“Mommy!” my daughter yelled. “Can I watch one more Octonauts?”
I glanced at the clock above our oven; it was 7:47 AM.
“Oh sweetie, not right now,” I told her. “We have to finish getting ready.”
“But why?” she huffed. It wasn’t long until she was whining in frustration.
“Well, Mommy has a doctor’s appointment this morning and we still have to go potty, get dressed, and brush our teeth. OK?”
Of course, I knew it wasn’t OK. I knew my daughter didn’t understand why her morning cartoons were being cut short — again. But after a brief pause, she whimpered, “OK.”
“Wait,” she squeaked. “What doctor? Are we … are we going to see Suzanne?!”
“We are,” I told her.
“Yay!” she screamed. “I can’t wait to see Miss Suzanne.”
And she couldn’t. Her joy was genuine. Her enthusiasm was overwhelming. She was soon bouncing around the house, collecting toys and “secret treasures” to bring to my appointment.
“Can I show Miss Suzanne my Elsa shoes?”
“Yup,” I said.
“And … and … ”
“But right now,” I interjected, “right now we have to get ready.” And with that, she ran towards the bathroom, turned on the sink and began brushing her teeth before I even turned the corner.
You see, my daughter and Miss Suzanne have a special relationship. Maybe it’s because my daughter loves playing games of all kinds and Miss Suzanne’s office is stocked full of board games, puppets, and toys. Maybe it’s because Miss Suzanne is a mother herself and, as such, she knows exactly the right things to say to a toddler. Or maybe it’s nothing more than the uniqueness of the situation.
Whatever the reason, she loves going to therapy with me because of Miss Suzanne.
Of course, I know what you may be thinking: That’s great and all, but is it really a good idea to bring a 3-year-old to therapy? I mean, kids shouldn’t hear everything, and could taking her to a shrink set a bad precedent?
Well, no. In fact, I believe the opposite is true.
You see, I take my daughter to therapy with me so I can be a healthier and happier person. So I can be a better person, and not only a good mom but a great one. The kind of mom my daughter deserves.
Of course, I would love to go to the doctor alone if it were possible. I would also love to pee alone, eat a (hot) meal alone, and sleep past 6 AM some days. But the truth of the matter is that these things are not an option for me; at least not right now. I’m a stay-at-home mom, which means I do everything at this stage with my daughter in tow. And yes, that means therapy.
With iced coffee, frosted donuts, and post-appointment picnics, we are making the best of it. And while it is true that, behind Miss Suzanne’s closed door, my daughter is exposed to a world that many children her age are not, my hope is that this exposure is not harmful but helpful.
I truly believe that taking my toddler to therapy is enlightening, and through my words and tears my daughter is learning the power of humility. She is learning the power of empathy. She is learning the importance of being in touch with your feelings — of understanding and sitting with your feelings — even when they are negative and cause pain and discomfort. And, most importantly, she is learning the importance of self-care and that it’s OK to ask and receive help.
Make no mistake: I know “family therapy” may not be for everyone. I know our arrangement only works because of my daughter’s age, and because my therapist is really good at spelling (and responding to off-the-clock calls and text messages). But in my experience, taking my toddler to therapy has been great for us because it has not only improved my life — and mental health — it has improved our lives together.