Four days after Bug's third birthday, he was scheduled to visit the doctor for a check-up. In the week leading up to the appointment, I tried to prepare him. I listened to his heart to check for any drumming; I looked in his ears, eyes, and throat to check for tiny monkeys that may have been hiding back there. We acknowledged that he might get a shot, which could definitely hurt, but that the shot and the pain would be over really fast.
On the morning of his check-up, we were parked in front of the doctor's office - about ten minutes early for the appointment.
As we went through the front door, I saw Bug realize that this was not the doctor's office he had pictured - it was not the one in Brooklyn.
A woman at the front desk saw him and called out good morning. After she looked at her computer, she said, "[Bug]? Is that [Bug]? Come on in, [Bug]!"
She said, "[Bug], if you don't want to come in, I might have to come get you!"
I smiled at Bug to let him know she was playing around. He started to smile.
He walked into the waiting room and asked to play with the toys.
The toys at our doctor's office in Brooklyn had been plentiful and fun. They were Bug's favorite part of - and perhaps only positive association with - the doctor.
The toys at this doctor's office were perhaps intended for a target audience of eighteen-month old toddlers. Nevertheless, Bug eventually allowed his imagination to take hold and started to have fun there while we waited.
About ten minutes after our appointment was scheduled to start, a nurse came out to the waiting room.
Nurse: "Are you [Bug]?"
Bug turned to her.
Nurse: "How old are you?"
Nurse: "You look so big. Do you want to find out how big you are? Let's find out how tall you are and how much you weigh."
Nurse: "[Bug], let's go find out how big you are!"
Me: "Come on, [Bug]. Let's go in and find out how big you've gotten."
Nurse: "How about a sticker?"
I took Bug's hand and led him down the hall. The nurse held out a bucket of stickers, and Bug seemed happy to take one. He peeled the sticker off and was trying to stick it - on his hand, on his arm, on his shirt?
Nurse: "Do you want that sticker on your shirt?"
Bug continued his negotiations with the sticker.
Nurse: "How about you put that sticker on your shirt? Or your hand??"
Bug finally got the sticker where he wanted it.
The nurse led us to the wall where we were supposed to find out Bug's height.
Nurse: "Okay, stand against the wall so we can see how tall you are."
Bug shook his head.
Anxious that we were not meeting expectations, I stood against the wall and measured myself with big smiles and lots of "see?" "isn't this so great?" "look how easy this is!" "woo-hooooo, I am so tall!"
Bug shook his head - perhaps even more vehemently.
Fair enough. I looked ridiculous, and Nurse Business looked annoyed.
Nurse: "Take off your boots, so we can measure you."
The problem with that request is that Bug loves his rain boots. He has worn rain boots every day since June. All summer long. Even when it was over ninety degrees. Asking him to take off his boots would be like asking Dumbo to give up his magic feather.
Bug: "Nooooooo! I don't want to take off my boots!!!!!!"
Nurse [to me]: "You are going to be in Exam Room 2. Why don't you go in there and get his boots off, put down your things, and then come back out so we can do this."
I took Bug into Exam Room 2. There were more toys there, but unfortunately, this was not the time to enjoy them. I explained we would take off our shoes and boots, get measured, then come back and play with the toys. My explanation was about twelve percent successful.
Bug: "I don't want to see that lady. I don't want that lady!!"
We got the boots off and went back into the hallway.
Nurse: "[Let's get you measured, little boy. This has gone on for long enough.] Do you want me to measure you like a baby? You would have to lie down like a baby. Or can you be a big boy and stand against the wall?!?"
Bug quickly ended up in my arms - clinging and tense. I was carrying him on my hip like I normally carry Squish.
Nurse: "Fine. Let's weigh you. Can you get on the scale? No?!? Fine. Then get on there with your mommy, and then I will weigh your mommy alone and do the math. [Rar!]"
We both ended up on the scale. First, Bug in my arms - still clinging. Then, I was weighed alone - delightful.
Nurse: "Now are we going to get you measured against the wall? No?!?!! [Like a baby then! To the Exam Room!!]"
I put Bug down on the exam table and held his flailing arms while the nurse held his legs and marked the paper where his head and feet were. Bug cried like he was hurt and jumped into my arms as quickly as he was allowed.
