Stethoscopes, Stickers and Hamburgers

Here’s a story about taking my son to the doctor last Friday. It really doesn’t have a point other than to give you in-site into what life with my strong-willed, bright, gregarious, always curious and sometimes overly-dramatic son is like.

Last Friday I had to take my son to the doctor for an ear infection. At first he protested, saying he didn’t want to go to the doctor. He spent almost the entire 45 minutes drive saying over and over, “I don’t want to go to the doctor. I don’t like the doctor. I can’t go to the doctor. I want to go home.” I’m not sure what brought that on. I don’t think he even remembered the last time he’d seen the doctor. He will be three in less than two months, and before this he hadn’t been to the doctor since his two-year-old checkup. We were blessed with a year of good health with the exception of some minor colds.

Once we arrived his mood improved when he saw the other children and new toys to play with in the waiting room. (An aside to you parents out there.Is it really a good idea for doctor’s to encourage children with potentially contagious diseases to play and share toys together?) We were early for our appoint because I had new insurance information that needed to be entered into the computer, and it takes the receptionist what seems like an inordinately long amount of time to do so. So my son eventually got bored with the toys and brought over a book that he wanted me me to read. The book described the various layers that make up the human body like the skin, muscles, nervous system, and skeleton. I found myself trying to explain all of it to him in terms he could understand and at the same time trying to recall information I hadn’t thought about since ninth grade science class. He’s become very inquisitive about everything, and this wasn’t the first time in recent day’s I’d had to answer questions about complex topics that I am not an expert in. I remember as a kid it seemed like my dad knew everything. There wasn’t a question I could ask him that he couldn’t answer. As I set there feeling unqualified, wondering if I should just have the doctor explain anatomy 101 to my son, I imagined my dad must have felt the same way. I guess I said a few things right because my son told me later that his skin covers his muscles that make him strong and his nerves tell him if he’s hot or cold and with out his bones he’d fall apart. Not a bad understanding for an almost three-year-old.

Finally, we got to go back to the examination room. There were many more things he found in there to ask me about. One of the first things that caught his eye were the stirrups on the end of the exam table. “What are those for? What do they do?” he asked. I didn’t think I should tell him the that they are medical torture devices that make women feel exposed and uncomfortable.

“They’re for girls. You’re a boy. Don’t worry about it,” I said.

Then he wanted to know what the Medical Waste Disposal box on the wall was for. “Trash. They put ucky trash in there.” Then he took his gum out of his mouth and started to climb on a near by chair so he could throw it away with the hazardous waste. “No, No! Don’t touch that! Get down. It’s for really bad stuff. Only the doctor or nurse can put stuff in there.” Now I know why it has a lock on it.

A few minutes and a hundred more questions later the doctor came in. She diagnosed a double ear infection and prescribed antibiotics. She took out her stephascope and said, “Do you know what this is? It’s a stethoscope. Can you say stethoscope? Say steth–,” trying to get my son to sound out the word one syllable at a time.

He stared at her for a moment with a puzzled look on his face then said, “oscope. Stethoscope. I have a toy one at home,” in a voice that said he couldn’t believe she thought he didn’t know what it was. The doctor was surprised and I stifled a chuckle. He’s had a play doctor’s kit for months. He saw a doctor on TV one day and started putting things like belts and scarves around his neck pretending they were stethoscopes. I got him a toy one thinking it was less of a choking hazard.

The doctor commented on how talkative and funny my son was. “He’s great. He cracks me up. I can’t believe he’s not even three. I bet he jabbers all day long at home. Isn’t that just great?”

I smiled at her thinking, “It’s great most of the time, but try having a phone conversation or watching Oprah and never hearing a word she says.”

“Well he’s in such a good mood too for having such a bad ear infection. Most kids would be crying and screaming,” the doctor added. I gave my son Tylenol that morning which was responsible for preventing the screaming, but he wasn’t in the good mood the doctor thought he was. When my son gets cranky he gets negative and belligerent instead of whinny. The doctor took her little prize box out of the draw and asked my son to pick out something.

“No! No!” My son yelled recoiling from the box and waving it away with a flourish of his hands. She tried to encourage him to take something and he said emphatically, “I don’t want one! I don’t like them! No!”

“Oh, he’s opinionated too isn’t he? He is just so great!” She smiled, genuinely impressed.

Again I had to keep my thoughts to myself. “Great  except when he doesn’t want to eat what I made for him, wear the clothes I picked out or read the short book.”

As we were leaving the office a nurse offered my son a sticker. He had a reaction similar to the one to the prize box. I don’t think the nurse new what to say. What kid refuses a free sticker?

In the car he announced that he was hungry. I drove through McDonald’s and ordered his usual, Hamburger Happy Meal — hold the onions and pickles. My son always dismantles his hamburger, which he pronounces hang-ga-burger by the way, and eats the meat first and the bun second. When he took his hamburger apart and discovered it was sans pickles he got mad. Any other day he wouldn’t want pickles. But because he was sick, “Mommie! Where are pickles?! I want pickles!” I took a pickle off my hamburger and gave it to him. He held on to it for about five minutes then gave it back to me. “I don’t want it . I don’t like pickles.” This is what I deal with when he’s in a bad mood.

Thankfully he fell asleep in the car, french fry in hand. No more questions, no more complaining. It was quiet. If only I could have watched Oprah in the car.


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