The other day, my son kicked me out of his doctor’s appointment.
Somewhere around the age of acne explosions, smelly feet and hair product, pediatric annual check-ups include an option for a parent-free zone to promote a personal discussion with a health care professional. This is a great idea, and I think adolescents should take full advantage of this opportunity. Correction: this is a great idea, and I think other people’s kids should take full advantage of it. My kids? They have nothing to hide.
As a seasoned parent when it comes to these "special" visits, I was well prepared. This was my third child, after all. I like to think of myself as a fairly liberal, tolerant and accepting person, who prides herself in keeping communication lines open when it comes to my family. Ours is the house where no topic is taboo. Got a question about sex, drugs, pornography, or whatever else is being discussed at the playground or lunchroom or bathroom or camp bus or on the internet, and we’ll chat about it over dinner.
So, like his older brother and sister before him, I was sure my third child would be totally comfortable with me staying in the room for his chat with the doc. We’d already covered the major taboos. Wrong-o.
“Mom, out.” was all he said. And with those two words, I was banished to the waiting room. Me. The one mom who always gets to stay. There I was, left alone in the waiting room with hoards of other parents and their dripping babies and toddlers.
Didn’t my son get the memo? Why didn’t my older offspring tell him I could handle this? What questions could my kid, yes, my kid, possibly have that he couldn’t ask with me around?
So I began to list mentally all the possibilities in my head: puberty, masturbation, the birds and the bees, sexually transmitted infections, dating, bullying, smoking, drinking, inappropriate touching, drugs.... My mind whirled.
Just as I was about to give up, I witnessed two small children playing with a plastic triceratops or stegosaurus or some kind of prehistoric beast. One child accidentally stabbed his brother in the cheek with a horn, causing tears and commotion. The children’s genie-of-a-mother was at their sides in no time and produced one magical juice box to calm the impaled child and an iPhone to appease the assailant. In my nearly 21-years of child rearing, I have never seen such speed and competence. Had I a trophy to give, I would have awarded it on the spot to this fast-acting, peacekeeping mom that no pediatric waiting room should be without.
When I praised Wonder Mom, she looked up without batting an eye and said, “Oh this is nothing. I have two older kids at home.”
Wait a minute, I thought. Juice boxes and an iPhone? What kind of parenting is that? Sugary drinks for quieting a scream and excess screen time as a reward for bad behavior is no way to handle the situation. So why did I think it was so great?
Because I’ve given up, that’s why. Sometimes we older parents will do “whatever” in order to keep the peace. We’ve tried the reasoning. We’ve experimented with time-outs. We’ve been to the land of “I don’t care who started it, I’m stopping it.” And we’re tired.
That fatigue got me worried. Let’s say my son was in the back room because he truly had unanswered questions. Fine. But what I clearly dreaded were the trick questions the doc throws in there at the end. Those questions range from asking about the daily number of fruit and vegetable servings eaten, to the frequency of home pizza deliveries. Those doctors inquire into bedtimes and extracurricular reading habits. Guess who was about to get busted?
Me. By the third kid, parents are the first ones asleep in the house. Who knows if they’re reading or watching their millionth episode of Family Guy? I’m tired. I used to care if my kids ate fruit. Pizza used to be a treat. But somewhere between child the first and child the last, I fell into the world of Ronald Reagan. That’s right, ketchup… and pizza sauce, for that matter… are vegetables. You got a problem with that?
Was it hot in that waiting room, or was it just me?
I looked up, and there was my son. “So. How did it go in there?”
“Fine,” he said.
“What did you talk about?” I asked.
“Mom, it’s private,” he said.
“OK,” I said, “But you know you can tell me anything.”
“You promise you won’t be mad?” he said.
“Yes.” I said, bracing myself.
“I asked if I could use the blood pressure machine you never let me touch.”
We went home and ordered pizza.