Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Well Child

Next month I'm scheduled to take my fourth child to her yearly well child visit.

The definition of a well child visit is to take a well child into a doctor’s office and expose the child to a variety of germs that will make the child unwell.

While that practice goes against every ounce of the common sense I possess, I tend to be a rule-abiding individual. The rules dictate that I take my child to such exams periodically until she goes to school, at which point she will be exposed to the hazardous germs on a daily basis.

I have been dragging well children to these little visits for 11 years now, and I have come to some conclusions.

The actual purpose of the well child visit is to ascertain that the child’s development is on course and that the parent is competent. In order to discern this information, the parent is required to fill out a questionnaire regarding the child’s accomplishments thus far.

In addition, the medical office personnel are able to discern the competence of the parent as she struggles to fill out the paperwork while holding a wriggling, drooling baby who is attempting quite successfully to grab the parent’s pen and shove it in her eye. The other children are playing with the same toys that were recently abandoned by the little boy with something green exiting his nose as he coughed so enthusiastically it nearly blew the magazines off the waiting room table.

The questions regarding infants include pertinent information about rolling over, sitting up, and moving limbs appropriately. They also include whether or not the child is able to rake a small object, such as a raisin, into her hand and grasp it. I find this question amusing since my job as a parent is supposed to be to keep such choking hazards away from the infant, not stand by and watch her grab them.

As I remembered completing the questionnaires for each of my four children, my mind wandered (as is often the case with my mind). I began to compose a developmental questionnaire for country kids, since their first experiences are sometimes a bit different than those of a typical baby.

When the baby sees a cow, does she point at it? When did she first taste the creep feed? Can she mimic the sound of the rooster?

Does the baby crawl directly for the pile of manure-laden snow in the porch? Does she giggle in response to the dog licking her face? Does her face light up at the sight of the tractor, and does she begin to babble “Dada, Dada” when it goes through the driveway?

These are all signs of a healthy, well country child. We can’t expect a country baby’s development to mirror that of a baby who is enrolled in Mommy and Me classes in the city. Later in babyhood, when those city babies are walking and socializing with others their age, we have to judge our babies by how well they can navigate in tiny mud boots and whether or not they make every effort to chase their siblings through the corral.

Their coordination is judged by how many eggs they break on the way back from the chicken house. Their vocabulary is judged by how many animals they can correctly identify and whether or not they can mimic each animal's sound.

My two-year-old is still working on the names of the colors, but she can tell the difference between a John Deere and a Case IH tractor.

As parents, we tend to use these questionnaires to compare our kids. We ask questions like, “Is she rolling over yet? Is she sleeping through the night?”

I remember eagerly awaiting these milestones with my first three children, anticipating being able to answer “yes” to some of those questions. Now that my oldest is almost 11, I realize how fleeting their babyhood is, and I’m not as eager to cross off those firsts on the developmental list.

As the fourth child, my little Emma Lou has met these milestones a little sooner than the other kids did. Come to think of it, maybe I don’t want to devise this new developmental questionnaire. Maybe if I don’t think so much about her accomplishments, I can savor her babyhood just a little longer and convince myself that she’s not growing up quite so fast.


Stacie said...

This is so sweet and nicely written! :)

Anonymous said...

So true!


Rose Davis said...

I am on my 8th baby now and I know and understand just what you are saying! God bless, Rose

Kath said...

You said it all!!

I always tried to go to the doc right at the last minute in hopes of not exposing my already ill child to more germs toys and magazines. Eeeewww!

Frazzled Farm Wife said...

So true!

JJ said...

Wonderfully well put, as always.
I have some contemplations in that area myself. Since I have an incredibly shy toddler, people who see her for less than an hour will label her as silent, under-developed and as not being able to do things she should at that age. But we who know and love her know that she has been jumping with both feet for six months, that she completes puzzles suited for fiveyearolds, that she never stops talking and that she can count. But since she refuses to show off these abilities to strangers, we are put in the unsuitable-parents box that requires additional questionnaires to her daycare-teacher and extra visits to the doctors office. Of course there are unsuitable parents, but if the baby seems well nourished and seems fond of her parents, then leave the other things be, accept the fact that not all kids are the same and tell me in advance what you want to know and I'll videotape it for you, doc...
There just are some things we have to do that really doesn't seem that important. But we do them anyway, because that is what a good parent is expected to do...

oceans5 said...

How cute. They do grow up way too fast. My baby just turned 2 and I feel like he is already a little man.

Anonymous said...

I with you, they grow up too fast, I'm in no way anxious to cross off the last firsts.

The worst questionnaires ever though, were when we were trying to get our oldest son's Aspergers diagnosed. Can he do this? What about that? How good is he at what every other child it seems on the planet can do without thinking about it?

Where were the bubble questionnaires about his big heart, his desire to serve the Lord or how funny he can be? I Hated boxing him into a page of things he was not and could not do.

threecollie said...

Another great post! Country kids are so special, aren't they? My all grown up and in college country kids are still passing wonderful milestones and we too savor each one.

Tammy said...

"My two-year-old is still working on the names of the colors, but she can tell the difference between a John Deere and a Case IH tractor." This made me laugh out loud and brought back wonderful memories....That's the way that my youngest learned the colors! New Holland-blue, IH-red, JD-green and yellow, etc... :) Good times!!! He's 8 now...My oldest son is 13 and my daughter is 11...This brings back such awesome memories! Thank you!

Blog Directory - Blogged