In the past two weeks, I've taken four of our five kids for their annual physicals; our daughter Ciara turned five four days before the triplets turned three. How's that for funky math and a stunning family statistic?!
The month of October is always a hectic one for us and the flurry of physicals can be challenging not only in terms of scheduling logistics (we send the poor pediatrician's office into a tailspin this time each year!) but also in terms of managing the kids, their expectations and their fears. Here are some of our tactics for tackling the annual trek to the doctor... and the many visits that will surely come in-between...
1. Be honest. Even when our kids were newborns, I'd talk to them and let them know what to expect. They may have been only months old and not had a clue what I was saying but I'd like to think that mama's words are soothing, whether they are understood or not. These days, my kids are old enough to understand what's going on and I'm not going to sugarcoat it -- shots hurt! But, they don't hurt for long and they are followed by a trip to the treasure chest... not to mention the added perk of a flu-free winter and freedom from a host of nasty diseases. This is what I tell them. It is simple and it is true. Kids like things to be simple and true.
2. Be prepared. I'm not sure if this is sanctioned by the American Academy of Pediatrics or not, but I have a dim recollection of giving our newborns Tylenol as a preemptive strike against the potential nasty side effects of shots. While this may not be recommended, it certainly can't hurt... well, I don't think it can... you may want to check with your pediatrician on that! Something that certainly won't hurt and most definitely will help is to bring a few of your tot's favorite things to the annual exam -- a blankie, a stuffed animal, a lovey, anything that provides comfort. Put it in your bag. You should also be sure to include a bottle or sippy cup since these are sure ways to soothe small sobbing souls. A favorite book can be a good distraction and favorite toy can be a great way to turn their frowns upside down. A few other reminders: bring diapers, wipes, a change of clothes and all your usual basics. I once fled the doctor's office with a kid in a pumpkin costume (it was October!) and nothing else; don't let this happen to you!
3. Be Proud. You survived another year of motherhood. As you note the milestones -- the pounds gained, inches grown, head circumference charting just right, the transition from breast to bottle, from bottle to sippy cup, from crawling to walking, from cooing to talking -- take a moment to consider all YOU have accomplished in the weeks, months, years that have gone by far too fast. Give yourself a great big hug, a pat on the back, a glass of wine (not 'til you get home though!), whatever makes you feel good. Because really, raising kids is hard work and the annual physical is as good a time as any to celebrate not only your children's growth, but yours as well. You did it. They did it. And another year will fly by before you know it so, you might as well take a moment to relish in the joy and wonder of it all now.