Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Only the Strong Survive

This winter has tested James’ immune system and my patience.  It started January 5th with a trip to the pediatrician for what the two different doctors that examined him determined to be a severe diaper rash, but a subsequent visit the next day confirmed our suspicions of a misdiagnosis and concluded that James, now splotchy for head to toe, had Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Virus.  Trust me—it looks as bad as it sounds.  
A week or so later, James’ temperature hit that magic number of 101 at daycare (F.Y.I.-all daycare centers have some sort of variation in this policy, but if you haven’t heard of the "magic number", it’s obviously the temperature at which a child goes from being NOT contagious to contagious.  He then, must go home immediately or, in some cases, after a parent is scolded for being unable to predict that their kid would spike a fever at exactly 11:32AM).  Did I mention that reaching the magic number warrants a doctor’s note?  So, off we go again…to the see the doctor…to get a note…and an antibiotic for a respiratory tract infection.  A very short time later, we found ourselves back in the doctor’s office, this time with an ear infection and another antibiotic.  This was followed by a double ear infection another trip to the doctor and another antibiotic.  Then came James’ follow-up appointment at Duke with his urologist, Dr. Wiener (yes, that’s his real name, yes, it’s pronounced like hot dog wiener and yes, he is a real urologist).  
Two weeks passed and I was starting to feel a little less guilty about the recent contribution to antibiotic resistance the Foy Family had made.  That boost of self-esteem was short lived, and when the receptionist at the pediatrician’s office called James by name as we walked in, a part of me wanted to run and hide in a corner to escape judgment from other parents in the waiting room while the other part of me wanted to drop into the fetal position and admit defeat in my attempts to competently maintain proper hygiene practices.  
On the bright side, James did learn to blow is nose...kinda.
I didn’t mind my toddler clinging to me like a koala bear, the BJ’s size Kleenex packs we went through every week or the girl’s night and dinner dates I had to cancel.  Eddie and I were never extremely worried, and I grew accustomed to traveling the 80 mile round trip journey to and from James’ pediatrician's office about midway through January.  It was the waiting with a sick, un-happy, toddler that found climbing on chairs and tables more amusing than the Little Mermaid playing in the waiting room that finally got to me.  He discovered how to pull the top off the Puffs container then threw an Oscar worthy tantrum when I took them away because he had dropped so many there was a Hansel and Gretel-like trail around the waiting room.   
Where's James?
There he is!
Held prisoner in the examination room, he used his imagination to convert the examination table into a fort and found the perfect hiding spot inside the cabinets.  Quickly bored with the trucks and books I packed, we would pass time by washing his hands at the sink in the room.  By the time the doctor made it to James, she might as well have been examining a spider monkey because James started acrobatically swinging across the room while “beep-beeping” like a dump trunk backing up.  (Well, maybe he didn’t swing per se, but the way he bounced from wall to cabinet to wall to mama gave the illusion of swinging.)

So, a week before his 18-month check-up, I received a letter in the mail:  How to Prepare for Your Child’s 18-month Check-Up.  The list was “cute” with its reminders to bring a list of current medications and allergies, tips like dressing "your child” in easy to remove clothing and bringing a book to share with your child while you wait, suggestions to tell “your child” where you are going and what to expect, etc.  I laughed – I mean I REALLY laughed.  It’s hard to believe that the only guidance for keeping your child occupied while being confined to a 10x10 room for half an hour was to “bring a familiar book.”  Oh really?  Thanks for that awesome tip, because before you mentioned it, I was kind of expecting a bouncy house and pony rides to occupy my kid so that I could update my facebook status or make my next move on words with friends.  
 Now, 2 months ago I would have been one of those naïve moms that thought trips to the doctor always end with a Thomas the Train sticker and a Safety-Pop.  That Mama might have stuck to the list and played by the rules, but a season of more or less camping out in the doctor’s office makes a mama wiser.  My “What to Bring to the Pediatrician” now looks a little more like this:
1.       Bring Your Game Face:   
        Child vs. Waiting Room is not a fair match-up.  Don’t approach the situation like your typical afternoon trip to the park.  Think of it more as a mission that requires you to stay focused on avoiding a meltdown at all costs.  You have to anticipate your child’s next move – be there before he stands on the table and makes monkey noises, have food in your hand before the “I’m hungry” tantrums start.  Don’t let your mind slip to the grocery list you need to make or the dinner date you have planned for Saturday.  That’s when kids make their move…and then you’re screwed.
Thanks Lorenzo (and The News and Observer)
This is what a game face looks like.
2.       Toys:   
        You know how when you go to the doctor, you’re always disappointed that the newest issue of US Weekly still has pre-preggo Snooki or how all the good recipes from Southern Living Magazine are ripped out?  Well, that’s how a kid feels about the toys in the pediatrician’s office.  Bring at least 3 or 4 small toys.  ONLY 1 of these should make noise and the noise should not be an annoying song.  Pull the noise-making toy out when you’re in the holding pin exam room.  Noisy toys not only awaken the sleeping baby across the room, they also draw more attention to your child and most likely will end in some sort of wrestling match between your child and another child whose mom only used the letter to prep for the appointment.

3.       “E-Z Grabber”:   
        You may also want to bring along an “E-Z Grabber” to rescue these toys after your kid has found a very deep crevice in which to wedge an object.  Every mom has performed some advanced yoga position or force an elbow to become double-jointed in an attempt to reach a 99 cent toy party favor because a beloved dinosaur has fallen down a vent or lodged itself deep in a ½ inch wide crack.  This is where the grabber becomes the Jaws of Life, and you can effortlessly seize that all-important object and stave off that instinctive meltdown.

4.       A Cardigan:   
        Nothing screams I’m a responsible grown-up like a cardigan.  It’s the non-verbal way of communicating to the doctor that you have obviously NEVER forgotten the diaper bag or given my kid French fries.   It’s also an awesome article of clothing for quickly covering up any spit-up, drool, dried food your child wiped on your shirt, coffee you spilt carrying 25 things to the car, and if your child has a runny nose…okay, we won’t go there.  Just trust me…bring the cardigan.
Cardigan Mom's version of lunch:  Turkey, cheese (2% milk of course), orange pepper topped with hummus and blueberries.

5.       Food – lots of it:   
        The Perfect Storm: A hungry kid—confined in a 10x10 room – the snacks run out.  DON’T give him the whole bag of Cheerios – he’ll eat it all in one sitting and you’ll find yourself rummaging through your purse for that half-eaten Twix bar from earlier or that stale granola bar you packed 2 months ago.  Save the candy bribery for the drive home. If the doctor walk in the middle of your kid’s sugar high or your kid smears the remnants of a melted Hersey Bar on the pediatrician’s white coat, the cardigan facade becomes null and void.

6.       Extra clothes NOTHING can ruin any outing faster than a “BLOW OUT” diaper and no back-up  attire.   To avoid the very real possibility of carrying your child out of the office naked, bring extra clothes. And above all.

7.  Don't Forget Your Kid...

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