I’m finally taking some time to rant. It’s not my nature (insert sarcastic tone), but sometimes it has to be done. Ranting leads to peace and harmony, in my opinion. It’s like a shaken soda bottle. It’s got to be released. And when it’s done on paper, nobody gets hurt.
Let me give you some background. I took my kid to the obligatory yearly “wellness” visit at his pediatrician. You know, the annual trek to the doctor where he gets weighed, measured and poked, and the end result is almost always a firm reminder to wear his bike helmet. But hey, there’s the percentile numbers that keep us all coming back, right? Or maybe it just makes us feel like better parents, while padding the wallets of the doctors.
Ok, you get the gist.
This year was different. I went in with the normal mindset of get in, get out, get on with life. I quietly questioned why I was even there. He’s strong, he’s healthy, his back looks straight, and seriously, we all know there’s WebMD for solid advice, when it’s needed.
Issue #1: Gender Identification
The receptionist handed me a new form that needed filled out that replaces the previous new form from last year- because, after all, medical history might change. I started with my pen, one item at a time. Name, address, date of birth- moving along. I got to the “check box for sex” area, and whoa, wait a minute. There are 3 boxes. Huh? Male, female….and…..what else could there be? Transgender. Yup, with its own box. I chuckled, half considering checking it for giggles, because that’s the kind of humor I like. But hey, I get the whole PC thing, and I usually ride the wave with the rest of them. To each his (or her? or…) own, I thought. But still, I wondered how many transgender kids are out there, and whether getting his/her (can I even say that?) own box was necessary. Especially when my kid leaned over and asked, “What’s transgender?” and I had to explain. Do I even know? Aren’t all kids born with either male or female parts, and maybe just a few are asking to wear pink, when they should be wearing blue? What’s next? A box for shape shifters? And before you get all you-can’t-say-that on me, I’m the first to feel empathy toward just about anyone or anything. But really? We’ve swung the pendulum into another galaxy, folks. I’m just wondering, from a strictly physical perspective (because I WAS at a doctor’s office, and I assumed this particular box was so the doctor knew what he/she was getting into), aren’t there only two real options? But, I soon found out that this visit wasn’t really anything about a physical exam anyway. Let’s move on.
Issue #2: Depression Assessment Gone Wrong
I dismissed my son’s transgender questioning with a swift, “We’ll talk later, I have to fill this out before they call you.” No sooner did I say the words, and they called us back. He knew the drill. He jumped on the scale.
“I’ve got to know, what’s his percentile, nurse?”
We were almost done. I was already thinking about my next to-do for the day. We entered room 3 per the nurse’s instructions. Before they considered taking his blood pressure, they handed him an obviously worn piece of laminated paper, and told him to read and answer each question out loud. I leaned over his shoulder. The nurse scowled. He’s supposed to answer each question on a scale-
I was curious. This was new. The nurse distracted me by asking me to verbally answer medical history questions that I just wrote down on the paper she had in front of her. She asked my son to answer question 1. He said, “Never”. She looked at me, and then started writing. I leaned over him again, and noticed he just answered “never” to the question of whether he gets enjoyment out of everyday things. I looked at him and said, “Really? Did you read the question?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “What don’t you enjoy about everyday life?” He said, “School, making my bed, scooping the litter, shall I go on?” Ok, fair enough.
The nurse moved on, asking him to answer question 2. He said, “Usually.” She looked worried. He just answered “usually” to whether or not he spends a majority of his time alone, indoors. What? The kid who spends hours on the trampoline? Weekends on the boat? Bike trips to his friends’ houses? Sports every season of the year? Again, I questioned him. He said, “Well, when I’m indoors, I’m usually alone watching TV or playing on the iPod, but I’m not usually indoors.”
I finally got what was going on. They were screening my kid for depression. I told the nurse he wasn’t depressed, and she could end the questioning. She said she was required to ask him the questions. I wondered loudly in my head exactly why I was there, because I suddenly felt like I was in a courtroom being interrogated. She sensed my growing anger, and decided to move on, telling my son to strip to his underwear and telling me the doctor would be in shortly. “Good,” I said to myself. “We can get this over with!”
Issue #3: Did I Mention I’m a Crappy Parent?
