Opinion

Parental call of shame

It wasn’t my finest hour.

“I’d like to make a well-child appointment, please,” I said after I had worked my way through the labyrinth of the pediatricians’ office automated phone system to the Promised Land: a real, live human. My sense of achievement was quickly dashed after the woman on the other end found my son in their computer system.

“He hasn’t been seen here for a well-child exam for almost five years.”

I knew it had been a while, I just didn’t know it had been that long.

In my honest, head-hanging-low-in-shame voice I said, “Yes, I know, I’ve been a little…” what was the right word? Negligent? No, that’s not negligent, I have taken him to the doctor for many sick exams, and he gets a flu shot each year.

Lazy? No. I’m on the case whenever I suspect he is sick; I make sure he has a well-balanced (ish) diet, I’ve googled mystery bug bites and rashes.

Forgetful? Maybe. I know I remembered when his birthday came around this year and a few times since then, but each time the thought flew out my head before I got a phone in my hand.

“… lax.”

That’ll work.

With child No. 1 I made her well-child exams to coincide with her birthday. I saved all the sheets documenting her growth, I read every word of the You Can Expect literature. What percentile was she in for her age? What small and large motor skills should she be learning? Are her vocabulary and social skills on target? Those annual appointments were important. I NEEDED TO KNOW!

With child No. 2 I made his well-child exams to coincide with his sister’s. Calendar-wise they were only two months apart, it made logistical sense and it happened every year. Child number two was the first boy, were boys different than girls? What percentile is he? He had some medical issues from birth, is he hitting all his milestones? What about that speech problem? What about his digestive issues? What about his hearing? Those annual appointments were important. I NEEDED TO KNOW!

And then came child No. 3. Not only was his birthdate half a year after his siblings, but they were older, so tripling up didn’t make sense. But he had all the suggested baby appointments and when he grew into annual exams I would call as his birthday approached and get an appointment within a month…or so…or whenever. He’s my third: I was kinda chill; he’s my last: I’d been down this road before. I barely skimmed the papers the nurse would hand me. Mostly I was curious to see how he compared to his brother. He was healthy, had no chronic issues and other than keeping up with his immunization schedule his annual appointments weren’t all that important because I knew.

But almost five years of knowing? Really, Susan? As a parent I’ve done a lot of things I’m not exactly proud of but seemed like a good idea at the time. (Ha! You think I’m going to list them, don’t you? Nice try.) In the heat of parenting challenges, in successes and failures, things get tried; let’s leave it at that.

And in the heat of parenting challenges, successes and failures I’ve learned that if I’ve done something, tried something, failed at something, so has someone else. When I confessed the shame to my friends, I again learned that I wasn’t alone.

My friend Debbie put it into perfect perspective. “That is only 1.24 in leap years. A non-issue.”

(He has an appointment set for a week after his next birthday.)

Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. For more of her writing and podcast go to www.thehistorychicks.com or visit www.susanvollenweider.com.

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