On a most beautiful autumn afternoon, the kind that make me glad I live in the Northwest, I collected my daughter from school for her six-year well-child check. On the drive to the clinic, my second that day since I’d had my own appointment in the morning, I was thinking about how often we visited that office when she was an infant. Every few weeks at the very beginning, to every couple of months as she got older. It sometimes took every ounce of self-control I had not to go in more often (and sometimes even that failed.) I found great comfort in those checks because our doctor listened to what I had to say and considered carefully his advice. When I would go to my OB visits during pregnancy, the doctor would rattle off the top Google suggestion to whatever complaint I had. I know this because I frequently Google medical advice, and I never learned anything new from her. It felt like a gigantic, disappointing waste of time. (The visits, not the baby.) So I was grateful when I found a doctor who would give me advice I hadn’t already read by hitting the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. After our six-month well-child visit, the nurse asked if she should schedule us for nine-months, and the doctor said no, that one-year would be the next visit. I immediately protested. I didn’t think we could make it that long. He told me that I was doing great. (Note that he told me I was doing great, not the baby. There was clearly a level of understanding there.) The next time we saw him was at the one-year child check.
It’s been a year since our last visit. Sonja remembered her flu shot and was reluctant to go again for that reason. I feel bad that thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, every annual exam will end in a vaccination, and I can’t reassure her that the visit won’t involve pain. So we talked about what questions she could ask the doctor when she went in. She wanted to ask about why her tummy sometimes hurt in the morning. She also wanted to ask about the cough from her cold.
She went to the appointment willingly and excitedly and asked her questions. The doctor and I mostly discussed nutrition and growth. As usual, she is in the bottom 1% for height and weight, but as her growth remains steady, no one cares anymore. (3 feet, 6 inches tall, 32 pounds.) Then it was time for the flu shot. She cried and begged and said, “Mommy, you do it this time and I’ll do it next year.” She kicked screamed at the top of her lungs as I tried to pick her up and set her on the exam table. It reminded me of the fit in front of Disney’s Haunted Mansion but louder. The nurse and I held her down and gave her the shot, and she began to calm down. When she was informed she could pick a toy from the treasure chest, the tears quickly dried. She limped all the way out of the office, as if she had broken her leg, because there lives in her an evil drama queen, and no, I’m not saying where she gets that from.
After the ordeal, she confessed that it didn’t hurt as much to get the shot this year as last year, which did not get my hopes up that we won’t have to go through the same shenanigans next year. As we left, I thought about the questions I didn’t ask. I considered expressing concerns that she was going to get bored in school because she is already reading at a first-grade reading level. I realize that this may be more of a humblebrag than a medical question. I’m quite sure, had I asked, that I would’ve been listened to and offered some sort of warning signs to look for or other comforting advice. But I didn’t ask. As Sonja as so far shown nothing but love for school, any anxiety is my problem, and so the appropriate place to discuss that concern would be at my own appointment. Perhaps I should book another one.