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Yesterday us three girls took a trip to
the ole doctor once again. Cora had her six-month checkup, while
Maddie simply needed a blood draw and a flu shot. Now, the last
time we went to the doctor all together, Maddie had several
vaccines and was very traumatized: she refused to take her clothes
off and get weighed and measured, and cried for a long time during
the exam. So you can imagine how excited I was to repeat this whole
thing, but by myself instead of with Brian’s help.

Never one to hide something from her kid
(except chocolate), I’d been talking to Maddie about the
pending visit for a few days. I kept mentioning that she and Cora
would be going to their doctor, and that Cora would get naked but
Maddie wouldn’t have to. I told her she’d get to keep
her shoes on (very important to her – remember shoe
shopping?) but would have to pull up a sleeve and expose a thigh
briefly. Maddie has a pretty good attitude towards the doctor when
she’s not there – she remembers the fun toys in the
waiting room and glosses over the actual check-up. So she said she
was game.

I was nervous the whole day, partly because of the timing; getting
a double appointment is hard, and I had to wake both Cora and
Maddie up from their naps to get out the door on time, and you know
my motto is NEVER Wake A Sleeping Child. I left the house as if to
my own execution, with a bag stuffed full of toys and snacks and
extra pacifiers and wished for not the first time that I could
drink and drive.

Maddie spent the whole car trip chatting about the visit.
We’d packed Elmo band-aids, which she promised to share with
Cora. We’d brought Check-Up Time Elmo and Maddie’s
stethoscope, thermometer, and ear checker so she could give Elmo
the once-over while waiting. God bless Elmo. In the waiting room,
Maddie asked more questions. “Do I have to take off my
clothes?” “No, honey, just push up your sleeve and pull
down your pants really fast.” “Will it hurt?”
“Yes, a little bit, but it will be over quickly.”
“Where will they do it again?” “Right here on
your arm, and right here on your thigh.” Silence.
“I’m not going to cry, Mommy, ok? I’m not going
to cry.”

Cora’s visit went first, the doctor wanting to save a
screaming two-year-old for last. Cold and naked and experiencing
insane separation anxiety, Cora screamed angrily the whole time she
was examined, Maddie watching wide-eyed the whole time. The doctor
left the room to get an assistant and Maddie asked, “Is it my
turn?” “Yes, sweetie, when she gets back.”

“Ok,” she said, slowly getting off her chair and
starting to push her sleeve up. My brave girl!

The doctor returned and we got Maddie situated on the table. She
lay there passively, but when she saw the needle and was held down
her lip started to tremble and her eyes welled up in fear.

“Maddie, I know you said you wouldn’t cry, but
it’s ok if you need to cry, alright, honey?” I said.

My brave girl cried when the needle went in but didn’t fight
at all, and stopped crying as soon as it was over. “That
hurt, but it wasn’t too bad,” she said tearfully as she
pulled her sleeve back down.

Do you know how long it took for me to make myself hold still for
shots? And there’s my two-year-old, crying but not fighting,
hurting but not blaming. As we walked the New York streets
afterwards, her arm was held out stiffly from her body. “I
cried, and I said I wouldn’t,” she confessed.

“Baby, did you think you shouldn’t cry because I tell
you to stop sometimes when you’re crying?” she nodded.

“Honey, when I tell you to stop, it’s when you’re
screaming and having a meltdown. Tantrums are not ok. But sometimes
when something hurts or you feel sad, you need to cry. It’s
ok to cry, baby girl.” “So it’s ok to cry, but
not to scream?” Something like that.

My daughter faces these new hurdles in her life daily and
fearlessly. I try to imagine what life her size must be like, and
fail totally. To always have more to learn, to always be just on
the edge of understanding what’s going on, must be so
frustrating. But she absorbs like a sponge and takes things in
stride, adjusting and moving on.

Later that night, my mom was doing a little repair work on Elmo.
With her needle and thread in hand, she was prepared to start her
sewing when Maddie stepped up and spoke to Elmo first.

“Elmo, I’m going to say One Two Three, and when the
needle goes in we’ll say ‘ouch’ together. This
will hurt, but not for long. And Elmo? It’s ok to


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