Whether we realize it or not, we’re always teaching our children. With every choice, every comment and every silence, we’re always teaching them something. Wearisome, if you think about it, but such is a parent’s life. If we’re awake, we’re thinking.
I’ve had lots to ponder this week, including a visit to Holly’s orthopedic surgeon. In April, she broke the growth plate of one of her fingers during a drill before a soccer game. She didn’t need surgery, but would need eight weeks in a splint. She re-broke the same spot two weeks later (even though it was splinted), when she lost her footing on some steps and grabbed for the railing. Poor kid. This break was even worse, unfortunately, but her latest X-ray, taken Wednesday, showed that it was on the mend. I could see this and was pleased with her progress.
The doctor said it was time to wean her from the splint, and explained how to do this. I wondered if it was too early.
“You’re over-thinking this,” he impatiently replied. He’d interrupted me and had been somewhat brusque during our first two visits, too, which I was willing to chalk up to his being rushed or tired – but this was our third visit. He wasn’t just having a bad day, this is just his way, it seems. Whether or not my questions were warranted (no such thing, in my book – and how could this one not be, given the re-break?), his attitude was not. Why be impatient? Why be rude? How is that helpful?
Holly was watching. I didn’t want to create discomfort for her, but nor did I wish to teach her to stifle her questions. I’m raising a confident but graceful young woman. A balance needed to be struck.
Yes, I’m always thinking.
“I feel insulted,” I quietly replied. “She re-broke it two weeks later, and the X-ray then looked worse than the first. I wondered if that reset the clock.”
“You brought her here, and I examined her. If there was a formula, she wouldn’t need to be seen,” he said.
“Yes, but I heard you say at our first visit that she’d be in the splint for at least eight weeks. It’s been just over eight weeks, but she re-broke it – worse – two weeks in.”
I could see she’d made progress. I reasoned that any guidelines, even his, regarding the eight weeks, could be amended if healing was faster, and said so. I also volunteered that he is the bone expert, and that because I trusted his judgment (he’d been recommended by friends), I’d paid attention at that first visit (before the second break) when he’d told us to expect eight weeks in the splint. I was confused, I said, and just wanted to understand.
Mama bear, here, just wants to understand so that she can help her kid, pure and simple. That’s my job. I know we’re talking about a little broken bone, not a tumor, but still. I felt foolish and small. I felt my eyes begin to well up but no tears breached the banks. Geesh, if I have questions, I’m going to ask them. Are most doctors used to parents who don’t? Not the ones I prefer to patronize, I thought to myself.
“See you in four weeks,” he said, and abruptly left the room. Maybe not, I thought.
Hey, all you doctors (and other medical professionals), like it or not, we parents are your “patients,” too. We’re integral to making your plan work. And, well, we pay the bills. There is that. If you cannot be patient just because it’s useful and, moreover, because it’s the right thing to do, consider that we have the means to drive new patients to or away from you with our referrals.
I’m too classy to publicly name names. And besides, I’m guessing this doctor isn’t the only one with less-than-stellar bedside manner.
Even so, as we waited our turn to make our next appointment, I considered the big picture and decided that continuity of care was more important than dragging Holly to a new doctor.
Like it or not, I realized, this guy knows how her finger looks now. He’ll notice any subtle changes. But after this finger heals? We won’t be going back.
• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.