My Good-Bad Dad skills are on display during my endless “well-baby” checkups. As with most of the tenets of being a GBD, these skills will go generally unnoticed but are no-less valuable – particularly for my starting five.
There is no better way to illustrate the tempered down nature of my parenting over time than my checkup behavior. A trip to the doctor with my first was akin to chaperoning a field trip – a fun adventure. With my fifth, the visits are a car wash – periodically necessary.
Gone are the days of taking the day off to blissfully listen to pediatrician gush over the health of my child.
I used to insist on arriving at least ten minutes early to all of my previous children’s checkups. In fact, I was in no hurry whatsoever having taken the remainder of the day off.
Getting to these appointments early simply does not happen any longer. I’m now late because I’m hauling more precious cargo, hurrying from a work meeting or because I’ve been trained by years of sitting next to a toddler with whooping cough in the waiting room for a prolonged period of time. From now on, I’ll be arriving about ten minutes late.
I’ve learned to help the doctor get started. After being ushered into the sterile room, I can start my pre-doctor’s entry exam. Note, I charge no copay but please call me Dr. Walsh.
After all, I know how this works: (1) strip the child down to diapers or underwear, (2) put them on the crunchy-papered table and (3) start to practice whichever skill will be measured for development at this age.
For my 3 year-old the skill for measurement is recognizing shapes and colors so props may be required. In a pinch, I’ve used the fish mural as way of last-minute cramming for my kids.
Infants are an easy study. If they are giggling or slobbering high marks should follow.
I figure the doc will appreciate my preparation. I’ll need to win them over as I’ve now pushed their tee-time back due to my fashionably late arrival.
When the doctor finally does come in, I’ll gladly hand over the kids to their care. This short respite has me sinking back in the rock-hard chair trying to catch a couple of winks. Never underestimate the value of two minutes of sleep to an exhausted GBD.
The doctor taking short term ownership of your child is the best version of a babysitter for a Good-Bad Dad – a sitter that is not staring at their phone as a first priority or waiting for you with hand extended after arriving home from the Target shopping trip nightcap on a date night.
As the doctor finishes the initial exam (or the speed-babysitting session), I am reminded of the intensity with which I used to listen to my kid’s relative accomplishments to the norm. I would take pride in talking about my son being in the 90th percentile for weight or his head circumferences being at Einstein-ian levels.
I pay little attention to, and derive no pride from, these percentile rankings anymore. My five-foot-six frame is to blame for my jaded chuckle when I’m told that my baby is “off-the-charts” for height. I’ll hold off on making the call to the N.B.A. for a few more checkups.
The finale of all appointments are the vaunted immunization shots. I’ve further watered-down my parenting over time in two ways regarding these.
First, I used to fight the quantity of vaccinations my little’s would receive at each visit. Although I hate for them to take so many vaccines at once, I’m over getting hit by the “you have to get these to go to school” tidal wave by the shot-pushing nurses. I’ve relented – the white flag of resistance to endless vaccines is flying high.
Secondly, I’ve dampened the empathy I provide to my kids after the shot – not because I’m cold hearted but because my role in the shot process is to be the scapegoat. I’m nose-to-nose with my daughter as the serum goes in and her scream goes up. I’m the face of the pain to her- it’s my role to take the blame.
The most important movement I make is to gingerly give her over to my watery-eyed wife for snuggles, kisses and calm. A successful appointment ends with my wife as the hero.
As a Good-Bad Dad, I realize my hero days are still ahead of me – when my kids find value in my efficiency and thriftiness.
They will appreciate my reliability one day – I just might be waiting awhile.