops. The six-year-old quietly read her book. (I’m eighty-percent sure this was because the children take shifts to display obnoxious behavior and she was on break.)
I pulled out an iPad and three baggies of Goldfish crackers as the doctor entered. Experienced parents know that an uninterrupted conversation with another adult sometimes requires a snack or a screen. Instant child hypnosis.
“Good morning!” Dr. Bergen was always genuinely cheery. After the effort it took to get us here, fed, bladders emptied and shoes on, part of me felt like he might give me a high-five or Starbucks card for being an incredible mother, but then I remembered the survey.
“Looks like Carter is growing perfectly well. Any concerns?” He asked in his characteristic grandfatherly tone.
Yeah, your “health survey” comes across as a little Third Reich-y.
“Nope! All is well.”
He did the whole stethoscope/ears/throat thing, chit-chatted with the kids, then rattled off the standard recommendations. “Make sure he’s getting plenty of sleep, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and try to avoid simple carbs . . .”
We both awkwardly eyed the children inhaling their baggies of Goldfish.
“Yeah, those aren’t the healthiest . . . but carrots are kind of a bummer so . . . they’re the whole grain ones?” I mumbled.
He wasn’t really listening.
“Ok, we’ll see you at his four-year check-up! Oh, wait, I guess we’ll see you three times between now and then,” he said, motioning to the three other hooligans.
Photo credit: byLorena, Creative Commons