Why Do Well-Child Visits Make Me Feel Like a Bad Mom?
I dread well-check appointments. It’s not that anything is wrong with my kids, but those darn visits make me feel like an inadequate mother. But this year, I was prepared.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has a list of questions that my doctor uses to judge the overall health and well-being of a child. They are good questions. Based on solid evidence of what’s harmful to kids. I’m all over it. No, I don’t keep a loaded gun around. No, I don’t feed my kids fast-food burgers three times a week. No, my kids don't watch hours of television. I’m really quite an all-star. Did you see that one answer I jotted down about the excellent reading skills and vocabulary? I hand the form over to the bubbly little nurse. Here ya go! Here’s to high percentiles and healthy habits!
I’m not sure why I worry. It’s not like they take your motherhood pin away if your kid eats nothing but noodles with butter. But still.
This year, I prepped my daughter in advance. In the car ride over, I subtly reminded her that she does eat carrots, corn, and roasted broccoli. And if anyone asks, just say yes to bike helmets. Just random conversation on a Monday morning. Nothing to worry about. She just looked at me like I had marker on my face.
Our pediatrician, who is warm and lovely and not at all judgmental, walked into the room and happily started up a conversation about life. My daughter started off by explaining that Kindergarten was hard. She talked too much and didn’t feel like following the rules all the time. Typical stuff. Her tone was so matter-of-fact. Then she smiled and wiggled her front tooth. I wanted to crawl under the table at the honesty. Kids are like that. We should take more lessons from them.
After lifting up my daughter’s arms and legs and peering inside her nose, the doctor started squeezing in the tricky questions.
“Does an adult watch you at all times by the pool?” the doctor asks.
“Well there was this one party where mom was just hanging out inside with a friend and I pretended to be a mermaid.”
That is totally not true! I watch her like a crazy vulture! As a matter of fact, I was apologizing to another mom because I couldn’t keep my eyes away from my six-year-old, who was only in the shallow end, with one other girl, twirling her hair around and sitting on an underwater bench laughing while I sat ten feet away inside the glass-covered patio. I mumbled something to the doctor about that being a bit of an exaggeration, and that I’m always looking, and by that point she had just moved on.
“Do you drink lots of water and milk?” the doctor asks.
“Not much,” she says. “Hardly ever, really. I do drink chocolate milk.” I felt like kicking her under the table, but there wasn’t an under because she was sitting on top of it. The doctor then gave my six-year-old a very nice lecture about how it’s really hot, and how important it is in the Texas heat to be well hydrated, and to drink cold water whenever she can. This is crazy. Can’t I just answer these questions, for crying out loud?
Finally, the doctor asked about my daughter’s diet. It’s decent, with the exception of our one splurge -- a Wendy’s baked potato. When this little jewel is revealed, my doctor suggests I put steamed broccoli on top. So helpful. In between my two-year-old having a meltdown and trying to assuage my pounding headache, I’ll steam some. Just so it will be pushed aside because it’s not roasted until it’s dark and crispy with sea salt and parmesan. Because that’s the way I make it where it tastes good. I’ve ruined her for life.
I’m left with the lingering feeling that I’m a horrible mother, that my child needs to take more vitamins and eat more green things, and she must triple her fluid intake or she’s going to shrivel up like a raisin. Afterward, we head to lunch. My daughter wanted a lemonade (no), a smoothie (again, no), and a ham sandwich with absolutely nothing on it but ham and cheese. She refused to eat the sandwich because she wasn’t hungry and only drank water when I allowed her to put three lemons in it. Later, when she’s starving to death (her words), I point to a shriveled up sandwich. She frowned and said it was stepped on in the car by her brother. I finally gave in and let her eat a baked potato for supper, covered with spoonfuls of tomato basil soup. She sighs, sips on soup, nibbles at the potato, and tells me that she wants to go back to the way it used to be, when she can have a potato with sour cream and a side of apple juice. I told her to drink more water.
My daughter is a very smart girl. Eventually, she’ll figure out that the better she answers the questions at the doctor’s office, the better I will feel as a parent, and when we get home, I’m likely to make everyone chocolate-banana smoothies.
My daughter wears her bike helmet. She loves carrots, roasted broccoli, and corn. She runs to grab a paper towel when someone makes a mess and cuddles up next to her baby brother to help him sleep. Despite the water, or the lack thereof, we're all good. We are getting what we need. In spite of my insane need to look like the perfect mother at the doctor’s office, I realize that I’m not that horrible after all.
Here’s a chocolate milk, kiddo. Drink up.
Photo Credit: salim.