I took the kids to the doctor the other day for my son’s nine month–well baby visit. Never mind he was almost eleven months old, but we’ve been busy. And grossly underinsured. Anyway, at the visit they asked me to fill out a questionnaire as to where my son’s development was in relation to his age, and (more unfortunately for me) the condition of the house in which he was developing.
This is where I started formulating my getaway:
Nurse reads over my answers, chewing the inside of her lip and smiling tightly, trying to hide her annoyance with my parenting. “So, you don’t have outlet covers on all of your outlets?” She looked at me over her glasses.
Me: “No. We never really have, and our other son is fine. No shocks yet!” Nervous chuckle.
Nurse, unsmiling: “Can I ask you why not?”
Me: “Well, my first son always pried them off with his play-dough knife so we just, you know, never pursued it with this baby.”
Nurse: “And you give him juice (said with alarm) in his bottle?”
Me: Sighs. “No, I don’t do it regularly. I have done it when he had a terrible cold and was very dehydrated and needed fluids. Then I gave him diluted apple juice. Look, these are yes and no answers. It’s very hard to …”
Nurse, ignoring me: “Why not in a sippy cup?”
Me: “He doesn’t know how to use one.”
“Because I don’t want him to learn.”
Nurse looks at me quickly. “You don’t want him to learn? Learn what? How to use a cup?”
Me, shaking my head emphatically: “No. Then my life is over, always having to bring a sippy cup everywhere, the milk rots in the lids, plus the cups always get lost under the seats in the car or in the sofa ... they’re so annoying.” I trailed off. She was staring. “The cups are annoying! Not my kids! The cups. My kids are awesome,” I said, reaching into my tenth-grade vocabulary.
She was still staring. This was where I assumed she must not have kids. Only someone with kids could get what I was saying, right? Feigning patience and classic Midwestern nicetude, she smiled forcefully. In the Midwest, people are able to smile in the midst of fire, theft, terror, and bad mommies who are making fools of themselves.
“And he is on milk?”
“Yes. I started him last month. Formula is expensive and he’s fine.” By this point I was very defensive.
“No, that’s OK to start him at this age. I’m just wondering about the milk in the bottle.”
“He won’t go to sleep without it.” I winced. Seeing her expression I hurried on, “But he doesn’t let it pool in his mouth and as soon as he’s asleep I take it out of the crib. Sometimes.” I bristled, readying myself for the lecture about milk-rot and obesity and the end of the world.
She cleared her throat. And then proceeded to lecture me on the dangers of tooth decay. I tried to get her to look at my oldest son’s teeth, which are beautiful, but she refused. Old bitty.
“And it says here you do leave him unattended quite often?” She looked puzzled.
I rolled my eyes wearily. “Well, not like in the driveway or anything. But yeah, I’ll put him in the boys’ room with some toys and block the doorway with a gate so he can’t esc–er, get out.” (I lied about the gate. I normally use the heavy rocking chair. Much more effective.)
“Would this room have uncovered outlets?”
“OK, seriously what kind of questions are these?”
Needless to say, we didn’t go back to that clinic. My son’s four-year-old well visit was coming up and I didn’t think I’d be leaving there with my kids. I’ve been known to ask various pharmacists why Benadryl isn’t effective with my oldest son.
“In what way?”
“It won’t make him tired.”
I didn’t think Maude, the old bitty nurse, would find that one amusing.