Doctor’s office

I usually dread having Charlotte tag along to the orthodontist. Something about it winds her up. They have interesting chairs in the waiting room and baskets of colorful toothbrushes that look like candy. And they have lots of shiny, interesting things in the exam room. And then, of course, there’s me — the one who’s been feeding and growing her unsavory behaviors for years into a big, bushy, flowery weed. Fenner and Ellen are both in treatment, and instead of focusing on them and what questions I might have for the doctor, I usually have my eyes glued on Charlotte: “Come back … no … don’t touch those … keep your voice low … that’s the doctor’s chair …” etc., etc.

So yesterday Charlotte came along to Fenner’s appointment. I still dreaded it, but not as much. I had my new strategies to call on, and that was comforting.

When we got there, Fenner went inside and I stopped outside the door and turned to Charlotte. “Charlotte, can you and I make an agreement that you will stay with me in there, and not run around?” She looked at the ground, “Okaaaaay.” “Ok,” I said. (Something didn’t feel quite right about that approach—too last-minute or something—but worth a try.)

As soon as we walked in the door, things started to happen. A friend of mine was in the waiting room and we started talking. Charlotte immediately interrupted. At first I did the old thing and looked at her and said, “Charlotte, I hear you but my friend is trying to tell me something.” Errr, I thought. I know that doesn’t work! I’ve been doing that for years, it never works! It’s just so automatic, I have to have it right in the front of my brain to ignore, ignore, ignore. Charlotte stopped interrupting then, but only because she had moved over to the wooden bench and pulled the cushion off and was now balancing it on her head. I was determined to stay calm. “Charlotte, you may sit on the cushion or lie down on it, which do you choose?” “Allllriiiiiight,” she sneered. She put the cushion back and lay down up against the back of the bench and then started wriggling so her body slid down behind the cushion and pushed it off the bench onto the floor. I could feel myself tensing up. “Charlotte, on the cushion. You may lie on the cushion.” “I did! Why are you so squealy?” Squealy? I thought. Uh-oh, she’s on to me. I’m losing my firm and kind already! I took a deep breath and watched as Charlotte went over to the basket of toothbrushes and took one of each color. “Charlotte, one toothbrush. You’re allowed to take one.” She put all but two back. “Two?” she asked. “Just one,” I said. Her shoulders slumped and she dropped one on the floor and walked over to me with the other in her hand. I put my hand out and she gave me the toothbrush to hold for her. “You can have this as soon as you pick that one up.” She rolled her eyes and stomped back over and picked it up. The woman next to me chuckled. Oh, if you only knew, I thought.

They called Fenner’s name and we went to the exam room. The bathroom was on the way and Charlotte stopped to use it. “Mom, there’s more toothbrushes in here!” she laughed. Humor, I thought, what a great idea. “They’re everywhere!” I said, “You can’t get away from them!” She giggled.

She came out and joined us as the doctor was looking at Fenner. There was a ball chair pushed to the side of the room and she sat down and quietly bounced as we finished the appointment. Then as we walked out she exclaimed, “More! More toothbrushes!” This time the doctor answered, “Yeah, you can’t escape ‘em!” She laughed again and then waited patiently as I scheduled Fenner’s next appointment.

The takeaway: Do not, under any circumstances, underestimate the power of humor. Just that little bit completely changed the atmosphere between us in that office, and we left relaxed and smiling. Amazing.

ps A tidbit from this morning: Charlotte has not been brushing her hair. Before doing this program, I would follow her around with the brush waiting for her to sit down and then I would pounce. Often I would do this in a hurry because we would be running late, as usual. She would start crying and then I would remind her that she has a “choice” — “I know it hurts. This is part of having long hair. Either I brush it or I cut it off. What do you choose?” I now know this was actually a threat disguised as a choice. No wonder she would start crying harder!

Here’s how it went this morning: “Mom, will you help me look for my camera?” “Yes! As soon as you brush your hair.” “Ugh. Now I have to go all the way back upstairs. Thanks a lot, mom.” She may have dragged and stomped her way up, but her hair still got brushed, and not by me, and no threats, and no tears. 🙂

Explore posts in the same categories: Week 11: The Slippery Slope

One Comment on “Doctor’s office”

  1. kq Says:

    can you do the can-can, can you do the can-can…


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