Category Archives: going to the doctor

Everybody Hurts



At bedtime, I discovered my younger son had a hangnail on his left thumb. It looked irritated and raw. It looked like it throbbed. It looked like it had been there a while.

“How long have you had it?” asked him.

“I don’t know,” he said avoiding eye contact.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked.

“I forgot,” he said.

“Let me see it,” I said.

“Don’t touch it!” he yelled.

“I won’t touch it, but you have to let me look at it,” I said.

It looked painful. I had him wash his hands and then I put antibiotic ointment and a bandage on it.

“Do I have to go to the doctor?” he asked nervously.

“I don’t know,” I said. “We’ll look at it again in the morning.”

I hate when my kids don’t tell me when they’re hurt. They wake up every morning complaining about ambiguous aches and pains to avoid going to school – I have a stomachache! My throat is sore! My nose hurts! – but when something truly causes pain, they hide it.

I was worried my son’s nail would get infected, and I was annoyed that he kept it from me. Mostly, though, I felt an all-too-familiar stab of guilt that I didn’t know about it.

About a year ago, I discovered my older son had plantar warts on his feet. It wasn’t a few warts or even a small bunch. It was dozens of warts all over the bottoms of his feet and toes, and I had no idea. None! No matter how many times the dermatologist said, “This happens all the time,” I couldn’t (and still can’t) shake the sting of embarrassment I felt about not knowing something was wrong with my child.

The catch-22 of instilling independence in our kids is that when we stop micromanaging everything they do, there’s a good chance they’ll fix themselves a bowl of cookies for breakfast, wear the same underwear for a week straight, or hide (ignore?) a throbbing hangnail or wart outbreak to avoid the pain of fixing it. It’s not negligence on our part, but rather it’s the inevitable bumps and bruises of gradually letting go. Unfortunately, it doesn’t relieve the guilt.

I told my husband about the hangnail.

“Why didn’t he tell me?” I asked, still irked about it.

“He’s a kid,” he said. “Remember when you were a kid and you hid your medicine in the couch?”

He was right. When I was a little girl, I had this bizarre combination of strep throat, scarlet fever, and some other plague that required endless doses of medication. Several times a day, my mom or dad would give me a handful of chewable acetaminophen and a teaspoon or two of liquid antibiotic, all of which I hid under a couch cushion or poured into a napkin and tossed into the trash when they weren’t looking because I didn’t like the taste.

All hell broke out when my mom discovered the pills in the couch. My parents weren’t just angry at my behavior. They were also terrified that I endangered my health. Now that I’m a parent, I understand how they felt, and I can only imagine the humiliation they endured when they had to explain to the pediatrician not only what I did but also that they had no idea I was doing it.

My husband had a point. Everybody hurts, and we’re all to blame at some point for ignoring it, hiding it, putting it off, or pretending it’s not there to avoid dealing with it. Dodging scary medical interventions – nail clippers for hangnails, cryotherapy for warts, yucky tasting medicine for illness, or worse – is a rite of passage for kids, and dealing with the consequences of what our children conceal is an equally expected lesson for parents.

It was just a hangnail (this time), but it was also a valuable teachable moment. I need to talk to my kids more often about the importance of speaking up when something hurts (physically or emotionally) and about the benefit of taking care of our health even when it’s unpleasant. I also need to give myself a break in the guilt department because when something really hurts my kids – when wearing pants is agony, when fractions homework is torture, or when eating cucumber slices is excruciating – they couldn’t hide their pain if they tried.

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Filed under going to the doctor, health, parenting

The Hidden Costs Of A Strep Test


One of my kids had a strep test. The insurance co-pay was $15, but there were hidden costs.

1. Productivity.  

On the morning of day three of “my throat hurts” with no other symptoms except for a few rogue sneezes, I presented the put up or shut up ultimatum: “School or doctor. What’ll it be?”

“Doctor,” he said.

Crap. No school + doctor = I wasn’t going to get anything done.

2. Integrity.  

What I said when he cried and swatted at the giant cotton swab the nurse had to shove down his throat: “Be brave! Let the nurse do her job! It’s no big deal! You’re okay…it’s okay!”

What I was thinking: Better you than me kid! I would never let her stick that thing in my mouth. I’d rather have an epidural! Tell that nurse to tickle her own damn tonsils!

The strep test made me a liar and a jerk.

3. Guilt.

The only way to win his love back – because even though it was his idea to go to the doctor, it was obviously my fault that he was assaulted by a foot-long Q-tip – was to reward him.

“What can I do to reward you for your courage?” I asked knowing full well what the answer would be.

“The toy store,” he said through tears.

We settled on Target because it was closer and open and I needed a few other things (Target sells wine in my neck of the woods). One tower of 50 Crayola Pip Squeaks Markers, one sketch pad, one Imaginext blind bag, one box of Children’s Claritin chewable tablets (per the doctor’s instructions), and $47.18 later, balance was restored to the universe.

4. Sanity.

By the time we got home, I was exhausted, depraved, remorseful, $62.18 in the hole, and stuck at home for the rest of the day with a not-really-sick kid who wanted chocolate chip Little Bites and icy-cold water approximately every eleven minutes. In addition, I had nothing but unwanted time on my hands to fold two loads of laundry, including two fitted sheets (the worst!), unload and reload the dishwasher, stare at but do nothing about the half-dozen piles of crap on the dining room table, think about but do nothing about the dog poop strewn all over the back yard, and plan a dinner that I knew in my heart I wouldn’t actually cook.

In case you were wondering, the strep test came back negative. Shocker. The kid went straight back to school the next morning because strep tests were costly, and I couldn’t afford another day like that.


Filed under going to the doctor, motherhood