Friday, June 22, 2012

Swiftly Fly the Years

“You’re such a good mother.”

I flinch and say softly, “Really, I’m not.”

I then take a deep breath and say more emphatically, “Really.”

Between the homeschooling and the writing about our various adventures, it might appear as if I’m actually raising my child with care and attention. Some might even assume that I’m marinating in my own high competency, smiling in gentle satisfaction as Daughter spontaneously decides to write a musical while we wait for our homemade yoghurt to grow the right kind of flora. Being as parenting has become something between a decathalon and The Hunger Games—a sport with unachievable expectations and dire consequences to anyone who doesn’t win—there might be someone, somewhere right now reading this who has at one point felt intimated by what I do for my child.

If that’s you, please read the following:

Last week, I called the pediatrician’s office to make an appointment for Daughter’s annual check-up. The woman at the front-desk pulled up her information and chirped, “Well, it’s certainly been a while, hasn’t it?”

I was taking this moment to try to chase a cat-hair tumbleweed out from behind the computer, so I was somewhat distracted and said, “Yes, it’s been a year.” I snagged the tumbleweed, flicked it in the trash and felt vindicated. An errant breeze blew through the house, caught the tumbleweed and placed it behind the computer again.

She clicked a few keys and said, “Actually, she hasn’t been in for an annual check-up in three years.”

What? How was this possible? I brought her in the week after school got out every year, because that was easy to remember, so why on earth would I have forgotten that three years in a...


Three years ago, we started homeschooling. My capacity to parent is so fragile that without the trigger of a classroom, I completely forgot that my child lives in a body and that someone in a white coat might need to see that body on a regular basis. No, that’s not entirely true. In those three years, she’d been in twice times for bacterial things and twice for injuries and in none of those visits did a doctor or nurse mention how horribly under checked-up she appeared.


During that time, I managed to get her to the dentist and to the orthodontist with numbing regularity. I got her eyes checked annually. I even got her moles checked during that time. Technically, I could say that the largest organ in her body was declared hazard-free.


I have exactly one child. She has exactly one body which needs to be seen exactly once a year. I’ve been more vigilant about replacing the filters in the air-purifier. Then again, the air-purifier has this lovely little red lamp which indicates when it needs maintainance. The kid lacked one of those. People like me need a little red lamp which tell us what matters. Someone really should invent such a thing for children.


The nurse assured me Daughter wasn’t behind on her vaccinations, and I decided to be uncharacteristically optimistic. I chirped, “I bet you have kids in all the time whose parents have missed annual check-ups.”


A few seconds later, she must have realized it was her turn to talk, because she said slowly, “Well, not around here.”

Of course, not around here. Here is where parents like their children, want their children, have several properly cared-for children and quiz them on Spanish verbs as they whisk them to soccer club-teams and then home to wonderful meals waiting in the Crock-pot. What I did was more of a there kind of parenting. We all know where there children end up. That’s right; second-rate colleges where they live with the consequences of untreated illnesses as they tell the free-clinic doctor about how their mother wished they had been more like the air-purifier.

While waiting for her appointment, I did what I always do; I obsessed and fretted. I stared closely at Daughter, trying to determine if she appeared peaked as she leapt nimbly through the house, caroming off the furniture. I worried about her underlying well-being as I watched her eat her third helping at dinner. I mused aloud to Consort that maybe there was a life-threatening condition in children whose main symptom was seemingly perfect health. Consort mumbled, “I remember when I used to think you were kidding when you said things like that.” Then he wandered off to delete all the House episodes from the Tivo.

So, my daughter is fine; the nurse snickered when she heard how long it had been and the doctor suggested I see my doctor to check out any undiagnosed brain injuries which might affect memory, but the kid is fine. She’s now up to date on her vaccinations and declared free of scoliosis. Once again, my daughter somehow managed to survive my parenting. We ate Pinkberry to celebrate; I insisted she add fruit. And I considered the upcoming few months. I have written a book about homeschooling, a topic which doesn’t leave many people indifferent. And I’m not writing from a neutral position; I homeschool. No matter how many times I explain to a reader, or a reporter, or an innocent fellow elevator-user that I’m an idiot--no matter how many times I repeat that I’m homeschooling without being completely certain it’s a good idea--some people are going to think I’m judging their family’s choices. I’m going to be accused of being an elitist, of being a bad parent, of mocking other people; I will be accused of being an idiot. I’m not looking forward to that part of the process, but I hope during the more personal attacks, some part of my brain will pipe up and say, “You know what? The kid is fine. You can only hope she stays fine in all the ways which matter. And this will pass.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to call my doctor’s office. I have a nagging suspicion I’ve got an annual check-up or eight of my own to see to.


Blogger sarah said...

Lol. I must admit I've never understood the idea of the annual medical check up for healthy children. So I wouldn't feel guilty if I were you. :-)

12:58 AM  
Blogger Runs Like A Gay said...

Perhaps I'm looking at this the wrong way round, but wouldn't it make sense for the doc to send out a letter once a year to remind you that the annual check on your daughter is due?

Our vet does it when the dog's booster jabs are coming up (although I expect the £30 charge covers the postage) and a child's health is probably a lot more important.

Not that I'm giving you an excuse. Next time book it for her birthday then you'll easily remember each year.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Cabin77 said...

You know what, Daughter is fine. You know she's fine. The vast majority of parents do the absolute best we can. We're flawed. We're human. We forget stuff and we remember stuff. We make choices that seem right and then feel wrong and then turn out to be fine. Or not.

My daughter goes to a University Model School - class in a classroom with a teacher MWF and TTh I home school with lesson plans given to me by the teachers. There are pros and cons. My son goes to public school. There are pros and cons. We do what we think is best for our kids. Period.

And thanks for reminding me about the annual exam. Last year I went 18 months for both kids. It's about that time now!

5:55 PM  
Blogger bethany actually said...

Would it make you feel better to know that I let three years pass between my daughter's annual check-ups as well? It was partly due to moving across the country and my hatred of finding new doctors every time we move (military family), but mostly it was due to laziness.

And we homeschool! Ha.

8:30 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Um...they're supposed to have ANNUAL exams?

Oh dear.

Guess I lost that Mom of the Year award again...huh?

P.S. Tweeted you to ask you know of a product that de-smells floors when they've been dog-peed-on?

7:19 PM  
Blogger Leta said...

I didn't start having annual check-ups until about 5 years ago, but got taken to the eye doctor and the dentist very regularly.

My scoliosis was diagnosed at school ("everybody bend over and let your arms hang freely!") and a check up would not had caught the only health condition I actually have (Celiac Disease) because it wasn't one people looked for.

It's all good. :-)

9:23 AM  
Anonymous Twisted Susan said...

What a swell office staff the pediatrician has, no wonder your brain blocked them out for three years.

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Riin said...

I honestly can't remember if I had annual checkups as a kid. I remember going to the doctor a lot, but I was sick a lot (2nd grade: the year of many earaches).

I'm 47 now, and my doctor says I don't need to come in every year if I'm feeling fine. Every 2-3 years is fine.

11:53 AM  

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