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Checking up - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
Checking up
Img had her 2(ish)-year health visitor checkup on Monday, to make sure that her walking/talking/thinking etc is all basically on the right track for her age. I'd tried to explain what we were doing on the way there ("we're going to see some nurses who want to check if you can walk and talk and run around and kick a ball and things like that"), so when the health visitor started explaining to me that they wanted to check if she could walk, talk etc, Img chipped in with "and kick a ball!" which made it look rather as though I'd been coaching her for the test... On the other hand, it did usefully prove to them that she can do the requisite "put two words together" (I was hoping she'd say "Imi put two words together!" but as it was she just chattered away in her normal delightful manner, pointing out everything she could see on the toys and posters ("a cuckoo clock! a tulip and a butterfly! a book about I Want My Potty!") and narrating everything she was doing ("Imi running about! Imi running to her mummy again!") so they quickly got the idea that yes, tick, talking is just fine. (The form we had to fill in actually said "My child talks like other children of the same age" [yes/no] and I wanted to say "No, my child talks much better than most other children of the same age", but I knew that wasn't what they meant because NONE OF THE DAMN QUESTIONS SAY WHAT THEY MEAN so you have to fill it in as if you're a normal person who doesn't realise that words mean things.)

Anyway, eventually the health visitor asked about sleep, so I told her that Img was still waking a couple of times in the night (I'm not very good at lying, and since they base everything they tell parents on opinion and anecdote anyway I wanted to at least contribute a truthful anecdote to their 'evidence' base) and it all went downhill from there. She asked if I was OK with the night wakings, and again I tried to be honest: I said that I wished Img did sleep better, but I didn't wish it enough to try to force her into changing her behaviour; but apparently that's too nuanced an opinion, because she interpreted that as "I want to change this" and started explaining that they can offer "help" with sleeping. I asked if the "help" meant controlled crying, and she looked surprised and said "well, yes" as if WHAT ON EARTH ELSE might anybody possibly want to do, and I said no thank you, not interested. Health visitor asked how I got Img back to sleep again, and I said by feeding her, because yes we are still breastfeeding. She then asked if we'd tried "sending someone else in to her when she wakes up" i.e. letting Owen do it, and I said yes but it doesn't work, and she looked sceptical, and started explaining that "she's only waking up for comfort". I tried to explain (without biting) that no, she's waking up because that's physiologically normal for human beings of her age (in fact for most humans), and she's getting up because she wants comfort, which is emotionally normal for human beings of her age, but HV kept insisting that Img "just wants comfort", as if this was somehow a deliberate act of naughtiness, or perhaps as if a 2-year-old should have loftier aspirations than feeling safe and loved and comfy. I mean, I know there are different ways to comfort a child, but I don't see why people think that it's bad to do so at all. I guess they think you'll "spoil" the child, that it'll become unbearable, that it'll never grow up "properly" (not like real grown-ups, who are obviously all quite content to get by without any love or material comfort in their lives), that it'll get used to getting what it wants all the time (because obviously it's not possible for children to learn that "I want a hug because I am sad" and "I want to watch Peppa Pig all day" are different categories of want, so the only safe approach is to deny them everything just in case).[*]

Anyway, after a bit of nearly-arguing about sleep and breastfeeding, I said a bit less beat-around-the-bush-ishly that I wasn't going to try to stop Img breastfeeding, and at that point the health visitor got all defensive and a bit huffish and said she absolutely wasn't trying to stop me breastfeeding, not at all, "I wish more people carried on breastfeeding this long", and I didn't have the energy to explain that if you constantly badger people with "solutions" to the conditions that allow for breastfeeding then OF COURSE THEY WILL STOP BREASTFEEDING. And then she tried to tell me some rubbish about how I shouldn't worry because little girls stop breastfeeding of their own accord much sooner than little boys, and I said "oh, that's interesting, I didn't know there had been much research about that," and she looked at me as if I was from Mars and then said "... oh, it's just based on what I've heard" or something, and I said "Oh right" in a way that hopefully conveyed what I really wanted to say. Anyway, apparently it's all because boys are much more soppy about their mums, and I tried to explain that people treat boys and girls differently because of stereotypes and prejudice, e.g. boys are discouraged from seeking comfort and hugs because they have to be 'tough' so perhaps they cling to the feeding for longer, though of course on the other hand there's lots more pressure for mums to stop breastfeeding boys because ARGH BREASTS ... and she looked blankly at me and said "Well I've never heard of that happening" and at that point I lost the will to live and just said "Well, anyway, she'll grow out of it eventually" or something along those lines.

