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

Four Words (Approximately) To Live By

Do you remember the episode of “Mad About You” (how badly did I just age myself with that 1990s television reference?) when Paul and Jamie make Mabel cry it out for the first time in her crib? They sit on the floor outside her bedroom door tortured by her sobs.

I remember those difficult nights with both of my boys, and I can still feel in my bones the heartache I endured and strength it took to make them cry it out at various times during their babyhood, Terrible Twos, Threenager Threes, and What The F**k Fours.

Five, though, was my sweet spot. At least it was with Dylan. With him, five was the year that occupational therapy peeled back layers upon layers of anxiety, fear, and discomfort to reveal a charismatic, funny, and bright boy with whom I enjoyed (almost) every moment. Five was the year he blossomed. It was the year we knew everything would be okay.

Five with Riley has been the opposite. Five has unraveled him. It wants to swallow him whole. My sweet, silly boy who once skipped (literally) through life now moves (figuratively) with a slow, aching limp. He dislikes school. He’s withdrawn from his friends. He’s rigid. He’s anxious. He’s fragile. If he were a grown man, I’d send him to a therapist and suggest a pill or two. But he’s five, so it’s complicated.

I would sell my soul in exchange for his happiness, but since I don’t anyone who does that sort of thing, I have to put my faith in a more conventional strategy. Given my journey down a similar path with Dylan a few years back, I’m prepared, ready and eager (but heartbroken nonetheless) to get to the root of it all.

I’ve spent the last several weeks having Riley examined, evaluated, studied, observed, poked, and prodded by an arsenal of doctors and therapists to figure out what the heck is going on. Slowly, we’re checking some boxes and (thankfully) un-checking others, finding answers, and getting to work, but in the meantime, there’s a hella lot of malaise to endure.

At the pediatric eye specialist’s office, where we spent nearly three hours ruling out convergence insufficiency (a condition that has plagued his brother and a box I was relieved to un-check), the doctor asked Riley what he liked to watch on television. She wanted to distract him with her iPad while she administered eye drops.

“Do you like Thomas?” she asked.

As Dylan would say, What the?!  That ship sailed train left the station a long time ago.  (Thank God.)

I waited for Riley to say, “I watch Stampy Minecraft videos on YouTube.”

I was close.

“I watch Stampy Terraria videos on YouTube,” he said.

“Who’s Stampy?” the doctor asked.

I tried to explain that Stampylongnose is a super annoying British bloke who makes videos of himself talking about and playing video games and whose high-pitched voice will haunt me in my grave, but the sound of my own voice was drowned out by the epiphany that Riley said Terraria instead of Minecraft. It suddenly occurred to me that Minecraft was no longer the “it game” of his boyhood and the bane of my parental existence.  Just as his interest in “Thomas the Train” in time faded away, his obsession with Minecraft, I realized, had begun to run its course, too (except for the new mods Mike just downloaded) (don’t ask me what a mod is because I don’t know).

In that moment, my mind flooded with memories of the some of the most daunting phases of Riley’s early childhood that had come and gone with no warning, instructions, or guidance.

Like when he breastfed every one and a half hours for weeks months.

Like when he woke up every morning at approximately 4:15:37am with a scream for two three years.

Like when he began every sentence with “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy…

Like when buckling him in his car seat was like stuffing an elephant in a shoebox.

Like when I had to sing You Are My Sunshine and Moon Moon Moon three (hundred) times at bedtime.

Like when it took no less than forty-five minutes to get from the parking lot into the front doors of preschool due to sticks, rocks, lizards, butterflies, and birds.

Like when he had to poop in every public bathroom he passed.

Like when he wanted to use the Rainbow Loom all by himself.  Often.

Like when the only place he would sleep was in my bed.

Like when he was stage scared. (He still is.)

Like now when he chews his shirts to shreds.

Like now when he tells me that school is hard. That homework is hard. That school is no fun.

Like now when he won’t get out of the car at morning carpool.

Like now when he prefers to be alone in his room more than anywhere else, including birthday parties with bounce houses and cake.

Like now when he has meltdowns over every. little. thing.

During the phase when Riley habitually woke up before dawn, I eventually habitually awoke a few minutes ahead of him with a jolt of anxiety and dread. It’s the same anguish Paul and Jamie felt when they sat helpless on the floor outside of Mabel’s bedroom door, and it’s the agony I feel right now as five tries to take Riley and the rest of us down. But I won’t let it because I’m holding on for dear life to the four words that have gotten me through eight years so far on this wild ride:

This too shall pass.

That, and: Expect the unexpected. (Three words, I know.)

And: Trust your instinct. (Three words again. Sorry.)

And: You are your child’s best advocate. (Six words. Crap.)

And: If something feels wrong, it probably is. (Seven words. I can’t stop.)

Last one: The only expert on your child is you. (Eight words. Okay, done.)


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Filed under aha moment, anxiety, boys, expect the unexpected, going to the doctor, motherhood, school, sensory processing disorder