My daughter had her three-year checkup at the pediatrician's office yesterday. We have been blessed with a healthy little girl overall, but I was eager to get the doctor's advice on some potty training issues--typical struggles, but I wanted his perspective.
Little did I know that Lauren's issues were medical in nature, not behavioral or at all related to potty training. Apparently, over the course of the past two or three months, her digestive system has been under some stress, leading to the symptoms we were seeing. Had we recognized her problems earlier, we could have intervened and lessened the impact on her little body. Luckily, the issues can be cleared up with a daily laxative and intense attention to the potty over the next few weeks. But, my heart dropped to my feet when I realized that the doctor was telling me that I should have recognized her struggles earlier, alluding to the fact that this was my fault.
My cheeks burned with embarrassment, as the doctor chastised me. My stomach churned into knots. I couldn't hear anything else as he explained the root cause and course of treatment. I was paralyzed by feelings of inadequacies and failure as a parent. And, I blamed myself for not taking her struggles a little more seriously.
As I sat in the chair listening to his harsh words, I realized an important lesson about my communication with parents in my life as a teacher. Parents have the best intentions when it comes to their children. No parent wants to see their children in pain, and no parent willingly creates conditions that are harmful to a child's well-being. But, as the doctor spoke to me, I'll assume for a moment that he forgot that no one loves that little girl more than me. I didn't recognize her troubles, and I didn't seek action, but that doesn't mean I love her any less. I did not have the skill set to recognize that she needed medical intervention. Had I, I would have moved heaven and earth to schedule an appointment. I am not a doctor--I am just her mother. That child is my heart on two little legs walking around outside of my body. She is my treasure, my world. Every child that walks through the doors of our classroom is someone else's treasure. My conversations, regardless of my opinions, need to reflect that understanding. I seek to remember that as parents, we are all doing the best we can with what we have. As I sat there being judged by one mistake, I realized how wholly inadequate I felt and how parents feel when I report academic or behavioral difficulties of their child. We need to support one another and create partnerships, not point fingers of blame. As fat tears welled up in my eyes, I wished that the doctor would have recognized that I am just a mom, doing her best, loving her children more than anyone in the world. And, I pledged to remember, in the course of my difficult conversations with parents, that each day they send me their best work--all their successes and failures wrapped up in one little fourth grade body. What a monumental responsibility we teachers share with parents. Puts a lot into perspective for me.
As I hung my head in shame, our pediatrician realized the sharpness of his words. His tone became softer, and his eyes became more gentle. But, something had changed between us. Do I have all the confidence that he is the best doctor for my kids? Certainly. Will I continue to trust his medical judgment in the care of my children? No doubt. But did our relationship change throughout the course of one short conversation? Absolutely. For just one moment, I wanted him to step back, take off the doctor hat, and say, "Lauren's belly is really having some trouble. Let's talk about the plan to get her feeling better, and let's make sure you know when to call me next time." I didn't need chastised. I needed reassurance that I am not an inadequate parent--I just made a mistake. And, I will continue to make them on a daily basis. Please don't define me by my screw ups, but define me by my intense love for my babies and my passion for those kiddoes parents send me every day.
P. S. I am happy to report that Lauren is already on the mend.