Thursday, 31 October 2013

How to drive away patients

Today was Ryder’s 2-year well-baby checkup. Anyone who has spent time with us recently might understand why I almost considered canceling: we’ve got a lot going on these days, time and money are precious, and I consider Ryder to be a very healthy and happy little kid. Why waste energy being told what I already know? But I also have a little judgemental cartoon character in my head that scolds me if I consider doing things of which a “good mother” wouldn’t approve.

The visit started out fine: Ryder was a great sport about getting measured and weighed, and waved and smiled to all of the nurses as we walked to our exam room. We had fun identifying colors and objects around the room as we waited for the doctor. Then, the doctor arrived and spoiled everything.

It began when we looked at Ryder’s 3 growth-chart datapoints (most of his measurements were done in Australia, so his US chart is a bit sparse). These showed a seemingly precipitous drop in his size-for-age, sometime in the past year.

“My, my,” said the doctor. “Worrying indeed.” He proceeded to list off some terrifying ailments Ryder could have to explain this trajectory. Then we discussed his eating habits, including the fact that he was an overly-avid breast-feeder until almost 18 months, and would sometimes refuse to eat at daycare, waiting to fill up on milk. “The Australians definitely let you down, if they saw this drop-off in percentile and didn’t warn you to make changes. But then again, Australians are cavalier croc-wrestlers who don’t go to the doctor unless they are missing a limb.”

“Clearly, though, this shows that Ryder has some severe behavioral problems,” said Mister Doctor. “At that age he didn’t need your breastmilk, he just wanted comfort. This indicates he is much too attached to you, and he also manipulates you,” he said, casting a disapproving eye at Ryder, who was at the moment cuddling on my lap.  

Look at this naughty child, whom I've entrusted with a ceramic cup in a tile-floored coffee shop. Clearly a hooligan.

First, he decided to refer Ryder to a pediatric counselor to address his behavior problems (“of course,” he added, “really this will be to teach you how to parent him properly”). Then, he lectured me on needing to place Ryder into a full-time preschool to help him detach from me and become independent (because, you know, 2 year olds really should be completely ready to fend for themselves, obviously).

“Now, the other thing we should discuss is how his potential growth has been curtailed by this malnourishment before he stopped breastfeeding,” the doctor continued. “He’s not going to be as tall as he could have been. Being tall is important for boys. He’s going to have problems socially, and it will probably even impact his ability to secure a good job.”

What. The. Actual. Fuck.

While my response to this in person was to burst into tears (causing the doctor to send in a counselor to discuss the fact that I should also be referred for family counseling because obviously I can’t keep my shit together) here is what I would have liked to say to him, had I been given time to compose myself:

1. Your data is shit. Three data points are not enough to infer anything. Who’s to say that the first high-percentile datapoint wasn’t marked down incorrectly? (If I could find anything in this house, I’d compare all of his Australian measurements…but I have no freaking idea where they are).

2. It’s not Ok to say that there is a correct way to parent. Parenting is extremely personal, comes from the heart, and I believe should ebb and flow to fit the needs of each particular family. Obviously, there are ground rules: feed and bathe the child, give them love, and don’t hurt them. Beyond that, I have a hard time believing there is a proven “best” way to parent, much like the objective “best” chocolate chip cookie is not possible to quantify (I like them soft and chewy, but maybe you are weird and like crunchy ones. Fine.)
Geez, look at this lack of social ability.

3. Telling me that I screwed something up irreversibly in the past, and have thus destroyed my child’s chance at a good future is not particularly useful, unless your goal is to destroy all of the self-confidence I hold as a mother. Give me advice on how I can support my child’s health and well being in the future, given his current and past health history. Don’t berate me for something of which I was unaware and have no power to fix.

4. You don’t know a flying lollipop about Australian people or the Australian health-care system.

5. Making judgments about my kid’s current behavior based on what I told you about how he behaved almost a year ago is ridiculous.

