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Reason #2 Social Services COULD take action

August 8, 2007

You know how kids get a yearly exam, right before school, just to make sure they’re healthy?

Flash back to 2005 when the whole brood was (gasp–I CAN do math) 2 years younger than they are right now. We were on an insurance plan geared toward low monthly costs because my employer at the time was busy making sure that every raise I got was offset by higher employee insurance contributions. Perhaps some of you out there work for the same company. Perhaps some of you out there have the same health plan. I won’t mention any names, but it rhymes with Miser.

If you have the same health plan, then you understand the Hamster Wheel system, in which you never see the same provider twice, everything is all there in one convenient location, and you may or may not actually get the care you seek. If you don’t have that health plan, suffice it to say that it’s pretty darned close to Socialized Medicine and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. But rather than go broke that year, we succumbed to Hamster Wheel medicine.

So there we were, all four kids and I, in the clinic, waiting to be seen for the annual physicals. When it came time for my son’s checkup, we headed back for the same routine we’d just done with the other three. He got weighed and measured. He did the eye exam and the hearing test. The nurse practitioner checked his reflexes, looked in his throat, peeled back his eyelids, and scribbled notes on a piece of paper. It was no different than it had been all afternoon.

When the doc came in, she sat down to talk with my little guy. He was six at the time, but a pretty articulate six, if I do say so myself. He could definitely hold his own in conversation and it’s always been my theory that the kids know best when it comes to communicating with doctors, so I let him roll with it. It’s a pet peeve of mine when parents have all of the answers and the poor kiddo, who is actually the patient, can’t get a word in edgewise. I leaned my head back against the wall and counted the dots in the ceiling tile while the doc asked him all manner of questions. What were his favorite foods? What grade we he going into? What did he like about school? How was summer going?

He answered all of these questions in ways that would make any mother proud. He liked math… a LOT. He enjoyed his teachers, he was making friends, he liked the playground. He liked broccoli (thank the Heavens, he’s not a picky eater), especially with cheese, and fish, and Salisbury Steak. He had lots of friends in the neighborhood. He didn’t have anything that concerned him.

It was going well. I didn’t step in at all. I didn’t even make a peep. Not a single sound.

Then came the question that ended my happy, dot-counting, proud mother moment.

“What hobbies do you have?” the doc asked.

“I like to play video games,” he replied.

The doctor dug a little further. She wondered what games he liked to play. He told her. The WHOLE list. At that time, I think they only had five games, but he went into great detail about each one, so the list sounded extensive.  I really, really wanted to interject here that he was on a limited schedule with these video games. They got 1/2 hour each day and that was IT, pinky swear! But I restrained myself. I figured that if I stepped in now, it would be a little like getting the bare lightbulb interrogation and I would appear guilty just by defending myself… “Yes ma’am, I let my child play video games! Cuff me!”

So I stayed silent while the little man went on and on and ON… ad nauseum, about which games he liked the best and why. His knowledge level (although I’ve always considered him to be smarter than the average bear) was way above average on this particular subject. She listened. She nodded. She scribbled.

“Do you like to ride your bike?” she asked. “Or do you have other things you like to do outside?”

“No, not really,” he said. “I just like to play video games.”

“Hmmmm….” said the doctor. Scribble, scribble.

I madly counted dots so I wouldn’t appear troubled by this turn of events, although I’m sure the red color that stained my face, neck and ears probably gave me away. In my mind I pictured the child riding his bike, skateboard, or scooter up and down the street all weekend long… as he had done just the previous weekend. I reminded myself that he liked to run through the sprinkler and go to the park. I replayed the pictures of him and the neighbor kids playing Beyblades in the grass in our front yard, the impromptu games of street hockey, basketball, and soccer.

I counted to three hundred dots while this little conversation continued and swore that it would be 300 days before this kid sat in front of a video game system again. Doc decided to cut me some slack and turned toward me on her rotating, rolling stool. Her eyebrow raised in a questioning fashion, she said, “Everything appears normal to me.”

I breathed.  I nodded.  I waited. She paused, turned away on the rolling stool, paused again, and then turned back.

