(Archived post, written April 2011)
My child has always been a squirmy worm at the doctor’s office. Maybe all the poking, prodding, shot-giving and such that our little ones endure when they enter the world really does stay with them. They learn to recognize the walls of the clinic, the crackle of exam table paper, the faces and voices of doctors, receptionists, nurses. With all those triggers, it’s no surprise that my sensitive daughter won’t even let them take a look in her ears without putting up a fight.
Having had it up to here with her particularly persistent sinus issues, I decide to take her in and get things checked out. The nurse weighs her, asks me the standard questions, and Liv sets about her usual wandering around the exam room, picking up this book and that, jumping on the step stool, asking to play Angry Birds on my phone. As the doctor walks in, I’m prepared – as usual – for Liv to come sit on my lap, act shy/scared, bury her head in my chest and then generally resist, squirm, wriggle, whine while the doctor and I awkwardly try to hold her still for the exam. Instead, my little Olivia Carolyn Grace ever so casually wanders over to the bench just beside mine, climbs up, smiles sweetly at Dr. Y, opens her mouth, and says, “Aaaaaaahhhh.” With as far as my jaw drops at that moment, the doc may very well decide to have a good look at my tonsils, too. I am stunned at this new display of independence. The exam progresses as it has began, and I wonder at how well Liv is behaving for the doctor, making a mental note to call my mother and tell her what a big girl I have…until I realize that she is sitting there, by herself, in the doctor’s office, unphased, and what a big girl I have.
With the actual examination over, the doctor turns her attention to me. I wonder if she has ever felt her own mommy heart pride-swell and break in time’s hands. We talk about treatment, she recommends a certain course. I take notes and make sure I’m straight on times and doses. Smiling, Dr. Y offers the standard end-of-visit assurances. I stand, gather our things, and walk with my daughter out of the clinic, still unsure of exactly what just happened back there.
We return home to rest and let the medicine do its work, and my child – stubborn as a splinter in the heel of your hand – refuses to sleep. I refuse to rebut her refusal and opt instead for low-energy activities like coloring and Blue’s Clues. As she occupies herself and I focus on bits of work, I keep remembering how she looked, sitting there so tall and confident. So grown up. So not needing me. I chide myself for my melodramatic mommy moment even as April thunder shakes the walls of our house and I turn on my heel to comfort my daughter who, as luck would have it, is unimpressed with the storm.
I want to honor and encourage her growth. I want to be present for that journey, to see her become an amazing woman. So I want her to experience all of the right levels of independence at all of the right times. Like, when she’s 27.
After the Little Naptime That Wouldn’t, dinner and a worship team rehearsal, I prepare my sleepy one for bath and bed. Because I am her mother, I know that she is too tired to manage bath time on her own tonight. No nap and new meds – that’s enough for one day, and after getting her into the tub, I ask her to tilt her head back so I can begin washing her hair. She insists she can do it herself. I insist that, tonight, she will not. She splashes. She dives. She grapples and cries and screams – loud, angry screams that actually alarm me. As steadily as I can manage, I hurry through shampoo and soap and rinsing until I can finally drain the water and rescue the both of us from drowning in this hysterical moment. When I wrap her in the towels and pick her up, her previously tense and punch-throwing body instantly relaxes into my arms and she goes quiet. Moments later, dry, warm and pajama-clad, she crawls under her covers as I cue Lullabies on Pandora and sit up in bed next to her. It’s one of those nights when I know that we both need a little extra comforting, so I promise to stay with her until she falls asleep. She rests her clean, wet head on my chest, and we stay there, just like that, through Rock-a-bye Baby, Sleep Baby Sleep, Good Night and Beautiful Dreamer. She asks me to rub her back, and I feel her eyelashes flutter shut against my chest, giving thanks for this little one who needs me after all.