Since when is it OK for a pediatrician to scold me? Don’t get me wrong, I value her medical expertise, but I don’t appreciate her making me feel like I don’t know how to raise my children. Lest I sound like I’m just on a rant, I’ll explain my frustration.
Two weeks ago, I took my seven and eight-year-old in for their annual well child visit. The first thing their doctor said after she walked in the room and looked at the chart the nurse had just updated with their height and weight was, “Both of your children are alarmingly underweight.” I’d had some concerns last year when my daughter Liv was in the 1st percentile, and I’d voiced those during last year’s well visit with this same doctor. She’d told me not to worry, laughing and saying, “Look at her mother.” I reminded her of this conversation and asked, “What’s different this year?” Her response was scathing, “Last year she was at the bottom of the growth chart. This year, she’s fallen completely off.” I had to bite my tongue from coming back with, “Are you kidding me right now?”
In that moment, I felt sympathy for my mother. I remember discussions among various adults about my brother and I being “malnourished”. We were no such thing; we were just skinny as rails, probably because we were high energy, like my kids. But that didn’t stop the threat of Child Protective Services being called in. Nearly four decades later as I sat helplessly while my children were interrogated about what I feed them daily, I felt my mom’s pain. Despite them naming items from all the food groups, the doctor eyed us all skeptically and scribbled something on her pad.
Referral to Children’s Hospital and her growth chart in hand, Liv and I saw the nutritionist a few days later (I wasn’t about to risk not acting quickly enough). Though Levi is also “underweight”, he weighs more than his sister and so didn’t get a referral of his own; I was just instructed by the doc to apply whatever I learned about proper nutrition to him as well.
Fearing a reprimand more severe than the doctor’s, I nearly cried tears of relief when the nutritionist greeted us warmly, took one look at me and chuckled, “Well, that explains it.”
Following a non-threatening series of questions about our family’s eating habits, I learned what I already knew: my children eat well-balanced, healthy, nutritious meals. Still, I’d arrived at the appointment willing to make whatever changes necessary for Liv to get back on that growth chart. Turns out I should add more fat and sugar to her diet, like ground beef instead of the ground turkey I cook with. And sweets! In moderation, of course. And I need to give her Boost or Kid’s Essential drinks to supplement the large amounts of Vitamin D milk she already drinks.
The good news is, even though Liv is a size 6x, just like I was at her age, according to her growth chart she’ll end up right about 5’1” and a hundred something pounds. A mini-me. The sad news is I’m switching pediatricians. Not because she referred us to the nutritionist, but because of her implication that I was either ignorant or negligent or both. She should’ve known from years of dealing with me that I’m on board with anything that will help my children thrive.
What we expect as parents is that the professionals in our lives will not view us as part of the problem, but partner with us to find solutions. The ability to recognize a parent’s strengths and a situation for what it is, like a simple case of like petite mother, like daughter, are qualities I’ll be looking for in our next pediatrician.