6. Behaviors I find upsetting in children include hitting, biting, stealing toys, throwing tantrums to get candy/toys/whatever, lying, breaking things, harming animals, screaming randomly, and generally being irritating. Ryder generally doesn’t do any of these things, and is generally kind and gentle and sweet, and I am therefore not inclined to try to change his personality.

7. My kid likes to cuddle and has good reason to be wary and want to sit with me in doctor’s offices (if you remember, Doc, the last time we were here you convinced me that we should take a blood sample from the perfectly healthy babe because you are insane and I didn’t realize it at the time). When he goes to daycare, or to other people’s houses to play, he doesn’t cling to me: he happily goes off to enjoy himself, barely giving me a wave as I leave for work. If that is overly attached, so be it.

8. Yes, it would be great if we had more friends with kids Ryder’s age. But I’m busy, and it’s hard to make friends, and I still feel like we just moved back across the ocean. So give me a freaking break.

No, we won’t be back, doctor.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Rethinking feminism (in particular situations)

Please excuse the long period of silence on the blog. We’ve been in a mild period of upheaval over here. The husband had an unexpected stay at the hospital a few weeks back, we bought our first house, and I started a new job teaching part-time at the University of San Diego. I might have a few moments to breathe here and there, had we bought a normal home, with things like a kitchen, or a functional shower. Instead, we’ve been mostly living in a camper trailer kindly donated and hand-delivered by my dad to our new backyard (a swath of dirt and construction debris), while we spend essentially every spare moment tackling the most pressing house-functionality issues.
This photo is a good representation of the house - Ok, there is a mailbox, but it is about to tip over. And yes, there's a bit of a fence, though it is only about 6 feet long and could probably be pushed over by a gust of wind.
Some of these tasks have caused me to seriously question why I ever voiced out loud my feeling that women and men should be able to do essentially the same things. For example, here is a sampling of the not-hugely-pleasant items I have done recently, that may once have belonged solely in the realm of strapping, lumberjack-style men:

1. After emptying and pulling out clogs in the Shopvac six times, I realized it was time to clean the bucketfuls of matted fiberglass insulation + raccoon poop out of the outdoor storage room with a shovel. Apparently the raccoon previously living in there had discovered the insulation made a fine nest.

2. Removed several desiccated carcasses (possum, and probably raccoon) from underneath the house with the help of a crowbar.

3. Sprayed with bleach solution and then wiped up by (gloved) hand an entire bucketful of rodent poop throughout the house.
My recent attire of choice.
4. Dug up a cubic yard of contaminated soil from the backyard where someone had tried (illegally and disgustingly) to dispose of motor oil by pouring it into the ground and kicking dirt over it.

5. Fought with our sewer line for 2 days:
(a) Removed the toilet and tried to clear the stopped sewer drain using a hand-driven auger (snake) for two hours. I learned to stand far back from the open, sloshing sewer line when removing and cleaning the end of the snake after the first time it sproinged out and splattered everything in the vicinity.
(b) Obtained sulfuric acid and tried, unsuccessfully again, to clear the drain by dissolving the clog with noxious chemicals.
(c) Called our neighbor the plumber, whose motorized equipment solved the problem in 20 minutes.
(d) Replaced the toilet, crooked.
(e) Removed the toilet again, bought a new wax ring, and replaced it once more.
(f) Decided that next time I will skip all of those steps except (c).

6. Spent 2 hours unsuccessfully installing a laundry sink in our kitchen and swearing like a sailor before the husband pointed out I had the p-trap on backwards.

So, what have I learned aside from the fact that mice running past my feet will indeed cause me to squeal loudly and leap into the air like a cartoon character?

1. Gloves are under-rated.

2. People who clean things for a living are saints.

3. Renovating is a great workout.

4. Cleaning and construction work will destroy your clothing.

5. Walking around a construction site in bare feet is idiotic.

Maybe I should have insisted that my sex bars me from participating in any of the above activities, and instead should be supervising while eating chocolate bon-bons? I guess that would probably get boring after a while. And, I wouldn't get to take all the credit for this kind of amazing transformation:
"Shower" before
"Shower" after (other wall). Still no faucet, etc. but at least we have tile!