It’s been a while since my kid has had to go to the pediatrician. I expected this to be just like any other visit. There’d be a ridiculously long drive, a ridiculously long wait, and a ridiculously long drive back home.
Same old, same old. Right?
This visit started off with me feeling superior and relieved, and it ended with me as a conflicted, sobbing mass of ugly behind my steering wheel. This is the effect of enduring what I now know as The 3 Stages of Taking Your Tween to the Pediatrician.
1. The Arrogance Stage
There I sat in the waiting room, all high-and-mighty, and relishing the fact that my kid was the oldest in a room knee-deep in screams, Cheerios, and snot. Don’t get me wrong, I actually love babies — as long as they’re someone else’s.
I eyed the jogging stroller in the corner and thought of how many miles I must’ve put ours through in one month alone. That overly-priced, easy-to-fold-my-foot monstrosity with the CD player — it had all the bells and whistles money could buy. Bells and whistles that were supposed to make life more enjoyable (or at least more tolerable) for baby and mommy — that’s if you could actually hear the song above your child’s screaming and wailing and your huffing and puffing.
I watched adults who’d obviously just stepped off the set of The Walking Dead, with their worn-out faces and red-rimmed eyes, struggling to stay awake — halfway coming alive only long enough to wipe noses. I refused to be empathetic to those poor zombies’ plights, as I pushed aside thoughts of torture and unrest that I’d gone through years ago — and how it had morphed into a full-blown case of PPD.
Not. Going. There.
My tween was oblivious to everyone and everything around us, playing Clash of the Clans on his iPad. I whispered to myself, “Thank God, that’s not me anymore.”
I smiled at a young, red-haired mom who looked to be on the verge of twisting a toy airplane into a one-of-a-kind hat for her 4-year-old. I read her mind: So help me God if you hit me one more time with that …
Sure, I’ve got hard stuff to deal with too, like extreme flatulence, Common Core Math, and an ever-stinky-where-in-God’s-name-is-that-smell-coming-from bedroom. But all in all, it’s a pretty sweet setup.
At this point in the visit, my face looked something like a Cheshire cat’s.
But not for long.
2. The Anguish Stage
I sauntered into the exam room for the doc to check out my kid’s ear, plopped down, and told my son to hop on the examination table. He’s so tall that he simply backed up to it and had a seat. For a split second, maybe I thought about once having to lift him up to have a seat. Maybe I was reminded of how he used to struggle to climb the steps to the top of the exam table. Maybe.
Then a weird thing happened. The nurse no longer wanted to know what I thought. She directed everything to the “little man,” as he can speak for himself now, apparently — imagine my surprise.
So I was forced to sit quietly, looking on with eyes that spoke for a useless tongue that had been put in its place.
It almost hit me then.
After the nurse left, my son reminded me that he no longer wanted to see his regular pediatrician, because now that’s he’s getting older, he’d like to switch from his female physician to a male physician.
Here it comes …
As we left the office, there was something inside me what just wasn’t right. I wasn’t feeling as cocky and carefree as I did when we first got there.
I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Wait for it …
We stepped on the fourth-floor elevator and so did a mom with her little, blonde boy. He looked about the age of 3. He reminded me of my tween at that age.
I just couldn’t take my eyes off of him.
As the elevator descended, I saw his tiny fingers reach out for her arm. They clasped her hand.
“Mama?” his tiny voice questioned.
She replied tenderly, “Yes?”
Oh, how adorable he was. I thought he’d tell her he was afraid or didn’t like the elevator or wanted to get out. I thought he’d tell her anything but what he actually told her.
He looked up at her with the biggest blue eyes that could ever be housed in such a tiny, angelic face and professed clearly and confidently for all to hear, “I love you, Mama.”
It was the sweetest moment and most sacred smile between the two of them.
Oh, how ashamed I was. I didn’t deserve to witness that loved-filled, precious moment between them.
Yes, it had finally hit me.
My eyes began to fill. I swallowed hard as if that would somehow make the tears stop coming.
It was clear that along with all the snot and puke and sleepless nights that this kind of moment was also something I’d no longer experience.
No longer would I hear an angelic voice openly proclaim his adoration and love for me in front of complete strangers. Our sweet moments are of a different kind now and ones that have naturally grown few and far between.
Never again will my son’s hand feel tiny in mine.
His blue eyes are green now, and not nearly as innocent.
Those kinds of elevator rides this mom and son once shared are over.
Thankfully, the doors opened. My son was forced to perform herculean efforts in an attempt to keep up with me as I hurried to the parking garage, finally eyeing our car.
He kept asking me what was wrong. Tears flooded and I couldn’t speak, no matter how hard I tried.
Finally, I apologized and told him that I was crying because I didn’t want him to grow up. (And I immediately realized how silly that sounded.)
He reached out for my hand and, just like that little angel in the elevator, he told me he loved me and always would, and that he simply couldn’t help growing up.
3. The Acceptance Stage (well, almost).
As customary when we visit the pediatrician, we go to the drive-thru of his favorite restaurant immediately after. And today, there was only one thing that was going to make me feel any better at this point: Hot carbs!
I got my usual, but …
My tween ordered the kid’s meal. It made my heart smile.
My tween spilled his drink on the way home. Awesome. Do it again, son!
My tween tried to eat his drumstick with a spork, just to be more grown up and civilized. I reminded him that even the most civilized do not use sporks when eating drumsticks. He picked it up and ate like a caveman.
My tween needed six extra napkins — five because he’s so messy and one just to blow his nose on. I had exactly six napkins left! And I was suddenly cool with snot.
My tween was disappointed he didn’t get a treat with his kid’s meal. But guess who had a piece of his favorite candy in her purse?
My tween said the joke I told him while driving home was super funny. I’m still cool. Holla!
My tween had terrible ear pain that night. (He needed comfort and snuggles that only a very confused and conflicted mom could give.)
My tween told me he loved me before drifting off to sleep. And, for the first time in years, his voice sounded smaller yet confident, sweeter and sincerer — almost as if we had traveled back in time.