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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Doctor Love

Do you recognize this place?

Most of my disposable time and income are spent here. Maybe yours are too.

Welcome to my home away from home, the pediatrician's office.

Before I make my children sound like complete germ-infested monsters, let me explain. Each of my precious children has had their own health challenges. My first-born dealt with chronic ear infections and severe constipation (there...just getting the inevitable poop reference out of the way early). My middle child dealt with everything from salmonella poisoning as an infant (must've been all that sushi I was feeding him) and terrible acid reflux to chronic ear infections and a bad attitude (that one can't be cured by visiting the pediatrician - just figured I'd lump it in there with the rest of his ailments). My third takes the cake, though, when it comes to pediatrician visits. From an eye infection at 10 days old that landed us in the ER and an infantile fever at seven weeks that earned us four-day admittance to the local children's hospital to severe reflux, a milk protein allergy, constipation, chronic ear infections, and ultimately ear tubes, he has been one expensive gift from God.

Yes, I guess I just made them sound like complete germ-infested monsters.

And no, I don't need your dietary suggestions, and no, we're not going gluten-and-dairy free. More power to you if that's your bag, but it just ain't gonna happen on this shift. 

And yes, they take vitamins and eat lots of vegetables and fruits, and they even take Juice Plus.

And no, I really don't want your holistic practitioner's phone number.

Anyway, back to the pediatrician.

Over the last several years, I have gotten to know our office, the staff, the nurses, and our doctor way too well. They have seen me laugh. They have seen me cry. They have laughed with me. They have shared Starbucks with me, because for a while there I was too busy for friends, and really who needs friends when you have nurses, so I just stopped and picked them up some coffee every time I was on my way in. Also, I am 98% sure they snuck me back to a room faster because of it.

Taking your kids to the pediatrician is no small feat, am I right? I show up, rush to get in on time, and dish out yet ANOTHER copay. The receptionist cheerfully asks me to sign the credit card slip, and I bite my tongue to keep from asking her if she just wants to go ahead and set up a direct deposit from my paycheck into their bank account to cut out the middle man.

I usually find myself presented with a dilemma once I get finished with the check-in process. I usually have one kid that's sick, and two that aren't (or, should I say, two that aren't sick YET). So I send said sick child into the "sick" room, and said well children into the "well" room. Then I run walk back and forth, watching like a hawk to make sure my children don't cross the thresholds into the other room, either contaminating or being contaminated. I often find my children lying on the carpet in these rooms, because why would they want to stand or sit like normal people when they are in the single-most germ-infested place under the sun? Last time I was there I found my two-year-old laying on his stomach underneath some chairs sucking goldfish crumbs off the carpet. I went ahead and penciled in a sick visit for him three days later to treat whatever bacteria he had just sucked off the floor.

Once my nurse, my boo, Jo, calls us back to our room, my kids stop at the scale and for a lollypop. You know which kind - the same ones pediatricians were giving out 30 years ago when we were kids.

There's nothing new under the sun, is there?

And, just for the record, Saf-T-Pops are not SAF. Those suckers (pun intended) come off the saf stick so fast that they might as well not even be included with them. They should just call them Choke-Ing-Pops.

As soon as we reach our room in the back, which is about 3'x3' in size for four people and includes zero toys, one of my children drops their Saf-T-Pop on the ground. One of three things typically happens: 1. I grab it and trash it and get them a new one, 2. It falls and shatters into a million pieces and I "get to" clean that up and THEN get them a new one, or 3. Said child is faster than me, grabs it before I can get to him, and pops it back into his mouth. At which point I schedule a sick appointment for three days later (see the goldfish example above).

At this point my kids are bouncing off the walls, with tears from "he touched me," and "are we done yet's," and "I need to go potty's." By the time the pediatrician makes her way in to see us, it appears that I am a mother who can neither control her children or herself, and that all four of us quite possibly need to be medicated.