I was very glad that they didn't weigh Img at this checkup (because she'd already been weighed at the 2-year followup session for the Intergrowth study that we took part in, and the health visitor decided that was recent enough), so there wasn't as much of an opportunity for them to hassle me about her weight. I can't help wondering where the cut-off line is between "Your child doesn't weigh enough, give her more formula" and "your child is obese, put her on a diet", but I think it probably comes at about 3 years old. (When Img was a baby I got a lot of hassle from health visitors who seemed to think that if your baby was "below average weight" then there was a problem, but I was usually too exhausted and upset anyway to just yell THAT'S NOT HOW AVERAGES WORK at them, and it's hard to try to give remedial maths tuition to someone who's telling you that you're rubbish at breastfeeding and hinting that your baby is going to die if you don't double the amount of formula you're giving her [NB Img was basically tracking the expected curve for the 9th centile quite happily at this point but because they were making me weigh her once a week it looked like her weight was fluctuating a lot].)

Oh, and, one more tiny thing: the health visitor asked, for some reason (I can't remember what this arose from or whether it even made sense at the time), if Img was happy with paddling "when you take her to the sea", and I said that we hadn't been to the seaside with her yet, and HV looked at me like I was TOTALLY WEIRD, and I said we hadn't really had much time or money for holidays and she carried on giving me the YOU'RE WEIRD look and then changed the subject. Does everybody else go to the seaside all the time or something? The seaside is a long way away from Oxford! We have a baby who sleeps badly so we didn't really want to stay overnight in strange places too much! (I guess she was thinking "Oh but it's only a 4-hour drive and your husband will do all the driving so you and the kids can just sleep in the car LOL" but I think if I'd admitted that we don't actually have a car then they'd have probably tried to take Img into care.)

Anyway, hopefully that is the last time I ever have to see the health visitors. I feel like I've failed because I should have made more effort to explain things to them calmly and clearly and rationally: things like introducing them to the idea of evidence-based healthcare (and GCSE maths), and explaining why the language you use when you talk about people's children and parenting decisions matters a lot, and maybe telling them a bit about what normal infant sleep looks like, and (for bonus points) giving some advice on how to construct questionnaires that aren't so confused and ambiguous that they make you want to gnaw your own arm off. But at the end of the day it's not my job and I can't fix everything. I do get so tired of always being the one who says "Actually not everybody does that" or "Actually I have thought about this and researched it and I have still come to a different conclusion from yours", and sometimes I wish I just didn't have to think or care about any of this at all. But that is part of a much bigger rant and I don't have time for it now (or probably ever). Img has been asleep since 9:15pm and it's probably time I was asleep too.




[*] Owen was saying recently that Img doesn't often have big meltdown I WANT THIS THING NOW tantrums, and I realised that this is partly because I "give in" to many of her requests; by which I mean that I listen to them, judge them basically reasonable, and meet them as far as possible (or explain why I can't/won't). If she wants a cuddle, I'll probably give her a cuddle, or at least (if it doesn't look like an urgent need for a cuddle) say "just let me finish [thing I'm doing] first". If she wants to watch Peppa Pig and she hasn't already watched loads of DVDs, I'll probably let her watch a bit (they're only 5-minute episodes). If she wants me to read her a story, I'll probably read her a story (though nowadays there's a lot of "mummy read it again" and I usually draw the line at 3 consecutive reads). If she wants to go and look at a snail or watch an ant running around or pick dandelion clocks or whatever, if we're not in a hurry, then sure, OK, let's go and look at things. If she wants things that are reasonable but impossible (e.g. she wants a yoghurt and we've run out of yoghurt) then I'll say I'm sorry, but I can't do that ("I'm sorry but we don't have any yoghurt in the house, but we can buy some more next time we go to the shops"). If she wants things that I think are unreasonable, I'll explain why ("you've already watched lots and lots of Peppa Pig, you can't watch DVDs all day[**]", or "you can't drink my wine because it would make you very ill"). And if she wants things that are impossible, I'll try to explain ("I'm sorry, I can't get the stars for you because they're too far away"). By and large, she seems to understand or at least accept the explanations, and she's often amenable to compromise (e.g. "can we change your nappy first and then watch Peppa Pig?") unless she's already tired, or cross for some other reason. The big exceptions are around bedtime/nighttime: getting ready for bed when she's not in a getting-ready-for-bed mood is difficult, because she basically cycles through every possible thing she can ask for that isn't going-to-bed ("Read Imi's Maisy book. Imi want to watch Peppa Pig on Mummy's iPad. Go outside. Do some watering. Put wellies on. Want a biscuit. Want a sandwich. Want some breakfast. Want to watch Pink Panther. Want to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the piano. Want some MIIIIIILK. MUMMY CARRY YOU.") until we give up trying to reason with her and exercise Adult Privilege by picking her up and carrying her upstairs, at which point she runs around like a loon giggling and squealing until she realises we're serious about trying to get her ready for bed at which point she goes back to screaming and thrashing (and stops suddenly, wide-eyed and serious, to say "Imi CRYING", before starting wailing again). And in the middle of the night there's a lot of "more milk" (probably, but depends how much "more milk" we've already done and whether it feels like a real request or an I'm-pushing-it-as-far-as-I-can-go request) and "Mummy SLEEP next to you [i.e. next to Img]" (nope, bed is too small and you are too wriggly) and "Imi sleep in mummy and daddy's bed" (nope, ditto) and "Imi go downstairs for a little while" (definitely not!). But most nights aren't that bad.

