Back in the day, when I was a single girl, I was able to fantasize about what my life would be like after I got married and started a family. My children would be little angels, always cooperating without hesitation, never throwing a tantrum or screaming in public, making my coffee in the morning and bringing it to me…
Okay, so I didn’t really imagine that I would have perfect offspring. Actually, I didn’t give much thought to most parenting scenarios at all. Sure, I was aware that my kids would go through the phases that kids do, from toddlerhood to the teenage years. But beyond that superficial understanding, I didn’t think of any of the potentially awkward and/or embarrassing situations that come with being a parent.
Last Thursday was Really Little Man’s first well-baby checkup (three shots, poor baby!), and Little Man also needed a flu shot. Since my husband is on a light rotation (He’s doing research. I call it vacation rotation. It’s great), he was able to come to the appointment, and so I brought both kids and it was a family event. Our pediatrician was impressed at the turnout.
There was a long wait time before our appointment, and Little Man did pretty well. After we got into the appointment room and tried to interact with the doctor, things got very interesting. It went something like this:
Pediatrician: “Well, let’s take a look at how RLM is on the growth charts. It looks like he’s in the 50th percentile…”
[Little Man has discovered that the door handle is within reach. He has opened the door and is eying the hallway.]
Me: “Mmm hmm, Little Man, let’s stay in the room, okay? Would you like a pretzel?”
Pediatrician: “…and all around. How are his diapers?”
[Little Man is rapidly opening and closing the door, accompanied with triumphant declarations: “Open!” “Close!”]
Me: “Pretty normal, I’d say. Does it bother you that he’s opening and shutting the door so much ?”
Pediatrician: “No, it’s okay. How is he sleeping?”
[Little Man is now escaping into the hallway. My husband retrieves him and begins to let him play with the sink faucet. Little Man now exclaims: “On!” “Off!” “Water!”]
Me: Pretty well, thank G-d.”
Pediatrician: [to my husband] “I think that faucet leaks. His legs are going to get wet if he stays up there.”
[my husband removes Little Man from the sink area, and Little Man proceeds to climb on a chair to access a light switch, which he flips on and off, declaring “On!” “Off!”. Mercifully, it is not the main light switch to the room]
You get the idea. At one point, after the doctor had left and I was waiting for the nurse to come into the room for the dreaded shots, Little Man escaped into the hallway and was trying to enter other rooms. My husband was at the front desk, I was holding the baby, and my requests for Little Man to stay in the room were unheeded. It was far, far too exciting out there!
Really, I felt that none of the things Little Man did were outside of the realm of normal toddler behavior, but it was a strange sensation to have him doing all these things in public. The last time we had a doctor’s appointment, the most he did was open and shut some cabinet doors.
This time I found myself wondering if I was too permissive of a parent. Was I letting him “get away” with too much? By letting him turn lights on and off in our house, was I creating problematic public situations? What kind of behavior could I reasonably expect from my toddler? Was I picking and choosing the right battles? I wasn’t exactly embarrassed by his actions, but I was very, very self-conscious. I was also acutely aware that I had entered another stage of parenthood and I had no idea what to do.
It occurred to me that I had never imagined this situation. I hadn’t considered what might happen when I bring both children to an appointment like this (and rest assured I wouldn’t have attempted it if my husband hadn’t been available. I’m just not that brave).
My experience of being a parent has been a wonderful lesson in humility and perspective. Humility because I had so many silly ideas about how easy it was to be a parent…before I actually was one, of course! And perspective because it’s a constant reminder that I am not in control. Yes, it is my responsibility to raise my children so that they become healthy adults, and good members of society, and to give them parameters in which to function, but they are their own people, with their own minds and desires. Amazing!
What is your take? What can we expect a toddler to do in situations like this? What’s “normal?”