By Howard J. Bennett, MD
Countless children are wheeled, walked or driven to doctors’ offices every day. And whether they say so or not, most of them worry about what will happen once they arrive. Here’s some advice on how to visit the doctor—from the child’s point of view.
Going to the Office
Hide in your bedroom when your mother tells you it’s time to leave for your checkup. Ignore her when she calls you for the second time. As soon as you hear her coming up the stairs, shout that you don’t feel well and would rather stay home. Have all of your clothes off by the time she gets to your room. Look pathetic. Get dressed in a hurry when she starts to get really mad.
Stop to tie your shoelace on the way to the car. While you’re kneeling down, admire the grass stains on your brand-new sneakers. Stand up and look upset. When your mother says, “What’s wrong now?” start to whimper and say that you left Fred (your teddy bear) inside. Plan on taking 10 minutes to find him. Do it in five when your mother tells you it’s now or else.
As you climb into the car, do not push the button that unlocks the front seat. Instead, pretend you are Spiderman and leap into the back. Bump your head on your sister’s car seat as you land. Think that it’s her fault you got hurt. Wish that she were someone else’s sister.
Do not buckle your seat belt until your mother reminds you to do so. Pull the strap real tight and imagine you are driving the world’s fastest racecar. Make engine noises. Screech as you go around curves at full speed. Wave to the crowd. Then lean forward, straining all of your muscles as hard as you can. Make a crashing noise and twist your face like you’re having an accident at two hundred miles an hour. When your mother asks what you’re up to, tell her you were only stretching.
As the car pulls away, tell your mother you love her a lot. Tell her she’s the best mom in the whole world. In the whole galaxy. In the whole universe. Ask if you can stop at McDonald’s. When she says no, explain that it’s not for you, but for Fred. Do not be reassured when she says Fred can wait to eat until after your checkup.
Hope that all the lights are red so you will miss your appointment. Look out the side window. Push the window down. Push the window up. Notice the children in the other cars. Wonder if they’re going to the doctor’s too. Ask if you’re going to get a shot.
When your mother parks the car, ask if you can put the money in the meter. Say, “Please, mom, please. I’ll be careful. I promise. Can I? Can I? Can I?” Smile as she hands you a quarter. Drop the quarter in the sewer grating. Blame Fred.
In the Waiting Room
Walk two steps behind your mother as you approach the appointment desk. Look scared. Ask if you can get a drink from the water fountain. Become full after three gulps, but keep your lips puckered and pretend you’re still drinking. Act like you don’t notice as your mother walks up to you. Make drinking noises. Say, “Ah, this is so good,” and “Boy am I thirsty.” Tell her you’ll be done in 15 minutes. Stop after two minutes because your lips get tired.
Sit down next to your mother. Notice the tiny baby being held across from you. Hold Fred like the baby. Make a sucking noise as the baby drinks his bottle. Think it’s stupid not to drink out of a glass. Get up and look at the baby more closely. Introduce Fred. Take out your folded bag of Skittles and offer one to the baby. Be glad when his mother says, “No thank you.”
Walk back to your mother. Sit down. Stand up. Sit down. Stand up. Look bored. Ask if you can play with the toys. As you walk over to the play area, stare at the other children. Wonder what they did to end up at the doctor’s office. Ask one boy if he is going to get a shot. If he says yes, tell him that’s too bad, because you aren’t.
Sit down by another boy. Ask him why he came to the doctor’s office. Announce that you are perfect and only need a checkup. Agree to have a contest to see who is the strongest. Compare muscles. Compare stomachs. Compare who is taller. Compare cuts, scars, and bruises. Compare who can jump the highest. Compare who can hold his breath the longest. Look a little worried when his mother comes to take him in to see the doctor. Declare yourself the champion.
Find the play doctor’s kit. Notice that it isn’t as big as the one you got for your birthday. Open it and check to see if any of the pieces are missing. Put the stethoscope around your neck. Take your temperature. Take Fred’s temperature. Find the biggest needle and tell Fred he has to get a shot. Say, “It won’t hurt,” and then jab it into his arm. Repeat five times and then look around to see if anyone was watching. Smile at your mom. Give Fred a kiss.
Continue playing until the nurse calls your name and then decide it’s time to play hide-and-seek. Whisper to Fred to be as quiet as a mouse. Look up when you see your mother/s feet beside you. Hold Fred real tight. Ask your mother if you are going to get a shot.
In the Exam Room
After the nurse records your height and weight, ask if it’s time to go home. When your mother comments that the doctor hasn’t seen you yet, ignore her. Look around the room. Leave Fred on the paper-lined examination table as you hop down to check out the room. Look at each of the instruments hanging on the wall. Ask what the blood-pressure cuff is for. Ask what the otoscope is for. Ask what the rubber hammer is for.
Open up one of the drawers under the examination table and pull out a plastic speculum. Decide it’s a toy gun and shoot Fred. Point it at your mom and say, “Stick’em up!” Act surprised when she hollers, “Where did you get that from?” She will then tell you to stop playing with the doctor’s equipment, sit down, and behave yourself.
Sit down next to your mother. Fold your hands in your lap and look guilty. After a minute or so, ask if you can get up and look around some more. Promise you’ll be careful. Put on the cute smile you know she can’t resist. As you wander around the room, your mother will remind you not to touch anything.
Stand in front of the counter where the doctor keeps his medical supplies. Notice the funny smell. Try to avoid the odor by breathing through your mouth instead of your nose. Grip the counter and stand on tiptoes so you can see all the way to the back. Count the Band-Aids. Count the Q-Tips. Wonder if cotton balls and cotton candy are the same thing. Find the jar where the tongue depressors are kept. As you take one from the middle, lose your balance so the rest end up on the floor.
At this point, your mother will tell you to clean up the mess you’ve made and that if you get out of line once more, your father will hear about it tonight. As you bend down to pick up the tongue depressors, mumble to yourself, “I never have any fun.”
When the doctor enters the room, stop whatever you are doing, grab Fred, and scurry over to your mother.
Pretend you’re not listening when the doctor compliments your sneakers. Suddenly become interested when he asks how Fred is. Smile when he feels a hot dog in Fred’s stomach and sees birds in Fred’s ears. Relax. Let the doctor examine you. Fiddle with your belly button as he listens to your heart. Giggle when he checks your reflexes. Be unable to stick out your tongue no matter how many times he shows you how to say “Ah.”
After the doctor finishes examining you, ask if you are going to get a shot. When he says yes, ask if it’s going to hurt. Once he answers, announce that you have to go to the bathroom. Repeat five times, even though your mother will say you’ll have to wait. Kick and scream just before the needle goes in, but get your composure back as soon as you are given a Band-Aid. When the doctor offers you a lollipop, ask if Fred can have one too.
As you leave the office, allow your mother to convince you to say thank you to the doctor. Be glad you managed to get out of there alive. Remind your mom that she said you could go to McDonald’s.
© 2012 Howard J. Bennett. All Rights Reserved.
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