I have begun to dread my kids' check-ups at our GP's. It's a teaching practice, so we get to see a nurse, then a resident, then our doctor. Sometimes this sequence of events works out better than others.
Anyways, one of the things I really hate is the "is your child 'normal' developmental checklist: (I could rail all day about these kinds of checklists, but suffice it to say, I think they're a bit absurd.)
My favourite was at Girlio's 12 month check-up: "Does she go and fetch her shoes when you tell her to?" Me: "Well, she can't walk yet, so I haven't really started asking her to fetch things...". A friend told me she was asked at the same 12 month stage if her daughter was speaking in sentences yet. (Oh yes, and she's enrolled in Yale for the fall semester!) And at Boy-o's two year check-up, our resident was extremely bothered by the fact that Boy-o wasn't toilet trained yet.
This last time, for Girlio's 18 month check-up, I was asked: "When you show her a picture of a body, does she point out and name at least three body parts?" (Yes sure - every single time I pull out my pointer and body chart, she calls out the proper latin and everything!) And when it was Boy-o's turn, (the four year old checklist) they wanted to know: "When he draws people, does he make a shapes for the body parts?" Me: "No". "Oh, so he just draws stick people then?" Me: "He's not really into drawing people." Long disturbed pause... "You mean, he just.... scribbles?" Me (somewhat irate at the fact that this woman is not so subtly putting down my child right there in his face): "We prefer to call it art."
And then I chat with the resident, which is mostly fine, until it comes along to Girlio's lack of sleep. Here she grills me on our routine, breastfeeding habits, how we choose to comfort etc. I can feel exhaustion setting in here because I already know where this is going: The lack of sleep is our fault, we aren't doing it right, etc. We've been down this road a time or two. And then she asks if Girlio sleeps in her own room. (She does.) "Oh good." She says. "We find babies do so much better in their own rooms." Now this crap drives me nuts. She states itso matter-of-factly, as if this were, in fact medical and not moral advice. Now North American docs get all funny about co-sleeping, it's true, because of the fear of suffocation. But babies ALL over the world co-sleep. Like ALL OVER. And there are LOADS of ways of co-sleeping and room-sharing with babies that this risk wouldn't ever even come into play. SO - just exactly how do "we" find that babies do better in their own rooms? Do they turn out smarter? More well-adjusted? Do they get more sleep? Do their parents? I've done a fair share of reading on the subject, and I'm pretty clear that there's no consensus on the deficits or the merits of co-sleeping. And so I say: "You know what? We've tried co-sleeping. It didn't work for us. But if Girlio would sleep in our bed, I'd let her stay there til college if I had to. I'd let her sleep in the bathtub if I thought it would help!" I got a nervous, "I don't know what to do with the uppity woman' smile. I seem to get that smile a lot.
Then my actual doc comes in (after my kids have been sitting in this office for over an hour, seeing the nurse and then resident), just to talk to me about the sleep stuff. And though kind and empathetic about the exhaustion I am living with, she advises that what I need to do is have the adults and Boy-o sleep downstairs, put in earplugs and just let Girlio cry upstairs on her own for a few nights. "It's the tried and true patient and parent-tested way," she informs me. And then she sends me off with this warning: "You've got to get this sorted out. Otherwise, she'll end up like my neighbour's daughter, who's seven, and still screams for hours at bedtime everynight." Mmmhmmmmm. See now, this is parenting advice. Not medicine. Show me a study that say children raised in a cry-it-ou household are better adjusted, smarter, happier in their lives. It doesn't exist. It doesn't exist because sleep concerns aren't really about babies - they're about parents. The babies are just fine.
I'm glad my kiddos have universal healthcare. I'm ever so grateful I can take them for check-ups and make sure that they are growing up healthy and strong. But I hate the tyranny of 'normalcy' that awaits every time we walk through those doors. (Ie. 8 kids out of 10 can do x by the age of y - therefore the 2 kids must something wrong with them.) I also really resent feeling like I am no longer considered an expert in my children's growth, learning and development from the second we arrive. AND - the dropping of "We find" and presenting parenting advice as empirical knowledge (as if avoidance of co-sleeping and cry-it-out-ing are somehow medically superior methods of child-rearing), well... I find - that just ain't right.