At Dr. M’s Office

At Dr. M’s Office


My 3-year-old had her annual checkup recently with a pediatrician (I’ll call him Dr. M) we’ve been bringing her to since she was born. Dr. M has always been a little quirky. He wears crocs with no socks, even in the winter. He tells knock-knock jokes that my kids don’t get. He clears his throat a lot and has a habit of taking a long, deep breath and staring at the ceiling before answering a question. When he looks in my kids’ ears, he insists he sees Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck, which I know is complete bullshit, but it makes them laugh.

Dr. M’s quirkiness never bothered me.

For one thing, he’s a damn good doctor. He diagnosed a scary lump on my son’s shin as a benign cyst (although he still referred us to a specialist who confirmed the diagnosis); He’s successfully treated multiple cases of ear infections, strep throat, mystery rashes and a slew of other viruses my kids have contracted over the years.

For another thing, Dr. M’s personality is just what I’ve come to expect from someone in his line of work. In fact, every doctor I’ve ever met has been a bit socially awkward in either a weird/eccentric way or an I-have-a-God-complex way. Dr. M’s demeanor is more the former. I chalk it up to the pressure of having a job in which people’s lives are at stake.

Doctors don’t have time for social niceties or small talk. They have life-saving shit on their minds. They don’t binge-watch shows on Netflix or spend hours preparing a special Game of Thrones-themed dinner before the season finale like the rest of us do. They don’t have time to watch TV. And if they do, they watch documentaries on PBS. I know I’m generalizing here. I have no idea what doctors do when they’re not doctoring. I’m not friends with any doctors. I know a couple chiropractors, but they don’t count.

Bottle Philosophy

I usually don’t have anything serious to discuss at these routine appointments, which I’m immensely grateful for. Although, lately, I’ve been concerned about my daughter’s attachment to her bottle, so I decided to ask Dr. M about it. I explained that while she drinks out of a cup, she insists on a bottle first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I’m not sure what advice I expected Dr. M to give. I guessed he might talk about how to wean her off the bottle or lecture me on the importance of saying “no” to my kids every once in a while. (Believe me, I could use that lecture.) Instead, he got philosophical. Really. Oddly. Philosophical.

Dr. M took the usual long, deep breath, stared at the ceiling for what felt like five minutes and said, “We all have our bottles in life, don’t we?”

At first, I thought it was a rhetorical question, but then I realized he was waiting for an answer. He seemed disappointed when I shrugged my shoulders.

“I have a bottle at my desk right now,” he said. “It’s filled with iced coffee. Most people never go anywhere without a water bottle or a La Croix.”

I was going to point out that La Croix only comes in a can, but I didn’t want to split hairs.

“My point is,” he continued, “if a bottle gives her some comfort at the end of a long day, it’s fine by me. If a bottle helps her relax and fall asleep, then all the better. As long as you’re brushing her teeth before she goes to bed, I’m not concerned about it.”

He paused, and I thought of chiming in with my bottle of choice, but I didn’t want him to call DCFS, so I kept my mouth shut and nodded in agreement.

“If she needs a few sips of a bottle first thing in the morning, who are we to judge,” he went on. “Some people may tell you it’s bad for her. Don’t listen to those people.“

It was here that I suspected we weren’t talking about milk anymore, but that was probably just me projecting.

By this point in the conversation, my daughter was so bored she was squirming in my lap, so I let her loose. Big mistake. Within seconds of being set free, she’d touched, and likely also licked, every germ-ridden surface of the room. (You try holding a toddler still on your lap for more than two minutes without a screen. It’s impossible.)

I was also beginning to feel restless. For hypochondriacs such as myself, visiting a doctor’s office is always a bit of a catch-22 situation. We feel compelled to go to a doctor to get checked for disease, yet we dread going for fear of picking up a disease while there. As I watched my daughter run her fingers along the window pane, then the scale, then the edge of the exam table, all I could think about was all the other little drippy-nosed germbags who had done the exact same thing that day. Suddenly, I felt like I might vomit.

I was about to interrupt Dr. M and possibly lose my lunch when the nurse came in carrying Gwen’s vaccinations on a little silver tray. I’d never in my life been so happy to see something that would cause my daughter pain. (And yes, I vaccinate my children. Because I love them.) As I held my daughter down on the table, the nurse quickly administered into my daughter’s chubby thigh, one vaccination, then another, and finally, a My Little Pony Band-Aid. The wailing didn’t start until after I’d pulled up my daughter’s pants and scooped her up into my arms.

Dr. M ended our appointment with his customary attempt to high-five my daughter, which was always awkward. He then offered the usual reminder to come back in the fall for a flu shot. I smiled politely and promised we’d be back as the nurse gave my daughter a Wonder Woman sticker for being a brave patient.

Later that night, as we all huddled on the sofa watching American Ninja Warrior, my daughter with a bottle, my son with a root beer, my husband with a real beer and me with a glass of chardonnay, I chuckled to myself about Dr. M’s rant. What does that guy know anyway? I thought to myself as I took another sip from my glass.


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