This week we brought Tess to her annual checkup with her pediatrician. We laughed, we cried, we shook our heads in disbelief–at how far she’s come in the past year, and how fantastic her doctor is, but mostly how it feels to sit in the waiting room and fill out a developmental checklist about Tess. Such evaluations are so flawed we might as well evaluate whether she enjoys Proust and a postprandial cognac.
To sum up the visit, here’s The A to Z of Tess’s Checkup:
A is for Active. Doctor wants kids to be off TV and doing stuff. Tess swims, rides horses, spends an hour or two every day working out, and has no interest in television. Yep.
B is for Briefly. They ask everyone to fill out a standardized checklist in the waiting room, and there’s no getting out of this. The first question is “Please describe your child briefly.” Part of me wants to be a wiseass. How dare they ask me to reduce my Tess experience to a few words? My response: “Cheerful. Loving. Tenacious.”
C is for Chomp. We gave her a wooden tongue depressor at one point. Splinters ensued.
D is for Development Questions. From the checklist: “Seldom plays with other children?” Check. “Does not talk well for age?” Check. “Does not seem to understand well; is slow to ‘catch on’?” Check. The list is dumb. Heartbreaking. Hilarious.
E is for Eat. These days, she eats everything, so a distracting chew toy is a must, if we want to get anything accomplished. Thing is, she’s lost interest in all the ones we currently have. Apparently I should buy one shaped like a stethoscope.
F is for Five Stars. Our doctor told Kate and me that we get five stars as Tess’s parents. It sounds goofy, but we appreciated hearing that. Self-doubt can be poisonous and this is the antidote.
G is for Growth chart. Why do we want to know where T lands, percentage-wise? We feed her constantly and the girl eats like a damn linebacker. What could we possibly do differently?
H is for Happy. This word came up again and again during the visit. She has a lot going on, but is generally pretty easy to be around. Happy girl.
I is for Immature. From the checklist: “Immature; acts much younger than age?” Check.
J is for Juice. Doctor wants to reduce in kids’ diets and replace with more water. T never drinks juice.
K is for Kiss. While we were talking about how Tess shows affection, she gave me one of her sloppy kisses. Awwww.
L is for Limits. My wife on raising Tess: “The only limits she has are the ones we place on her.”
M is for Milestones. These were on the reverse side of the developmental checklist. For years I’ve been told to chuck these right out the window; Tess is so delayed that they don’t apply to her, except in terms of knowing what comes next in the progression. It’s one thing to know about chucking it out. It’s another to actually do it without it gnawing at you. And this might have been the first time that I have.
N is for Nurse. She was new and thus didn’t know Tess. I never know what to do when someone asks T a question and is then waiting for a response. It gets awkward. I need to be better about jumping in and explaining the whole nonverbal thing.
O is for Open. Ear canals looking good.
P is for Paleo. We’ve tweaked T’s diet for years, and this one works for her. Minimal reflux, less indigestion, and almost no eczema anymore. Yessssss!
Q is for Quality. Tess’s doctor is freaking awesome. During the visit she repeatedly asked, “What else can I do to help you right now?”
R is for Relentless. Containing T in an examining room is a workout and a half. It’s definitely a two-person job. She never stops. Which is awesome. Have I mentioned how great our chiropractor is?
S is for Shots. Our girl took three in her thighs: flu, polio, and something else I can’t remember. I held her hand each time the needle went in, and she tensed for a second but didn’t cry or even register any pain. Unreal.
T is for Testing. We mapped T’s genome, but still don’t know what her deal is. I think we’re okay with this.
U is for Uncharted Territory. Next fall Tess will start kindergarten. Will she be potty trained? Will she walk down the halls?
V is for Vision. T needs corrective lenses. She needs a new prescription, plus her current frames allow her to pop out the lenses and try to swallow them. So we know we need a new eye test for her. Which involves returning to the abrasive ophthalmologist who, four years ago, told us we were nuts for thinking anything was amiss with her vision.
W is for Weight. Tess on a scale = total disaster. She can’t stand, but won’t sit still. Imagine two adults trying to put a python on a unicycle, while a third paints its portrait.
X is for X-rays. Tess’s hips are A-OK these days, so there was no need to even mention these. So grateful for that.
Y is for Year. Have I mentioned the developmental checklist? Okay, here’s the last thing I’ll say–I promise. I happened to glimpse her file, which contained the identical checklist from a year ago. I had filled it out. In the blank for “How are you doing, as a parent and otherwise, at this time?”, I’d written “Fine.” My handwriting then was jagged, and you could tell I was annoyed to be filling it out, and especially to be asked this particular question. This time I wrote “Great.”
Z is for Zero. We are in a good place with Tess right now. Apart from the need for a vision test, we have zero mysteries to solve.