In my house, a visit to the doctor’s office is a last resort. Fever and sore throat? Here’s some Tylenol — let’s wait it out. Weird rash? Google, then decide. That wound doesn’t look too deep — grab some Neosporin and a bandage, you’ll be fine.
After four kids, I’ve realized that in most cases, the wait-and-see approach works. I’m so very fortunate that my children don’t have any chronic or serious health issues, and that trips to the pediatrician’s office are, for the most part, minimal. However, there are times when I have no choice but to take them, like for their vaccinations or yearly well-child visits, and I have to come face to face with the reasons the pediatrician’s office is not one of my favorite places.
1. Surprise Copays
There I am, standing unsuspectingly at the counter, just checking my child in (15 minutes early, of course) for his appointment. The receptionist asks me the standard questions — whether my address has changed and if my insurance info is still the same. And then, inevitably, she drops a bomb. “Also, you have a $75 remaining balance from your last visit. How would you like to take care of that today?” I fumble awkwardly for my debit card, trying to act nonchalant, but inside I’m wondering how I didn’t know we owed them money and what gazillion other things I could be dropping $75 on.
2. Shit I Can’t Remember
Forms. So many forms. So many questions I can’t answer. I can recall a lot of basic information, like my kids’ birth dates and their weights and stuff, but some of the questions are hazy. When did your child start standing unassisted? I don’t remember — he’s 11!
3. The Germy Waiting Room
No matter what time your appointment is, spending a lot of time in the waiting room is a given. And there are many places I’d rather be than steeping in a communal germ-fest. The kid on one side of me is coughing up a lung. The kid on the other side is holding a barf bag just in case. The kid across the way is slumped against her mother, miserable and listless and clearly feverish. I feel sorry for them, because few things suck more than having a sick child, but I can’t help envisioning all the random bacteria floating over to contaminate my as-yet uninfected kid. I wish I could put him in a face mask and immerse him in a tub of hand sanitizer until the nurse calls us back to the exam rooms (which are probably no less germy, but at least we’re out of the line of fire). I spend the whole visit hoping with all my might that we escape unscathed.
4. Banged-up Kids
My kids are constantly jumping, kicking, wrestling, tumbling, and pummeling each other until they’re covered in bumps, lumps, scrapes, and bruises. Therefore, they always look like someone is beating them (because someone is — it’s just not their parents). I’m always paranoid that the pediatrician will put a call in to Child Protective Services as soon as we walk out the door. I can totally appreciate that it’s part of their job to recognize when a child is in danger; I just pray they don’t jump to conclusions based on my kids’ perpetually battered-looking state. Once, my son had a sore that looked suspiciously like a cigarette burn. Thank goodness when the doctor asked him about it, he said exactly what happened: His brother had inflicted it with a toy helicopter. Because you never know what type of thing is going to come out of their mouths.
Which brings me to the next reason I dislike trips to the doctor.
5. Kids Say Embarrassing Stuff
When they’re babies and can’t speak for themselves, it’s easy to sound like a model parent. Yes! We’re eating a very balanced diet! No, we’re not getting too much screen time! But when they get old enough to answer the doctor’s questions themselves, watch out. They’ll start saying things like, “Well, my mom says pickles are a vegetable,” and “I watched Ratatouille three times in a row!” and then you get the dreaded pediatrician side-eye — or worse, a straight-up lecture.
I know good healthcare is a privilege, and despite my gripes, I’m thankful for the medical staff and facilities that are there when my kids are in need.
But…I still dread that germy waiting room.