The Pediatrician Visit: An Annual Family Adventure

Health & Wellness on 05.04.11
Contributor bio | twitter

Photo credit: Jessica McFadden

Your child's annual well appointment at the pediatrician's office is something that you probably look forward to with a level of enthusiasm usually reserved for paying taxes, undergoing root canals and a sweaty double shift in the Little League snack shack. But like so many parenting chores, it's a task necessary for our kids' health (and their ability to attend most schools and childcare facilities).

My kids and I recently survived this yearly rite of passage. I booked a double well appointment (two kids at once with one pediatrician) during their spring break from school in the highly coveted just-after-lunchtime slot. This was a scheduling feat akin only to a personal audience with the Queen of England during a solar eclipse.

Before the appointment, I spent the first half of the day preparing meals free of processed foods and full of fresh fruits and veggies (I've found pediatricians like to ask the kids what they last ate as a "test" of their regular eating habits) and cleaning the children's bodies from the roots of their hairs to the beds of their toenails (in order to provide proof of good grooming practices).

Upon arriving at the pediatrician's, the kids immediately disrobed from those meticulously clean outfits I had chosen (more proof of attentive parenting!) and donned matching Dr. Seuss-themed paper gowns. Thing 1 and Thing 2 were then weighed, measured and heaped with praise of how much they have grown by our favorite nurse. The nurse then informed me of their height and weight percentiles, which I promptly forgot.

Then we began the annual examination room wait for the doctor, which was only slightly shorter than the wait at a New York City Post Office for an emergency passport. Although I started this purgatory shrieking at the kids that they were not allowed to touch one germ-infested Highlights magazine, by the time the doc finally entered the room the kids were licking the filthy doorjamb side-by-side while I slumped in the corner mom chair, defeated.

The doctor opened her laptop and asked me some questions about the kids' last year, which the kids insisted on answering, and then turned to the kids to ask them some questions, which I of course insisted on supplementing with "helpful" tidbits, to everyone's annoyance. [Some articles I should have read before the appointments, but didn't: Top 10 Tips for Talking to a Pediatrician and What Your Pediatrician Wishes You Knew.] The doctor then provided some sage advice about discipline and limits, based upon her assumptions on observing our family dynamics over those past five minutes, during which I nodded and silently wondered where she got her hair cut, while the kids nodded and silently wondered if they'd be getting shots.

Then Madame Doctor pulled out the fun props the kids recognized from their playroom doctor's kit - the stethoscope, tongue depressors, knee mallet, eye and ear light thingies. Then the kids were invited to show off the cartoon characters on their undies as they demonstrated touching their toes while she checked their spines. And after more small talk, light criticisms and praise reminiscent of Randy, Jennifer and Steven's commentary after an Idol contestant performs a song, she handed down her Ryan Seacrest-like pronouncement: my daughter would be receiving four immunizations, while my son would be receiving zero.

As all hell broke loose, she quietly bid us adieu.

I held my sobbing daughter and promised her an ice cream after it was over, a party with a pony and a new cherry red convertible on her sixteenth birthday if she would just sit still, it would only pinch for a second, it would be all over soon...and then we proceeded to wait for another 20 excruciating minutes. The nurse finally appeared with the little plungers of pain and four Band-Aids decorated with various Bratz characters. My brave girl held onto me as those needles were stuck into her tiny, mighty biceps and I told her over and over that I was so proud of her. Then my kids threw on their clothes and we hightailed it out of there faster than rats from a sinking ship, hoping to get out before someone else decided to stick us with something or make us wait in that tiny examination room for another second.  

As I started my car I remembered that I had forgotten at home the vaccination update forms that the kids' school requires for their files, and that it would cost me another in-person visit to the ped and an additional fee to have the forms filled out outside of the well appointment time frame.

But what the heck, the appointments were DONE for the year, everyone was deemed blessedly healthy, and we had another important appointment... at the ice cream shop.

More on Kids Health
Vaccines Save Lives, and to Pretend Otherwise is Irresponsible
What Are Plastics Doing to My Kids?
Why You Want Your Baby to Be Fat (No, Seriously)