Tuesday, August 29, 2006

You Have to Know The Right Question to Ask

Taking my kids to the doctor has never been fun. When Spencer had to get his shots preparatory to kindergarten he screamed and wailed so loudly (before they even stuck him) that I asked if the clinic had a back entrance--it was too humiliating to walk back out through the waiting room with him and his red swollen eyes. I promised him that it would be his last shot for many years, so when we had a nasty flu epidemic the next winter and I decided to get the kids flu shots you understand why I didn't tell them where we were going when I picked them up from school.

They didn't pay much attention to where the car was heading until I was suspiciously silent on the issue of "Where are we going?" It was then that David, then the youngest and not yet in school, piped up full of cheerful un-punctured innocence and said, "We're going to get shots!"

It took only the time for that message to travel to his brain and down to his mouth for Spencer to let out a wail, begging me to tell him it wasn't true. I know this is horrible, but after the embarrassment and humiliation he had caused me last time and seeing what a huge fuss he was making over nothing I derived a certain amount of pleasure from watching him go through his little trauma dance. But by the time we were in sight of the Health and Human Services building I'd been able to get him to repeat to himself that he was going to be brave, that it wouldn't hurt and that he'd be okay. He even decided he wanted to go first to show up Grace in the bravery category--and to get it over with as quickly as possible.

He was silent from then on, just saying occasionally that he was going first and would show everyone what was what. Over and over until he'd worked himself into a bit of a swagger. When we finally sat in the nurse's office with Spencer in the hot seat with her bottles lined up in a row he was practically cocky about how brave he was going to be.

Until he saw the needle. When she pulled that baby out Spencer turned and tried to climb over me to get out of the way and escape. "You go first! You go first! You go first!" he squealed as he tried to claw his way past me.

I won't disturb you with details of the whole occasion other than to say that he did get vaccinated--along with his sister and brother--and the kicker was that because he was as old as he was he needed to come back in one month's time for the other half of the shot. Ha, that's irony for you. After I'd promised him up and down that he just needed to survive one little prick and he'd be done he found out he would have to come back in a month.

So with this background you understand how my children responded when I picked them up at school today and turned right instead of left.

"Where are we going?" they asked cautiously, not really wanting an answer.

Just for fun I kept quiet and turned up my music. This didn't sit well, but confirmed their fears.

"We're going to get shots!" David cried in agony, "Mom's taking us to get shots!"

I smiled to myself and let the panic carry on until New Seward and Northern Lights Boulevard before I said, "No, David and Lillian have check-ups at the doctor. That's all. No shots, I promise."

Of course I don't have to mention that they didn't believe me, that it wasn't until we arrived at the doctor's office when they started to breathe easier.

Once seated in the exam room the first thing the nurse said after looking at Lillian's chart is, "Since she's four she's eligible for her school shots and we recommend that she have them at four instead of five, they do much better at that age. Can we do that today?" David looked at Lillian and Lillian looked at David and David said with I'm-glad-it's-not-me-enthusiasm, "Lillian has to get shots!"

I chose not to take that route after having promised there would be no needles involved but the rest of the exam was downhill from there. The nurse was interested in Lillian's development and after weighing and measuring her extensively asked me if Lillian could dress herself. I looked at my daughter next to me wearing her favorite pair of flowered-pink pants, a yellow t-shirt, a blue clip that extended a piece of hair up into what can only be described as a headtop handlebar and shoes on the wrong feet and thought, "So you think I came up with this ensemble?"

"Yes, she dresses herself."

"Are there any wedding issues?"

"What?" Wedding issues? Is she asking if Lillian is illegitimate? Why would our wedding be a problem?

"Wedding issues--you know, is she dry all night?"

"Oh, no, she doesn't wet the bed." Whew. I thought it was getting kind of personal.

"Colors? Shapes? She knows them?"

"Yes," I said with a touch of pride. She'd drawn a square house only yesterday--of course she'd thought it was a circle, but it was the best square I'd ever seen from a four year-old.

Then the nurse turned to Lillian. "Lillian, what do you do when you are hungry?"

Lillian looked at me and I looked at her. An odd question. Lillian gave me the "How am I supposed to answer this?" look and the nurse repeated the question.

"What do you do when you're hungry?"

Then at once Lillian's face brightened and she said very clearly and with a look of relief, "OH! I say please!"

"No, I'm sorry I mean what do you do when you're hungry?" As if the poor child didn't already demonstrate she knew exactly what the word meant.

Lillian sat very still, obviously thinking and wondering what this strange woman was getting at until she clapped her hands together and said, "Oh, I put the dishes in the dishwasher!"

I sat back and glowed with pride at my well-mannered, industrious child who knows exactly what to do with a dirty dish but the nurse was confused. She scowled a bit and began to write something on the chart and I wanted to say, "Hold on there, you can't dock points for manners! This kid is polite." But the questions didn't get any easier.

"Lillian, what do you do when you're tired?"

Again Lillian looked at me with a puzzled look, her eyebrows crinkled, and waited for the nurse to repeat the question twice before she said in a rather confused voice, "I say my prayers?"

"No, no! When you're tired--you know, what you do with your bed and pillow and blanket--what do you do when you're tired?"

"I read a story."

At this the nurse gave up and finished her notes. David, who was still with us said in his most exasperated voice, "No Lillian, you go to sleep!" as if any dummy would knows this. It was rather pointless to explain to the nurse that Lillian always reads books and says her prayers before going to sleep and that she not only understands English and causal relationships but sequential events and task management. So there. That's what I get for making an appointment on a day when the doctor's out.

Finally she had Lillian up on the exam table stretched out to listened to her stomach with the stethoscope. She listened quietly for a moment and then cheerfully commented, "My, there's a lot of noise going on in there--sounds to me like you need to get some food in there!"

To which I replied from my corner with just a tiny touch of sarcasm, "That's because she doesn't know what to do when she's hungry."


Anna Venger said...

Cute story. Shots for kids are the worst, aren't they? And I do remember holding my breath when the doctor asked the kids stupid questions to test them--because with kids, you never know what you're going to get.

CyberCelt said...

OMG, your story was so funny. My son is now 17, but he was the worst with shots. I know what you mean about being embarrassed.

We would go to the health department to get his shots. Sometimes there would be a long line of people waiting for flu shots.

My son would cry and scream and carry on about shots while the line crawled on. Then he would start begging, then negotiating ...

In fact, he still does not like shots and will beg like a baby if the doctor wants to give him one.

elementary historyteacher said...

I never liked getting shots and was an expert at the trama dance. I still am. I go this this long explanation with the nurse telling them they better hold me tight because when I jerk around I might break the needle off in my arm.....yeah, I'm a shot nut.

Personally I think your doctor's nurse needs to rethink the wording of the questions she asks.

Mary said...

Heeheehee! That made me giggle, mostly because I would have responded the same way. I love it when people who think they know more than you act that way.

A little sarcasm can go a long way... so that's why I use a LOT! ;O)

Here The Carnival of Blogging Chicks (but I would have read it anyway).

Anonymous said...

I know it's a late comment, but here I am, loving this story. That final remark at the end - that's the kind of thing I think to say and snicker quietly to myself, but actually saying it aloud - excellent!