It’s 7:30 in the morning, my son has a check-up today, and I just completed filling out the online questionnaires my pediatrician requires us to fill out for him. Can I just say that ever since we changed pediatricians and moved from my old general practitioner’s office to this newer pediatrician’s office, I am an anxious wreck when I fill out these online surveys?
Perhaps it sounds silly or dumb to let it get to me, and I know part of it comes from some of the trauma surrounding my first son’s health problems, but I do get anxious and sometimes irritable about filling out these forms. I honestly don’t know if every pediatrician’s office does this, but if yours does, some of these questions will look familiar to you.
I answer things like:
- Without pointing, does your child follow a direction instruction like, “put the doll on the table” or “go touch the door”?
- Does your child try to copy actions you perform like combing hair, shaving, brushing teeth, etc.?
- Does your child point at something he wants to indicate it to you?
- Does your child use two word phrases that indicate two separate ideas (examples: “see dog,” “dada home,” etc.) rather than one complete idea (examples: “bye-bye,” “love you,” “thank you,” etc.)?
I have two children and this survey was for my youngest, who just turned two-years-old. I had to do this earlier in the month for my four-year-old with questions appropriate for his age as well. I know these are standard assessment questions to determine where your child is in his development. In my head, I understand that this is one way the doctor is able to determine if my kids are at developmentally appropriate stages and if there are any concerns (like possible hearing or sight problems or slower development that might need some more professional help). I get all that, I really do.
But when I go into the surveys and can’t answer a resounding “yes” to most of the questions or feel like I’m answering “no,” or “not yet” too often, I start wondering things. My brain fills with its own set of survey questions that I begin to pore over, and I wind myself up into a tizzy.
I ask myself questions like:
- Am I paying enough attention to him? Do I give him enough affection and praise when he accomplishes new things?
- Has he done these things and I’m just too distracted to notice? Or is he actually behind where he should be?
- Why isn’t he using his words more? He’s almost two, and he barely uses words!
- What does it mean that I can’t say “yes” to _________ (insert whatever question is bugging me)?
- Will they tell me I’m not doing it right? Will I be in trouble if the answers aren’t good enough?
- What if I’m really a bad mom?
And, really, that’s the kicker, isn’t it? I wind myself into a tizzy about my kids because of these surveys and end up questioning myself and whether I’m a good parent. So much of life seems designed to make us question ourselves, doesn’t it? It starts when we’re young with school tests and sports try-outs and moves into our teen years with choosing the right friends and developing our own senses of fashion and tastes, then it continues into young adulthood with our choices of college and career. I don’t know about you, but I have spent a lot of my time questioning myself and wondering if I’m making the right kinds of decisions.
It’s a recipe for anxiety.
For me, what these medical surveys do is dredge up all the things I put aside to think about later and place them before me in the click of a few pages on a screen. I give myself a few minutes to ponder those questions before landing on that one that really sticks out and that I can’t give myself a clear answer to: What if I’m really a bad mom?
So far, every time I’ve gone into the pediatrician for a regularly scheduled check-up, there hasn’t been much to comment on. They’ve assured me these questionnaires tend to ask about things that are right at average and above average for the development stage of each age, and as long as we aren’t answering too many “not yets,” there’s nothing to worry about.
By the time you read this, I’ll have had my son’s check-up and most likely heard things I’ve already told myself. “He doesn’t talk as much because he’s a boy and he doesn’t have to, not with an older brother to talk for him,” or “he’ll work on these skills as he grows, and he doesn’t have to have them all now.”