T fell asleep on the way to the pediatricians yesterday. That sentence probably seems pretty benign to you, but by the time we rolled into the parking lot I was terrified. Dude does not wake up with a lot of grace. He comes by that pretty honestly, I’m the same way. Although, at nearly 36 years old I have mastered myself enough to be socially appropriate when roused from a nap in public. Sadly, T isn’t there quite yet.
I actually thought I’d magically dodged a bullet when we schlepped into the office. T was only whining, it seemed like I was worried about nothing, my superior mothering skills had talked him right off the ledge.
I believe the gods recognized my hubris and set out to punish me.
The whining quickly ramped up into full blown hysteria. At first the other parents looked at me with bemused smiles on their faces. The kind of look that said, “We’ve all been there Mama! Its sucks, but he’ll calm down!”
Um, yeah. No calming down. None. Just ramping up. Did I mention that the waiting room was packed?
Months ago I listened to a story on NPR about temper tantrums. A scientist interviewed said that if you hold your child during their tantrum a change happens in their brains that will lead to them outgrowing tantrums over time. I have no idea if that is bullshit or not, but it stuck with me and I try to hold T when he really loses it. Because I have no fucking clue what to do. None. It never would have occurred to my sister or me to throw a tantrum as a kid. We were way too scared of our parents. Thankfully dude doesn’t have a lot of them, but when they happen look the fuck out.
Poor sick C was left to entertain himself at the chalk board (because that’s age appropriate for a 14 month old) while I held T tight. Ten minutes later he was still freaking out. I started murmuring things in his ear like, “Thomas. Look around you. Every single person in the waiting room is staring at you. Because you are disturbing them. The kids want to know what the heck is wrong with you. This is not the way a big boy behaves. You need to pull yourself together.” He’d look around and see the other kids looking back at him and stop crying for about 10 seconds, then he’d catch himself and throw himself right back into the tantrum with even more vigor. Yeah, I don’t know if I was doing more damage or not with that spiel, I don’t really even fucking care. It just felt really important in the moment to explain to him what an enormous dickweed he was being.
Twenty minutes later when the nurse called C’s name not a single adult in the waiting room could look our way, not that I blame them. I gathered our bags and the boys, my cheeks burning red as I trotted after the nurse with what little dignity I had left.
That nurse. What a peach. I attempted to explain what was up with C as T howled in the background. After about two minutes she excused herself for a sec. I took the time she was gone to let T know how extremely fucking pissed off I was at him. She returned with a sticker in her hand, which she extended to him like a peace offering. What what his response? Do you think he thanked her for her kindness? He looked at the sticker of a fire engine, threw his head back and wailed, “NOOOOOOO! I. WANT. A. DIGGER. STICKER!”
After instructing him to apologize, which he did without too much coercion (lucky for him–if he failed to do that I was going to pull the car over on the way home and drop him on the side of the road to fend for himself like the wild animal he is) I turned to the nurse and thanked her for trying to help out. People, by that point I was beyond humiliated. We got back to the task at hand-poor, sick, forgotten, well behaved C. I couldn’t hear myself think over T’s continued screams. I don’t think I was making a hell of a lot of sense, not that the nurse could hear what I was saying anyway, but she did take C’s temp and weight and was able to make her escape.
Finally the doctor arrived. Or regular doc was off for the day because she was on call all weekend, but the lady we saw is my next favorite doctor in the practice. In fact, we’d seen her last Thursday when T was diagnosed with a sinus infection. She is amazing with kids. But his tantrum, which at this point was more than 30 minutes old, was inured to the kryptonite that was her soothing bedside manor. We seemed to kind of agree to just talk over the hysterical three year old keening on the exam table. When T began flailing around the doc grabbed C to free me up to try and deal with T. She was calm which helped me be calm, but of course the exam took about three times as long as it needed to thanks to T. By the very end, after C had been diagnosed with an ear infection and we were talking about the dreaded antibiotics, more than 45 minutes after the tantrum began, T cried himself out.
In the blissful silence that followed, only punctuated by his pathetic sniffles, the doc kindly asked me if I was going to be ok. I told her I did not think I was actually going to murder him that night. She said that was good.
On our way out we had to make a follow up appointment for the doc to take a gander at C’s ears after the course of antibiotics. By that time it was past 5pm and the waiting room was empty. I’d told T he needed to apologize to the receptionist and he did. She looked at me and mouthed, “Can he have a sticker?” I laughed. Thanked her. And said, “Absolutely not.”