Nurse: "Now it is time to take blood pressure! No? Okay. I am so nice. I will not take your blood pressure against your will. See? I am your friend. [I am a bit of an enigma, and I am a bit scary to you. But I am going to tell you I am your friend.]"
I brought Bug to a chair to sit with me.
Nurse: "Normally, the kids wear a gown. Do you think he would want a gown? No? Okay. Just his shirt and underwear will be fine."
The nurse left, and Bug and I sat in a chair in the exam room.
Me: "[Bug], the doctor is so nice and wonderful. You are going to love her. She is going to check for monkeys in your ears!"
Bug: "I want to go to school. Is that the doctor coming? Do I hear the doctor coming? I am not sick. I am okay. I want to go to school. I don't want the doctor. Is that the doctor coming?"
The nurse opened the door and asked if I had brought Bug's medical records from his pediatrician's office [in New York].
Me: "The records were sent here in August."
Nurse: "The front desk said you didn't give them anything."
Me: When I walked in this morning, I did not give them anything. The records should have arrived from New York a couple of months ago.
The nurse closed the door.
Bug and I went to sit together on the exam table to wait for the doctor. And wait. And wait.
Eventually the doctor came in. Bug said something I can't remember - but it was probably something along the lines of, "no."
So, the doctor sat down across from us and asked Bug a series of questions. He seemed to warm up to her a bit. Then...
Doctor: "I forgot your name. What's your name? Can you tell me your name?"
Doctor: "Is your name . . . Bobby?"
Bug: "Nooooooo!" [smile]
Doctor: "Is your name . . . [a mispronunciation of your last name, which doesn't sound like Bug's or anyone else's first name]?"
Doctor [to me]: "Do you think he knows his name?"
Me: "[What the . . . ?] Yes. Just so you know, we pronounce our last name [Freakingawesome], so he wouldn't have understood you just now."
Several more questions ensued - including whether Bug is a "good eater" and a "good sleeper." Then it was time for the physical exam.
Bug: "Mommy first!"
Me: "Is that okay? Could you check me first? I think it would help . . ."
Doctor: "Um . . . I don't have time to do the whole thing, but . . ."
The doctor put on a half-hearted, rushed show of checking my heart, lungs, throat, belly, eyes, ears, and throat.
When it was Bug's turn, he refused.
He refused loudly.
Doctor: "Why don't you talk to him for a minute while I step out. Then take his pants off, and open the door so I know you are ready."
The doctor left. Bug started to protest and cry.
While Bug was crying on the exam table, I was saying something about "it will be okay, sweetie," and "sometimes, we don't have a choice about things, and we just have to follow directions," while he was saying something like, "I don't want to."
I got his pants off and opened the door - as instructed - to let the doctor know to return.
Bug started to cry even more. The doctor eventually came back. Bug jumped into my arms, clinging to me again, and crying loudly.
Doctor: "Maybe we should try to finish this some other time. There are people waiting."
I was holding a yelling, screaming Bug in my arms and searching Exam Room 2 for his pants - sure that he had flung them to the floor in his leap up to me. The doctor was behind me all the while suggesting that "he could come back as a totally different kid," "it happens - you never know," "did he have trouble at his last doctor?"
I finally saw that Bug was holding his pants in a little, clenched fist.
I told the doctor we would finish the appointment some other time. At this point, I had tears in my own eyes. I was ready to sit down on the floor with Bug and give up all semblance of being in charge of anything.
I got Bug back into his pants and boots. I reassured him that we were leaving, and we did.
By the time I had Bug in his car seat, I knew we would not ever go back to finish that appointment.
Two feelings predominate every time I think of or tell the story of Bug's check-up.
First, I get so mad I want to spit. Did the doctor really have the nerve to say that other people were waiting? I'm pretty sure we were not standing in the front of the line at Effing Shake Shack and trying to pay in coins. I am pretty freaking sure my three-year-old child and I were at his pediatrician's office so that his pediatrician could assess his health and overall well-being.
Nevertheless, my second feeling is guilt. I feel guilty that I failed to recognize when my Bug - my amazing, sweet, sensitive, intelligent, goofy, magnificent Bug! - needed to leave more than we needed to finish the appointment.
I promise to do better next time.
[which might be my mommy mantra]