Parents: Hold Your Breath

By Chanda Alicea

I was feeling inspired when I read Meghan Rossi’s Instagram post a week or so ago where she opened up about the challenges she faces when traveling alone with her boys. It was so honest, raw and emotional, that it struck a chord so deep in me because it took me back to so many challenges I faced with my own daughter in certain situations. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. She speaks her truth, gives you a piece of her heart and bares her soul in a way that certainly wasn’t easy to do.

Her story reminded me that it’s so hard for us to publicly admit the struggles we face with our kids sometimes. The things that no one can prepare us for because every child is different. Here’s my two cents: There’s things that we can’t prepare each other for. There’s going to be times where you are going to be so embarrassed that you will be in tears. You won’t see the light at the end of the tunnel in that moment, but I promise you it’s there. I know this, because I am speaking from experience.

My challenge with my daughter’s behavior involves medical professionals. From the time she was about 2, she HATED the doctor’s office. So much so, that we didn’t even consider taking her to the dentist (please hold all judgement in regard to not following the guidelines for recommended starting age of dentist visits) until she was about 4 or 5. Trips to the doctor were a nightmare and we’ve had the same pediatrician since she was born give or take about a year and a half when the doctor left the practice. I have no shame in telling you that I did my research and Google stalked her when her 4 year check up was coming up. We needed a win and familiarity no matter how bad the behavior was going to be. I had to keep the faith that eventually it’d get better.

Now you’re probably thinking to yourself, “it couldn’t be that bad, lots of kids hate the doctor.” I’m telling you it was that bad. The anxiety she had about going to the doctor was so bad, that I’d do my best to keep it a secret until the day of the appointment. I’d calmly reassure her that everything was going to be fine (this was a total lie, because shots). The second her name was called, everything went to, well it went to shit to be completely honest about it. The tears and screams would start. She’d have to be carried to the back where we’d struggle to get her shoes off and try not to lose our tempers as she screamed and wriggled all over the place because she refused to be weighed and measured. Taking her temperature, checking her ears, throat, and nose? You might as well forget it.

It broke my heart, took little bits of my spirit and left me consumed with guilt to have to hold her down or let her dad hold her down (because for a tiny little thing, she was resiliently strong) so she could get her exam and shots. And when it was all over and she’d ask me if we were done when she was old enough to complete sentences was a knife to my heart. The only silver lining during this time was that she didn’t really get sick a lot.

I’m not even kidding when I say that all of that changed the second she turned 5. I was holding my breath and trying my best to make sure that my anxiety didn’t rub off on her for this checkup. I wish I had pictures. She went in there chipper as could be and handled everything like a pro. From having her blood pressure, eyes and ears checked as well as cracking jokes when her pediatrician (who was completely surprised that she couldn’t be heard coming from the second her name was called) came into the room, we looked at each other in awe and wonder of how different and relaxed it was.

I wish I could say that the dentist has been easier, but it hasn’t. We’ve had to have her put under anesthesia twice so she could have cavities filled. We had to switch dentists because the one we originally went with wanted to have her wear some weird jacket contraption with a board on it and tried to bring in a book explaining what was going to happen. My daughter lost it the instant she saw it. No book with a doll for an example was going to talk her through feeling comfortable about that. This is the part where I tell you that it’s totally okay to choose other medical professionals for your kid. Not every place is the right fit for your kid and it’s okay to shop around to find the one.

The picture with this post is one I have posted on my Instagram page. Behind the camera I’m holding my breath, encouraging her from afar and holding in all the anxiety to myself. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop any second, and it never did. This was the first time my daughter let the hygienist clean her teeth. She doesn’t mind the X-rays at all but HATES the brush and the fluoride they use. It was the same meltdowns as it was with the doctor. But with a new dentist, comfort and trust takes time. This procedure wasn’t fuss free, but it was easier. This office went above and beyond to make her as comfortable as possible. As a parent that is all you can hope for. We always hope for the best but expect the worst. Keep the faith that you will get through this. The challenges that feel like they’re breaking us are just making us stronger.