While trying to speak to the doctor with a semblance of intelligence, the non-sick kids tend to do things like grab the tongue depressors and medical gloves, or knock her costs-thousands-of-dollars otoscope off of the examine table. Or maybe one comes back from the bathroom with a full cup of urine because she "wanted to tinkle in a cup." Not that it's ever happened to me.

We finally prepare to leave and I get the pleasure of trying to herd my crew out of the room, help them make their sticker selection (which can take hours, for reals), pick up any prescriptions, and get back down to the van in the parking garage with the world's slowest elevator.

Then I need a nap.

Now, all of this being said, I must tell you that I am beyond thankful for my pediatrician. She has been a part of the healing process of my children's lives, she has hugged me when I was overwhelmed, she has taken each and every situation to do with my children's health and wellbeing on a case-by-case basis, knowing them by name and not as another number. She knows their bodies. She knows my parenting style. She has cared for my children well, and I am so very grateful.

We invest a lot into our children's physical health, and as we should, because it's worth it.

So what about investing in their spiritual health?

Do I minister love to my children's hearts and attend to their spiritual health as much as I do their physical well being? Am I as in tune with their emotional ups and downs as I am with their coughs and sneezes? Do I labor over what I allow to penetrate their minds and spirits through media, friends, and environments as much as I do over what I allow to nourish (or not) their physical selves?

Do I give them state-of-the-heart checkups? 

Do I give one to myself?

"Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? - unless indeed you fail to meet the test." -- 2 Corinthians 13:5

Do I create time to be still, to sit before the Lord and seek His guidance and His equipping as I attempt to raise three little humans, not just into functional adults, but more importantly into passionate pursuers of Jesus Christ?

Some simple questions I might ask in self-examination as I get really honest with myself about my successes and failures as my childrens' mother might be:

  • Do I make it a priority and create a time and space to personally spend time in communion with God?
  • Do I pray for my children? Often?
  • Do I speak words of life and love into my children daily, even when it's not easy?
  • Do I live authentically before my children, sharing with them my own depravity and desperate need for a Savior?
  • Do I discipline and guide my children by dealing with root heart issues and not just the symptoms of their deeper problems?
  • Do I live and breathe God's Word as I communicate with my children, showing them that Scripture is meant to be part of the fabric of who we are as Christ-followers?
  • Do I exemplify a child of God who is desperately in love with her Heavenly Father, a living example of what is means to have relationship with God and not religion?
  • Do I extend the grace of God to my children, the same grace He has extended to me time and again?

There are many, many more questions we can ask ourselves, most definitely. Maybe, though, this is a good place to start. Maybe in the asking we will open ourselves up to the Spirit's prompting to dig deeper, to ask more questions. 

One thing I want to say to all my sisters out there, because I know how we as women are, how we can operate in the impossible realm of perfectionism: asking these questions and realizing we come up short is NOT grounds for taking a battering ram to our hearts and beating ourselves to a bloody pulp. Crushing our own confidence and breaking our own spirits is a complete contradiction to what asking these questions should actually do for us. None of us will answer every question with a "yes," and most of us will find that we fail often. These questions and our answers and shortcomings should not stir up fear or apprehension in us, because our questions are rooted in a deep love for the Lord and for our children. And in love, there is no fear, there is no anxiety.

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us." -- 1 John 4:18-19

Will you join me in this self-examination? Will you bring yourself before the Lord without pretense, laying it all out there for Him to sort through, minister to, and, if necessary, even take and break, so that He can heal, fill and rebuild us into mothers who can doctor love to our children?

Here's to being moms, being women, who are real.

Here's to being unwilling to settle for mediocrity when the ultimate satisfaction and fulfillment and equipping has been offered to us by our Father. 

Here's to being moms who want to love our children to the cross.

And here's to all the pediatricians out there. Dr. Mekelburg, I may have paid enough copays to fund your vacation home, but I have to say that you deserve it. For all the times you have been pooped on, I say bravo. For all the times you have been exposed to some disgusting stomach bug that manifested itself in you the next day at 1:00am, I say soldier on. For that time a few weeks ago when my son kicked you in the face, I say sorry. Just sorry.

Feel free to laugh!

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