“Make sure they’re getting plenty of outside time, OK?”

I nodded again and said in desperation, “They DO get plenty of outside time,” my teeth clenched, as I shot daggers at my six-year-old over the doc’s left shoulder. “He likes to ride bikes and scooters and his skateboard. He likes to go to the park, too. Don’t you, little man?”

He looked up at me with wide brown eyes, through those impossibly long eyelashes that make me melt every time, and said, “Yeah, sometimes. But I really like video games.”

More scribbling…

“Do you always wear a helmet?” she asked.

“Yes,” he replied. Finally, an answer that wouldn’t result in the Worst Mother of the Year Award.

Mercifully, she left the room and the little man and I had a very brief discussion on the importance of being truthful with healthcare providers, while I pondered strangling him… eyelashes notwithstanding.

“But Mom, I really do like video games,” he said.

“I know you do,” I replied. “But you also like to play outside and that’s very important. It’s more important than video games.”

He rolled his eyes.

Again, I waited for the call or the knock at the door. I’m sure that doctor still thinks I’m the worst parent on the earth. I don’t know, to this day, what possessed the number one sports enthusiast in our household to tell her he preferred staying inside with the video games to going outside to play. Maybe it was just on his mind that day.

If he told our current doctor that little story, the doc would know better because he knows us well. Such are the downfalls of Hamster Wheel medicine. I still fear that my picture is posted on the wall somewhere–or maybe it’s just that my name is on a plaque–and when Social Services gets bored with tracking down whatever bad parents there are out there, they’ll come looking for me… that woman that lets her kid stay inside all the time and play video games.

There are proud parenting moments, and then there are PROUD parenting moments, let me tell you…

6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 8, 2007 2:56 pm

    Kids always seem to enjoy leaving out information that they know people want to hear. It seems to be programed into their little minds…. Like the doctor visit. They know the doctors want to know about outside time, so that seems to be the time they talk about nothing more then video or computer games…

  2. August 8, 2007 3:30 pm

    Oh, honey – at least you didn’t witness a yellow Post-It pad with the words “mother doesn’t feed child enough” on it.

    Yeah, that one is reserved for me.

    I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that in Ruby’s medical file. This was before she was officially diagnosed with Growth Hormone Disease, and who knew that she wasn’t growing because of an actual DISEASE and not because Mom wasn’t feeding child enough. Pissed me off something fierce.

    Isn’t it amazing how the slightest scribble scribble or, in my case, glance at a post-it can send us right over the edge? Like WE — mothers who either who spit these children out of our womb or care for them with blood, sweat and tears — don’t have their best interests at heart? Sheesh.

    Nice post though. Thanks for the memories. heh. j/k

  3. August 9, 2007 7:58 am

    At least the doc didn’t scribble “mother spends too much time counting dots, looking detached and uninterested in child’s well-being instead of interacting and answering for child/patient.” It’s hard feeling misjudged – or judged – and misperceived. Good thing you moved on to anti-Social medicine. Hey, do you have something against the word Social???

  4. August 9, 2007 3:01 pm

    I thought that was you on the bulletin board the other day when I was at the doctors! 🙂

  5. August 9, 2007 7:39 pm

    @Diane – oh my gosh! They DID post my picture! I’m so embarrassed… 🙂 I just knew they would do it…

    @Donna – I do. I do have something against the word Social! Unless it’s in reference to an Ice Cream Social. Then I’m all for it!

    @Daisy – Don’t you just wanna smack ’em when they say things like that? I hate snap judgments, I really do. Um, you’re welcome for the good memories… yeah, you’re welcome. I’ll try to conjure up happier times in my next post, K? 🙂

    @Chelly – Exactly! What is it with the little monkeys that they come up with the things you most DON’T want them to say in instances like that? I think it must be payback for all of the crazy things we said as kids that got our parents in trouble…

  6. Noni permalink
    August 14, 2007 9:31 pm

    You must admit he is pretty good at video games. However, I like the idea of the “payback for all of the crazy things we said as kids that got our parents in trouble…”

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