[**] I suspect we're not very far away from the next stage, which is "WHY NOT?" and I expect Img to be pretty good at that. But what she doesn't realise is that I have THIRTY-THREE YEARS MORE PRACTICE than her at being argumentative and obstinate, bwahahaha.

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khalinche From: khalinche Date: May 22nd, 2013 10:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
"I'm sorry, I can't get the stars for you because they're too far away"

For every thing that I read and think 'thank goodness I don't have to deal with health visitors judging me and not understanding maths when I am far too tired and annoyed to explain it to them and sick of that being my job' there is some little thing like this that makes me think: how mind-bogglingly, heart-touchingly tender to have a tiny little person tagging round with you who honestly believes you can fetch down the stars for them, and knows that you would if you could.
caramel_betty From: caramel_betty Date: May 22nd, 2013 11:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
as it was she just chattered away in her normal delightful manner, pointing out everything she could see on the toys and posters ("a cuckoo clock! a tulip and a butterfly! a book about I Want My Potty!") and narrating everything she was doing ("Imi running about! Imi running to her mummy again!")

I give it 18 months before she's putting labels on cats and posting videos of it on YouTube.

She sounds awesome.

Edited at 2013-05-22 11:03 pm (UTC)
jinty From: jinty Date: May 23rd, 2013 06:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Grr health visitors. I was going to say to your bit "I feel like I've failed because I should have made more effort to explain things" that it's not your job, it's a nice to do if you have the spoons - but hey, you said it immediately afterwards! But it is only doable if you have the spoons and sometimes not even then, or rather it would take an awful lot of spoons.

I think our parenting of Aphra is quite similar in terms of listening to her requests and judging them mostly fairly reasonable for her age. Empathy and all that. And hey! They are both not particularly tantrumy-meltdown toddlers! Coincidence? I think not! (Er yes, anecdata etc.)
jinty From: jinty Date: May 23rd, 2013 06:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Plus - seaside? We've happened to go somewhere that has sea when we went to Brazil on that big trip (A hated the sea - it was all cold and unexpected!) but no, seaside trips from Oxford not any part of our regular schedule. Eh? The nearby swimming baths would make some sense (though we haven't taken her to that either as it happens).
aldabra From: aldabra Date: May 23rd, 2013 06:27 am (UTC) (Link)
I gave up interacting positively with health visitors when an early one of mine recited a leaflet I'd seen on the internet after I said I'd looked on the internet already and I was asking for her personal opinion. They seem not to be allowed to have personal opinions (I suspect if they deviate from the approved list of Things To Say it makes them liable for anything that subsequently goes wrong). I think they're there mostly to spot obviously abused or neglected kids and obvious medical problems, and for everyone else they just have to look as if they're being useful.

The questionnaires are infuriating, but they're also national standard. (Actually, I think international standard.) There's something just like the post-natal depression one (are you more depressed than before? no? you're obviously fine then) in the research interviews I'm doing, and we're not allowed to change the questions because it buggers up the analysis.
jvvw From: jvvw Date: May 23rd, 2013 11:02 am (UTC) (Link)
We don't have the questionnaires here incidentally so don't think it can be a national thing.
ceb From: ceb Date: May 23rd, 2013 10:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
we're not allowed to change the questions because it buggers up the analysis

Also because it would render the whole thing a massively unethical waste of everyone's time. (Yes a lot of research questionnaires are a long way from perfect. Perfection often impossible, and way less important at population-level anyway.)
aldabra From: aldabra Date: May 24th, 2013 06:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Even at the study design level they couldn't edit the questions, because they've got time series from other studies going back to the year dot. We've got problems with some of ours because language implications are changing, and so people aren't answering them as if they mean what they meant thirty years ago, and eventually they're going to have to be fixed but it can't be done by individual research teams. It isn't clear who it can be done by.

