Janet (j4) wrote,

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.
Tags: baby, health, parenting, rants, toddler
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