Exactly 18 minutes later, after my son asked me for the 32nd time where the doctor was, the doctor arrived. We exchanged niceties- weather, summer vacation, etc. We moved onto business. Before he ever touched my son, he asked him how his grades were (good), if he had a quiet place to study (if by quiet you mean by the TV, then yes), if he wore his seat belt in the car (always), if he wore his helmet while on his bike (uh oh). The last one got us in trouble. My son looked at me, unsure how to answer. I thought about lying. Instead, I admitted he wasn’t a bike helmet wearer on most occasions (I haven’t seen his bike helmet in years, but I decided that was too much information). My son is 12. It’s uncool. And I’m no helicopter mom. So sue me. And really, since when did a wellness visit turn into a session on making me feel like a crappy parent? When are you going to check for scoliosis, Doc? Because I know you do.
Issue #4: No Room for Momma
The doctor started the physical part of my son’s exam. He checked his ears, throat, nose and reflexes in about 2.3 seconds. Then he said, “Mom, this is the point in the exam when usually we ask the parent to wait outside the room.” Double whoa. He sensed my surprise. Nobody is going to examine my kid without me being there. Especially when I know what’s next. I probably gave the doctor a combo glare/confused look, and he quickly responded, “Unless your son is ok with you being here?” My son nodded. The doctor said, “Ok, next year then we’ll ask mom to stay in the hallway.” I quickly determined there wouldn’t be a next year. Why is it ok for a total stranger (I don’t care if you’re sporting a beautifully framed degree on the wall) to check out my son’s nether region, but I (his mother who knows every inch of him from birth) am supposed to stay outside the room? No way. At this point, had I taken even a mini-pause to reflect on the last 30 minutes or so, I think I would have had to go postal on someone. But I didn’t, mostly because I’ve never actually gone postal on anyone in my life. I sat quietly as the doctor finished his exam of my son, much like a schoolgirl waiting for the end of detention.
Issue #5: It’s Really NOT Your Business
I was fully aware that my son needed no immunizations, so I thought we were wrapping this party up. As my son got dressed, the doctor looked through his notes and clearly noticed something he hadn’t seen before. He asked, “I see you declined the Gardasil vaccine at his last visit. We can do that now, if you’d like?” For those of you unsure of this vaccine, Gardasil was created to help protect against cancers supposedly caused by the HPV virus (which is a sexually transmitted virus). Now, I’m not going to go into my reasoning on why I declined the vaccine, because that’s a different discussion. But I did decline the vaccine, and I politely told the doctor that I did not want the vaccine for my son on this visit, either. The doctor gave me a look, and then started getting my forms ready. He then paused, and said, “I know it’s none of my business, but why would you decline a vaccine that has been proven to help decrease the effects of HPV?”
At this point, I had enough. You see, this wasn’t about a stinkin’ vaccine, or wearing his helmet, or whether he was truly depressed or thinks he’s a girl. This boiled down to one fundamental fact that had been ignored during my entire visit.
I’m the parent.
I voluntarily take my son to the doctor because I choose to get a SECOND (meaning mine is FIRST) opinion on my child’s overall physical health. If I think he needs mental help, I’ll seek out a mental professional. If I choose to decline any service they have to offer, that’s my business, period. Never mind that I personally believe American medicine over-medicates and is dollar-driven by being in bed with pharmaceutical companies, rather than really taking an interest in patients’ health- if I don’t want a service for my child, I should not be questioned about my choice. Might I be completely off base about Gardasil? Sure, absolutely. Am I taking a risk by allowing my son to ride helmet free on neighborhood roads in our gated community? Sure. But, is it still my prerogative? Yes, it is.
Solution #1: Eliminate the Problem
Complaining doesn’t solve anything, this I’m fully aware. So, I immediately stewed on possible solutions to said issues. I could lodge an official complaint, change doctors, or walk calmly to the receptionist desk and schedule next year’s appointment (the later is truly a possibility for a conflict avoider like myself). But really, it’s all about why I’m even going to these appointments in the first place. Isn’t it really because I want someone with an important title to pat me on the back and confirm what I already know about my kid and myself? That he’s healthy and wonderful, and he got that way because of me? So the real solution to this is obvious. If I’m not getting that positive affirmation that I deserve, and instead I’m made to feel guilty and confused, then I should will stop going. Yup, no more! And my son will continue to grow and get good great grades, and not wear his bike helmet right into early adulthood when HE can decide how often he’ll visit the doctor and hopefully make his own decisions about his health. Decision made. Rant over. Thank you very much.