Saturday, April 08, 2006

Drawing Boundaries Yet Again, or
Anyone Know Any Good Eye Diets?

Yesterday we were at the kiddo's doctor appointment, in preparation for his starting kindergarten in the fall. Everything was going great (eye test, peed in the cup -- always fun for a five-year-old boy! -- blood pressure, weighed/measured height, etc.), then the doctor came in and did the usual stuff, poking and prodding, looking in eyes, ears and throat. Standard stuff.

Then he started talking about the growth curve that the kiddo is on. The kiddo's dad (who was with us at the appointment) is 6'2" and I'm 5'4", and the doc was explaining how you add __ inches to the mother's height and average that with the dad's height and that's how you estimate how tall the kid will eventually be. Alrighty. Then he charted the kiddo's weight curve. He weighs 46 pounds, and has for a long time. I always say the kid grows up, but not out -- just like his dad. I find this to be a very good thing.

But the doc started going on about obesity and how if the kiddo continues on the curve the way he's going, he'll be 5'11" and 195 lbs. by age 16, which is too heavy. Hello? The kiddo is active as a squirrel and has weighed the same thing for most of the year and is hardly in danger of becoming obese. The doc also said the healthiest little kids have visible ribs. I said, "Well, okay, going by your criteria, I can see the kiddo's ribs, but you're saying he's overweight?" Doc said, "YOU HAVE FAT EYES! It's all relative. If we took YOU [pointing at me] to SAMOA, the Samoans would think YOU were ANOREXIC!"

I was starting to wonder if the doctor had forgotten who his patient was.

The kiddo, of course, was totally bored out of his mind by all the lecturing (I was getting there), and was noisily fooling around on the table a lot, so I quietly told him to settle down or hop down from the table. Without a noticeable transition, the doc then launched into a different lecture: "There's three kinds of behavior: good, junk and dangerous. What kind of behavior was the kiddo just doing?"

"Junk," I heard myself say, hating myself for even playing along with his little quiz game -- so condescending! I felt like I was being treated like a child. Time slowed down a bit for me, enough so that I had time to wonder if I was putting out some vibe that gave the doctor the impression that he could talk to me this way. But isn't it just like a lot of us to wonder how we caused someone else's bad behavior? Why didn't I just firmly say, "We're done here," or "I'll thank you to watch your step, you arrogant schmuck"? Anyway, the doc went on for several minutes about how when you correct your child, you have to give at least 20 compliments or supportive gestures to compensate for it, blah-blah-blah. Clearly he'd read the first chapter of some popular self-help book.

I finally said, "I certainly hope you're not judging my parenting based solely on what's happening in this little room -- on this small sample!" Because I will tell you, readers, that I am all about love and support and kisses/hugs and cheering for the kiddo and rewarding good behavior and giving the kind of love that he doesn't have to earn and all that stuff. Geez. And I don't make the kiddo eat food beyond what he can eat. How ridiculous to think that I could, even if I wanted to.

"Why shouldn't I??" he challenged, eyes wide.

This time I didn't bite. "So have we moved away from the weight conversation?"

He said, "Yes, because when I see a teaching opportunity, I take it! [Blah-blah-blah, I have kids, I'm a doctor, I know a few things, blah-blah-blah.]"

(Incidentally, the kiddo's dad, a psychologist, stayed characteristically quiet during the appointment, for the most part, but did side with me later. To be honest, I could've used his support right then and there, but at least we agreed afterward that the doctor was an arrogant schmuck.)

Oh, somewhere during the appointment, the kiddo's dad asked about thimerosal in vaccines and wanted to verify that it's not used as a preservative any more. (He asks this of every new doctor we encounter, partly, I suspect, because he's checking for consistent answers.) The doc then went on about how people used to be wary of fluoride because it's one of the components of rat poison, and sodium is in sodium cyanide and it's also in table salt, and people objected to mercury in thimerosal, and there was never a negative reaction to thimerosal, but people knew mercury was dangerous [blah-blah-blah, writing "NaCN" and "NaCl" on the paper covering the exam table], but people insisted it not be used, just like California has long insisted that tap water not be fluoridated. "California is a hotbed of anti-fluoridation activists!" proclaimed the doc. (The kiddo's dad also has a Master's in chemistry, but I think he was just giving the doc enough rope to possibly hang himself.)

Finally, after the doctor stepped off his soapbox, the kiddo got three shots; his dad and I both had to hold him still because he was terrified and screaming/crying/squirming. Fun stuff. We gave him some Motrin afterward and all I'll say about that is it's a good thing it has a childproof cap because apparently it tasted so good that the kiddo wanted to lick the dose cup (and he did just that). ;^)

The three of us went to lunch afterward and, in a very mature attempt to regain our equilibrium, mocked the doctor. I repeated his "hotbed" line. "I've been saying that for years," the kiddo's dad drawled. He's pretty funny sometimes. He also noted that the doc had been "pretty opinionated," and pointed out that the doc, in jumping all over my correcting the kiddo, was doing exactly what he was telling me not to do -- paying attention to "junk" behavior. (I won't even get into the fact that one has to set some limits when the kiddo-monkey is at the height of limit-testing behavior. You know what I'm talking about, and I defy anyone to ignore such behavior for one solid hour in a cramped and dim exam room.)

Really, though, right after the appointment and before lunch, I felt exhausted and felt like I was going to cry partly from having dealt with my son's emotions for the past few days regarding the three shots he needed, and partly because I'd let myself get sucked into the doctor's quiz and judgement game and I felt I should've stood up for myself more. I felt I was once more a child being lectured by my dad and I wondered how that had happened yet again, at age almost-40.

Feh. Damn learning opportunities. The doctor may have taught me something, but it wasn't the thing he thought it was. What he taught me is that I must work harder to protect my boundaries. He also reminded me of what it feels like to be judged unfairly, and this will go a long way toward my not judging others.

I should probably thank him, and I may actually write him a note to this effect. Or maybe I won't. Although writing such a note may make me feel a little better, the truth is that people like him rarely change. I guess I'll have to decide what my expectations would be if I were to write him a note, and go from there.

At any rate, we will definitely be going to a different doctor next time, although probably at the same practice. If we run into Dr. S. again (like for an emergency), you can bet I'll be much more prepared and stop him in his tracks. No more boundary crossing.

I'm learning.