Two weeks ago, my kids had their annual pediatrician appointment. I’d be lying if I said I went there without a bad taste in my mouth. Our relationship with that practice has been tenuous since last summer. Nevertheless, we dutifully attended our appointment.
It was that day our pediatrician again brought up the idea of preschool. She asked me if Matthew, who had turned three not one month prior, saw other kids his age. I stated, quite honestly, that we don’t get out much, and that our main duty up to this point has been meeting the immediate needs of our family. And neglected to add (out loud) that I thought we were doing a damned good job.
She asked me a few developmental questions about my son, and, the next thing I knew, I was being handed a piece of scratch paper with the number of the Child Outreach person in our local school system.
I was perplexed.
“Do you think he’s behind?” I asked.
“Well, yes. I think his social skills, and, uh, a little sensory,” she responded.
I was a little flummoxed. Her reasoning was obtuse at best.
“Plus, you know, it’s free preschool,” she added.
I wasn’t terribly interested in a verbal debate by the end of the appointment, so we thanked her, took the paper, and left.
My husband and I had trouble sleeping that night.
“Do you think he’s behind?” I asked, staring up at the ceiling.
“I don’t know,” he responded.
“I really don’t think he’s behind,” I said. We decided to rely on our physician’s judgement, turned off the lamp, and went to bed.
I’d worked in an Early Intervention program. I’ve seen little ones with Pervasive Developmental Disorder. I’ve seen kickers, pinchers, biters, non-eaters, nonverbal kids, kids with speech delays, and kids whose behavior was reactant to their home environments. My son was not one of these children. I knew that.
The next day, we called the woman to schedule an appointment for an assessment.
For the next week, we battered ourselves, trying to find and fit some round peg into the square hole that had been so kindly drilled for us, but continued to come up empty.
We entertained the notion of cancelling the assessment appointment twice. I even spoke to the pediatrician again to clarify what was going on, and received no response greater than we had already heard.
So, yesterday, under the pressure of time and what we perceived to be necessity, we brought our son to a local elementary school for his assessment.
“Is this my special school?” Matthew beamed up at us.
“Yes, honey. I hope you have fun today, ” I responded.
We met the woman conducting the assessment. She spoke very slowly and with wide eyes, in the manner one speaks to a kindergartner. Her tone salted our festering wounds.
She led a very enthusiastic Matthew into a small room, and asked my husband and I to sit at a table set up in the hallway. Driving rain pelted the roof above, drowning out the woman’s sing-song voice and my son’s delighted exclamations. I couldn’t hear what was going on in that room. I didn’t want to.
I filled out the obligatory questionnaires with shaking hands.
” Has anyone ever expressed concern about your child? If so, please explain…”
I put the pen to my lips. “Just the pediatrician,” I wrote carefully.
I completed the survey, then sat for a few more minutes, twiddling my fingers, smoothing my hair, tracing and retracing the curves of my husband’s head, waiting.
Midway through the eye test, Matthew announced that he wanted to use the potty. He and my husband disappeared quietly around a corner, and the woman sat down beside me.
“He’s got a lot of great skills,” she said immediately. ”Do you remember what prompted this referral? Was there a concern you presented to the pediatrician or did she say she had concerns herself?”
I relayed the pediatricians words verbatim and then shrugged. “We don’t think there’s anything wrong with him,” I added.
She eyed our questionnaires. “And you haven’t flagged anything of concern on these forms,” she stated.
My husband and Matthew emerged from the boys’ room.
“False alarm,” my husband muttered.
Matthew followed the woman back into the small room.
“She says he looks fine,” I mouthed to my husband. I shrugged again, and returned my attention to the rain.
When the woman completed her assessment, she squatted on the floor beside us. “He’s got some great skills,” she reiterated, “And he’s so adorable.”
“Yes, he’s a cutie. Everybody loves him,” I stated.
“And his speech and language are wonderful. I don’t see any concerns with any area of the assessment,” she continued.
That’s when I began to silently chide myself.
“Well, she’s been a pediatrician longer than I’ve been a parent. I thought there may have been something I wasn’t seeing,” I said, becoming physically sick to hear the words that had just tumbled from my mouth.
“If you’re interested,” she said, “We have a preschool. It’s integrated. There are five classrooms and they include typically-developing children and those having difficulties. There is a fee…”
I tuned the woman out. And then began wondering why I was still sitting in that plastic chair. I nodded and smiled, told her to provide me the information, and that we’d be in touch.
When we left the assessment, I may as well have had wings ripping through the back of my coat.
“I knew there was nothing wrong with him,” I said to my husband over the rain, “I knew he was fine.”
And that’s when I realized that I had been my son’s mother infinitely longer than the pediatrician had, the point I learned that no one knows your children as well as you do, and that if you feel something is wrong with regard to your children, you’re probably right. Conversely, if you feel nothing is wrong with your child, you’re probably right, too.
I’m listening now, and will not refuse to trust myself regarding my children ever again.
As for preschool, we’ll make that decision. When we’re ready.
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