Park Therapy

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Posted by Gina Perkins, Pre-School Mommie | Posted in Gina Perkins | Posted on 14-03-2011

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DJ had her 18 month check up last week – and it was awful.  I wish I could say that the shots were the worst part, but they weren’t.  Well, not to me anyway. I am certain that if DJ could talk in sentences, she’d fight that one to the bone!  I do have to say though, that for some reason, this round of vaccinations were traumatic for her.  She cried – wait, she wailed, for what seemed like hours.  She also took full advantage of the situation and is STILL (3 days later) making me kiss her “knee” – the only word she knows for the anatomy of her leg.

So, what could have possibly been worse than the giant needles jammed into her innocent skin?  THOSE DAMN PERCENTILE CHARTS.  Damn those wicked, debilitating, fear-mongering percentile charts.

DJ has always been small.  She was 6 lbs 7 oz when she was born, and while always healthy, has just never grown exponentially.  When I look at her, I see perfection of course – and it’s only when her pediatrician mentions her ranking against “other kids” that I begin to panic.  Can someone tell me who these other kids are?

Leading up to DJ’s appointment, I was feeling incredibly confident.  I had suspected that she had gained weight, and had even been getting taller.  Because I have always been slightly obsessed with her size because she’s always been ranked below the tenth percentile, and because people always comment on how petite she is – there was a lot, in my mind, weighing (no pun intended) on the numbers from this doctor’s visit.  I was telling myself that I would finally put this obsession to rest when the doctor was able to reassure me that DJ’s numbers went up.

“Well, she’s actually lost weight since her last visit 4 weeks ago.”  Wait, what?  I felt my whole body tense up, and I froze.  Well, everything except my mouth froze – and I began rattling off how this couldn’t be, and what did it mean, and how worried this all made me.  DJ’s doctor told me that she wasn’t concerned for a number of reasons – because DJ was going to be petite based on genetics (my husband and I are both shorties!), because developmentally DJ was ahead of the gang, and because she “looked wonderful.”

We left that appointment with another check-up scheduled in 2 LONG months (yes, I will be obsessing over this for the next 2 months…..daily) – and with me on the very edge.  I was so snappy with my poor husband – and later had to apologize, then admit that I was just so, so stressed out.  I had never prepared myself for news other than that DJ was soaring UP the growth charts.

I took DJ to the park when we got home.  I was texting my good friend (and fellow worrier) while I was watching DJ walk up the playground stairs and slide down the big kid slide.  I was desperate to find comfort, encouragement, support – even if just through a simple text.  While my friend was amazing, and said all the right words, I still vomited this story all over the first mom who even looked my way.

“She just had her 18 month check up.  She’s in the first percentile for weight.  I’m devastated.”  This poor mom was probably thinking, “Get a grip, psycho – and stop airing your dirty laundry.”  However, the really amazing thing about her was that she poured out all these candy-coated words of wisdom and assurance, and sprinkled them in with a little humor, “At least she’s not short and obese – that’s a yucky combo.”

My laughter must’ve been the green light for a playground dad to interject.  He told me that two of his three children were always under the tenth percentile for height and weight – and that by the time they both turned 5, they had caught up.  He was so sweet, and helped me reason through some of the inaccuracies associated with a percentile chart.   He even made it a point to comment on how much more advanced DJ was then either of his daughters were at her age – and even compared his 16 month old son with DJ, noting how she seemed leaps and bounds beyond his capabilities.  I was super touched that for a moment, this dad was willing to say that I had the smarter, more agile kid, because he knew how desperately I needed to hear it.

When I got back home, not only was I in a better mood – but, I was ever so slightly less anxious about the appointment.  I also remembered that DJ was in all of her clothes, shoes, and most likely pee-filled diaper at her last appointment.  This was an important detail to me because I remember briefly celebrating her weight last month, only to think “Oh, well, she is wearing a few pounds of clothes.”  So, really, I don’t think DJ lost weight from her last appointment – which was my greatest concern.

I can’t pretend that I haven’t been tossing “failure to thrive” around in my mind every other hour these past few days, but I am feeling more and more confident in DJ’s individuality.  She is never going to be a big person – there are no big people in either my or my husband’s family (by that, I seriously mean no one over 5’7”).  So, really, what do I expect?  If the doctor isn’t worried, why am I?

I will keep buying every toddler recipe book that I see, will keep up the butter-on-everything approach, will keep my cookie cutters readily available to make sandwiches and fruit more attractive, and will continue allowing a scoop of whole milk ice cream here and there in combination with all the rest of the uber-healthy food that I prepare fresh for DJ everyday – oh, and will keep surrendering my fears.  In my gut, I know she’s fine.

My baby girl is perfect – and I am so, so grateful for the strangers in the park a few days ago who were selfless enough to let me have the most perfect kid on the playground that evening.

P.S. I stayed awake until 2:00 this morning making food charts, lists of calorie-rich foods, and even new snack recipes.  Whether or not there’s something to worry about, taking control makes me feel like a better mom.

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