Matthew and the Pediatrician
Matthew and the Pediatrician
About a month ago, just after New Year’s, Matthew had his second pediatrician visit. He is growing nicely. The pediatrician found him a bit taller, a bit heavier, the head circumference a bit larger. He is right along with the growth charts. Actually his weight to length ratio shows him less pudgy for his height, and he was very pudgy three months before, and while we didn’t have accurate numbers from Kazakhstan, I think he was downright fat back then. He is slimming down nicely to a leaner physique, though I wouldn’t call him svelte yet. I think the higher lean protein diet and more vigorous activity have really helped. Every chance we get we make him climb the stairs when we have to go upstairs. At his size, climbing a staircase on all sixes—feet, knees, and hands—is a pretty strenuous activity. He’s become quite the little mountain climber and can really scoot up, if he doesn’t become distracted with whatever may be on the side. And yes, we stand behind him in case he leans backward.
But the progress of his growth was not the most interesting thing about the pediatrician visit, and neither were the five vaccine shots he received, though that added some excitement. The most interesting thing about the pediatrician visit was what I guess could be called a psychological assessment. The doctor didn’t call it that, but that’s what it was. After doing the physical exam, placing him on the weight table, stretching him to get an accurate height, poking around his belly, probing his orifices, and manipulating his genitals, the doctor, a geeky, grey haired, skinny to the bone woman with big Poindexter glasses, said to diaper Matthew, set him down so he can run around so that “we could talk.” So there was Matthew, bare-chested, bare legged, bare footed, running in and out of the examining room while we sat with the doctor.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “Just let him run.” The look on her face seemed like this was important. I think I gulped. She started by asking us a bunch of questions. What were his language skills? How many words does he know? Does he communicate? Does he know body parts? He knows his nose and belly. He communicates by pointing a lot and vague vocalizing and whining when he’s unhappy. He understands lots of words and follows lots of commands, even complicated commands, like picking up specifically named objects and putting it where you tell him. He knows daddy and mommy and baby and bye bye and baba for bottle. The doctor nodded her head pondering.
“Does Matthew have tantrums?
“No, not at all,” I said. “He does whine a bit, but never really tantrums. I think he’s a pretty good baby.”
The doctor continued to ponder. “Well,” she said, “you may find this a little surprising, but he’s too good.”
Of course our expressions were, “huh, too good?”
“Yes, your child is too good. Notice how he was just handed to me and he didn’t resist. I handled him in all sorts of ways, and he didn’t fight. First, that can be dangerous if some stranger lures him away.”
I have mentioned how Matthew seems to go with everyone and enjoy all people. The danger of that has crossed my mind. That was not all that surprising.
“Besides that,” she continued, “he risks developing into too passive a person. Do you do pick him up a lot? Do you do things for him?”
“Well, he is a baby,” I said. What did she expect, that Matthew change his own diapers and cook his own dinner? Matthew at this point ran into the exam room and looked at us as if to ask why we had abandoned him. The three of us looked at him while he ran back out.
“Matthew is obviously a very sweet baby, but he can develop into a wallflower personality, one that sits at parties and doesn’t go up to people. He has an inability to express himself.”
“He hasn’t exactly learned the King’s English yet.” I was coming out of my astonished state to defend the little guy and to defend myself, because my wife repeatedly says I pick him up and give in to him too much. I could see an “I-told-you-so” stare from her face.
The doctor brushed off my quip without acknowledging it. “Last week I had a child in here that must have been part wolf. He was ravenous. He was wild. I had to fight him and hold him down and use all my body to restrain him. The next day my arms were all sore.”
At that point I was picturing the Wolfman’s baby, body hair, canine teeth and all, on her examining table, or a baby in serious need of an exorcism.
“He was the opposite of Matthew. But both are no good. The two extremes. Matthew needs to explore and figure things out on his own. He needs to be frustrated.”
Frustrated? I thought frustration in psychobabble was a bad thing.
“Matthew should be feeding himself. Get your child to feed himself. Get him to do things on his own. Your child needs to have more tantrums.”
More tantrums? I thought parents dreaded like the plague when their child had a tantrum. To some degree I was somewhat buying into all this, albeit skeptically; after all Matthew was fairly easygoing. But then the she came out with the real winner.
“Matthew is not in tune with his feelings.”
I’m not sure where that really came out of. Somewhere she didn’t link that statement to any observable fact, or develop it out of her previous line of thinking, but I could see my wife acknowledging and even accepting it. It must be a woman’s mentality thing, I thought, something that travels on female wavelengths that doesn’t require full explanation and is forever nebulous to a man’s mind. But then I thought, “ah that’s just psychobabble.”
After she gave Matthew his five shots, and he started to scream and cry—upon which she nodded and said, “ah, that’s good,” as if Matthew was not a hopeless case—after we dressed Matthew, rounded up our things, paid the bill and were ready to leave, the doctor’s parting words were, “Next time I want to see more tantrums.”
Ok, so I would say that half of what the pediatrician said was B.S. and half could be valid. I told people at work about what she said and most laughed. My mother-in-law who obviously knows Matthew says it’s nonsense, “the silliest thing [she’s] ever heard.” Now I can kind of see how a passive child might grow to be timid. People at work tell me that they don’t start having tantrums until two years old and it’s not unusual at sixteen months old to not articulate well. Matthew is expressive in lots of other ways. While I don’t want Matthew to be a ravenous wolf, I certainly would want him to have some fight in him. I would like some input from parents. Can a child be “too good” and do good babies grow up to be passive? Should a child be frustrated for his development? We tried to get Matthew to feed himself, and while he tries, he doesn’t have the motion down. He kind of stabs at his food and flick it off to the floor. He doesn't seem to get frustrated with that; he just says ooh. LOL.
So here are a few more pictures of Matthew.
He loves to play with the buttons on the television, no matter how I growl at him to stop. The next one he is bundled up to face the winter.
This next one in his red jammies he wears a letter “o” on his head.
And finally examining his legs.