I feel like the suburban mom version of Eminem in the movie 8 Mile.
“His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti
He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready to drop bombs,
But he keeps on forgetting what he wrote down….”
They call our names. The moment I had been dreading all morning was upon us. There was no turning back now. Palms sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy….thankfully no vomit on my sweater.
The four of us follow the women back into the room. Women. They brought two this time. Maybe there was a note letting them know how poorly it went the last time we were here.
I could see the note now. “Things got a bit wild. Please send in reinforcements.”
One of the women closes the door. They both look at me and smile. It was time. They had no idea what they were in for.
I had brought three children with me to a Doctor appointment. Game on.
I have four children. I needed to keep that in mind. This could always be worse.
I don’t know why, but the minute the door closes at a Doctor appointment it is like my children have hopped straight out of the pages of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.
Maybe it is because we are trapped in a tiny toyless room surrounded by a plethora of foreign objects that scream, “pretty, shiny, pointy, grab me!” all while I am screaming, “look, but don’t touch!”
I try to help the situation. I bring toys. I bring coloring books, and crayons, and other gadgets, and gizmos. That doesn’t matter. The only thing that usually happens is a crayon explosion of immense proportions on the floor. It is way more fun to dump the crayons than to actually color. And the one time that they did all sit and color, one of them went off of the page and ended up coloring all over the floor. Oh no.
Or maybe the problem is the chairs.
In most Doctor’s offices there are two chairs available for the patient, but two other options that seem way better. This office was no exception.
The first option that is way more appealing than the stiff, uncomfortable chair is the chair that is reserved for the Doctor. This chair usually spins, or reclines, or rolls, or maybe if we are really lucky, does all three. A child’s dream come true.
The other item of intrigue is the examination table. The one that is too high for them to jump on easily. Or, in other words, the table that has just become an obstacle to overcome.
Or maybe it isn’t the chairs at all.
It could possibly be because they know that I am distracted and can’t give them my full attention. My kids have an incredible ability to do the craziest things when they don’t have my full attention. They could be playing happily all day and the minute I try to get on the phone, things fall apart. Maybe it’s the same thing at the Doctor’s office.
I’m not really sure what it is, but what I do know is that the next thirty minutes or so went as I had envisioned when I was palms sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy in the waiting room.
At one point two of my children decide to play rock, paper, scissors.
“Oh good,” I think. This can’t be bad. They are entertaining themselves with “rock, paper, scissors, poop.” What? Yep. Oh no. And then, Patrick says, “rock, paper, scissors, gun.” What? Where in the world did that come from? Is it just in his little boy DNA to talk about a gun? We don’t even have a toy gun in the house. Not that I am against them. Honestly, I don’t even know how I feel about them. We hadn’t reached that point. He just turned three and hasn’t shown any interest. Until now. At the Doctor’s office. “Rock, paper, scissors, gun.” Oh my.
And all the while, I am trying to have a conversation with the Doctor, and his nurse, who are now both in the room at their computers asking questions and taking notes. Notes like, “they are still crazy. Continue to send in reinforcements.”
I want so badly to concentrate on the Doctor’s words, but “rock, paper, scissors, poop” is pretty distracting. Is it more rude to let them play this game, or to interrupt the Doctor to parent them? I am trapped. It is the “what’s more rude?” predicament that I find myself in often.
At another point, it is time for one of the kids to hop up on the table. Green light! He said hop up on the table! Whoop! Whoop!
All three kids come charging like a herd of wild animals during a stampede. Probably not really, but that is what it feels like in the moment. The lucky child who has been called first climbs up onto the table. Then the other tries to climb up too. This is a mess of limbs. Arms and legs flying around everywhere, so I just help her up. And then the third sees that it is a free for all. Looks to him like it doesn’t matter who has been called. He’s no dummy. The problem is, he is too little to make that climb, so instead he just stands by my side repeating over and over, “Mom, I want up too. Mom, I want up too.”
I can’t concentrate with this mess, so I ask the Doctor if it is Ok if they all just get up on the table. I don’t want to fight this battle. Not now.
“Of course,” he says, “but keep your eye on the little one.”
The uncomfortable part of this, is that I am now forced into the Doctor’s personal space.
You know how we all have little invisible boxes that we travel with. Personal space boxes. These little invisible boxes are to be respected. That is why there is an entire character in Seinfeld devoted to a person who ignores this invisible box. The close talker. Nobody wants to be the close talker.
But I have no choice. I have to be the close talker.
The Doctor, is standing by his computer that sits on a podium. The podium is right next to the examination table that all three of my children are now occupying. It is a very, very small room. In order for me to be by my children, I have to be sandwiched in the small space between the Doctor, standing by his podium, and the table. What ends up happening is he is asking me a series of questions and I am breathing the answers down his neck. Don’t make eye contact. So. Uncomfortable.
This isn’t all that happened during this trip. There is more. Much more. From multiple children laying across each other on the two stiff, uncomfortable, chairs, to me saying sternly, “that just isn’t appropriate”, and of course the standard sibling arguments that ensue when I am distracted and can’t give them my full attention.
These are just some of the highlights of this visit.
I did eventually get out of the Doctor’s personal space. Thank goodness. The kids did stop playing “rock, paper, scissors, poop”, or gun, or whatever other thing they said that they shouldn’t be saying. I did get my questions answered. The ones that I remembered to ask anyways. Just like Eminem, I go in with a plan and “keep on forgetting what I wrote down.”
How can a person remember anything with “rock, paper, scissors, poop” happening in the background?
But we made it through. And as the Doctor was leaving, I think he could see the look of defeat in my eyes.
I said to him, “I am sorry for all of the distractions.”
He just looked at me and smiled and said, “I wouldn’t be a good pediatrician if I let kids distract me. Would I?”
Point made, kind sir. Point made. And that is why you are an excellent pediatric pulmonologist.
His encouragement didn’t stop me from sending a text to my husband that said, “I cannot possibly do this again.”
But I will. And, it will be fine. Because they are kids acting like kids. The nurses and Doctors smile at me, and offer me words of encouragement, because this is what they see all day long. Kids acting like kids trapped in a tiny room with shiny objects for a long period of time being transformed into wild things who “roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws.”
Or maybe my parenting style is everything that they say is wrong with our generation of parents. Maybe I’m blaming chairs, and tight spaces, and tiny objects when I really need to be looking more closely at how I am disciplining my children. Maybe my kids should be expected to sit perfectly in the hard chairs not speaking until being spoken to. Waiting patiently for the Doctor to call on them. That sure does sound nice.
I don’t know. All I know is that I am trying. So what am I going to do? I am going to do what Eminem suggests, “I’m going to lose myself…in the moment. You own it, you better never let it go. You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.”
I’m going to keep trying to be the best parent I know how to be. I only get one shot. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime. It is my time with these little ones.
And some times are a bit more wild than others.