I guess what you could do, in a study as big as ours, is run two versions of the question on half the sample each, and then use the difference to standardise the time-series. But we're not doing anything like that, and most studies are much smaller.
ceb From: ceb Date: May 24th, 2013 01:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh good grief, yes, tell me about it. It's such an immense labour of love calibrating questionnaires, even for things that can actually be measured objectively. When you start getting into stuff like attitudes and mental state it's a wonder to me that anyone ever manages to measure anything useful.
tla From: tla Date: May 23rd, 2013 07:51 am (UTC) (Link)
Hahaha Sophie also says "carry you!" when she wants to be carried, and "tuck you in" when she wants to have the cover put over her in bed. And "Show me" when she wants to show me something.

She'll have big meltdowns, especially when she's tired, even though I tend to do the same about granting a request if it's feasible. She just doesn't so easily accept explanations (much to Daddy's chagrin, who is ever the optimist in trying to reason with her.) We are omnipotent after all so just DO IT.

Also, plenty of people are simply not interested in having things explained calmly and clearly and rationally. It's not how they work—much of the time the only thing that works is to socially engineer a situation where they find they're agreeing with you in opposition to someone/something else they've been led to be a little hostile to. And I don't think you can do that in a situation where the health visitor is the voice of Authority and *you* are the one who is supposed to be Learning.
geekette8 From: geekette8 Date: May 23rd, 2013 09:36 am (UTC) (Link)
You have just summed up exactly my experiences with HVs. After going through all this once with Matthew, I was much more sanguine about outright lying with Hannah.

My favourite (FSVO "favourite") quote from an HV was documented here:
http://geekette8.livejournal.com/633040.html
lnr From: lnr Date: May 24th, 2013 04:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
That seems to be too locked for me at least to read. I'd be interested if you don't mind adding me to the relevant filter.

Janet: huge sympathy on the whole thing, it sounds infuriating at best. I too am impressed you stay so polite. </p>

I may have all this to look forward to! So far my only irritation was at them booking our 3-4 month check for just under 10 weeks old - turned out to be because the HV who saw us earlier was leaving end of May but wanted to see us again! She's been extended to end of June though so has moved the appt a bit later.

Actually and the fact whenever I say I don't feel like I'm coping I keep being reassured that I'm doing fine - when actually I wanted some HELP to cope. It's mostly a bit easier now though.

geekette8 From: geekette8 Date: May 25th, 2013 08:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Done - I didn't realise you weren't on my "kidstuff" filter earlier! It's opt-in and I'm quite happy for anyone to be on it, I just don't want to bore people who aren't interested in kid-related stuff.... but that does seem to be the majority of what I post these days! :-)
jvvw From: jvvw Date: May 23rd, 2013 11:24 am (UTC) (Link)
You've made me grateful that we have some health visitors here who are vaguely sensible by HV standards (at our 2-2.5 yr check a month or two back, there was a toddler who was sleeping in bed with his mum, waking in the night and being breastfed back to sleep and the health visitors were fine about that; they were likewise not concerned about Owen being 9th centile for height but 50th for weight, also had one yesterday tell me in detail all the issues with the bed sharing study that has just come out).

The seaside thing is totally bizarre. I mean even if you'd been on holiday to the seaside, English weather means that paddling isn't necessarily likely to be on the cards. The language question is strange too as assumes you know how well other children the same age talk. Most of my friends' toddlers talk better than Owen but nursery say that his language is really good for his age and by objective standards he ahead for his age from what I can make out.

emperor From: emperor Date: May 23rd, 2013 02:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think you deserve points for not punching the HV :-s
(Deleted comment)
julietk From: julietk Date: May 23rd, 2013 05:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
The weight thing is why we stopped going to the HV at 2 months or so (not as much hassle as it sounds like you got, but they were excessively anxious about L wiggling around between the 9 and 25-ish lines, and it just stressed me out). We did go to the 8 month check (I was curious to see what it involved; not a lot) but I doubt we'll bother with the 2 yr one unless specifically concerned about something. Happily I haven't had any experiences as infuriating as you describe, but I reckon the older he gets the more likely it is, and I've never got anything *useful* from it either, so, meh. CBA.

(Which is to say: I too think you deserve some kind of points for not getting far more irritable with the HV.)

The 'comfort' line makes me want to bite people too. YES the baby wants comfort, and that is just fine, why the hell shouldn't they have it? I think it's quite reasonable for me to get a hug when I want one, too, and I'm 35 and allegedly more competent to look after myself. Grrr.

We are reaching the big meltdown WANT THING stage, but at a language stage which makes it harder to manage. Almost all of the time I would be quite happy for L to have whatever it is that he wants (assuming practically feasible), but I have no idea what it is. (This thing? That thing? That other thing? Something that makes sense only in your head so you're pointing at something else instead? Um, would you like some milk?) There is, thus, a certain amount of yelling. Signs help, but I do look forward to actual verbal language.

Edited at 2013-05-23 05:18 pm (UTC)
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