This is not going to be easy to write, because I usually try to focus on cheap laughs and oddball analogies. But I’m struggling to do that here and now, largely because I feel like a failure of a father.
I’m not, I know that. But that information has taken up residence down a deep, dark trench somewhere in my cranial floor, invisible to the naked ego.
It all stems from our visit to a new pediatrician. We relocated recently, and we knew this day was coming. HP was in for her one year, Bub a little early for his three year. And after nearly two hours in the office, I left feeling like my kids were half-mutants who were developing like negatives under fluorescent lights. And, as aforementioned, a complete Fatherfail.
To sum up, she asked my son to stand on one leg, admittedly not something we practice around the house, since, like algebra, it serves very little purpose in the real world. He didn’t do it. He didn’t know her, and she didn’t exactly butter him up, so he was rightfully skeptical of her motivations. That’s my boy! Conclusion: He is delayed. We should take him to physical therapy.
She also cited the fact that he can’t walk up stairs in a “grown-up” fashion. Well, if you didn’t notice, he’s in like the 3rd percentile for his age, size-wise. He’s growing, he’ll catch up, but he’s small. It’s no secret. His legs are short. Also, he’s still six weeks shy of actually BEING three, and even then he was born two months early. And thank you for extending an invitation to my temper. Love to join the party.
When she got to HP, I had to use real restraint.
Yes, we all know she should be pulling herself up on things and cruising by now. Should have started a few months ago. No, she doesn’t use the league-sanctioned crawling form. She scoots. Her brother scooted, then went straight to walking. I’m sure she’ll do the same. She met every other little benchmark on the little 12-month checklist. I wasn’t worried about it.
“She’s going to need to see a physical therapist. Kids who are slow to develop can have emotional problems as a result.”
Check that. NOW I was worried about it. Slow? She moves at her own pace. Emotional problems? You’re giving me emotional problems, you pedia-hack.
My wife said it’s not fair to compare her to our old pediatrician. Well, why not? Who else SHOULD I compare her to? The deli counter guy at Fred Meyer? Our former pediatrician is probably the ONLY person I should compare her to—apples to apples and whatnot.
I’ve processed this all a bit; given it 24 hours. The truth is that we HAVEN’T done as much work with HP. And by we, I mean me, as the PCG. Hence, the sense of failure. The reason is that we have two kids. By simple mathematics, she (and Bub) each getting less individual attention. But I could have done more; she resists putting her legs down, and we’ve let her. Simple as that; we need to be more persistent.
But what I don’t buy is the emotional problem nonsense at her age. I also don’t think it’s anything to seriously fret about; kids are all unique, and develop at their own pace. Our parents’ generation didn’t have all this obsessive watching and benchmarking and terminology, and they turned out just fine. We are so quick to label everything; we classify and intervene. We may set up a physical therapy assessment, but it will be after we try some more things at home first.
That was an awful feeling I had walking out of that office; my wife and I are still catching bitter aftertastes from it. Nobody should feel that way after a doctor’s appointment. We won’t be seeing that doctor again. Look, if you go to a stylist and get a bad cut, you probably wouldn’t go back, right? This one took a little too much off the top for my taste, didn’t properly tease my bangs. Doctoring isn’t just about diagnosing; it’s about making your patients feel important and comfortable. I get it, it’s not easy, but that’s kind of your job.
It was my sister-in-law who finally said something resonant: “You have two beautiful, healthy, happy kids. Everyone can see that.” After grumbling something sarcastic about the doctor, I looked at them on the floor, Bub practicing Uno and HP chasing a ball, then showing it to me with a genuine look of pride. Smiles all around. And I realized she was right. I’d lost sight of it, down in that trench, temporarily. But it was right in front of me the whole time.