The insurance that I have for the three of us has been sending a letter in the mail for the last few months reminding me that I need to take Leta in to see her pediatrician for her yearly well child visit. And I have been meaning to make that appointment, but a few small things have thrown themselves in the way. Things like six weeks of sleepaway camp, the beginning of eighth grade, the beginning of piano lessons, the beginning of dance lessons, therapy, dentist appointments and orthodontic consultations, parent teacher conferences, and those two consecutive nights Marlo was up puking. Thank god I had my butler to take care of all of that!
Let me rant for a second before I do some actual giving of thanks: I talk about this on my podcast a lot, but when I get reminders like this anywhere about anything I get mildly ragey on behalf of full-time single parents who don’t have the flexibility that I do. What they must feel when they get yet another reminder that they need to take their kids in to see the dentist, except when are they supposed to find the time to make that appointment let alone drive to the actual dentist without taking a sick day or pleading uncomfortably with a boss or running around like mad during a lunch hour that they hope no one will notice goes 15 minutes long. Vacation days? Ha! Haha. You mean “Days I Will Use To Make Sure My Kid Doesn’t Develop Gingivitis.”
If you are ever sitting there thinking to yourself, “I don’t know how single parents do it!” Rephrase that thought to look more like this: “Is there a full-time single parent in my life who has no flexibility? Yes? I should probably call him/her/them and tell them I’m bringing over a potato casserole. And then driving their kids to the dentist.”
And now for the multitudinous giving of thanks: first, preventative care FTW! I love the whole ideology of a well child visit, the notion that the longterm results of preventing health problems are far better than those of treating symptoms of a disease. And the fact that our insurance covers these visits 100%—we don’t even have a copay—is such a huge step in the right direction of what healthcare should look like but will most certainly never look like in our country that it is enough for me to call up my butler Chilton and say, “Hurry up with this pedicure you’re giving me and take my kid to the pediatrician!”
Also, Chilton? I know you’re British but your name sounds like your mom grew up in Payson, Utah, and while thinking about what to name you she drove by a Hilton and thought, “What that word needs is a capital C! And we’ll keep the ’t’ in there even though we won’t pronounce it!”
Second: oh my god I have the most amazing kid who ever lived. I know I keep saying this again and again, but when your butler is doing all of the day-to-day for you, you can sometimes get lost in all the free time you have and forget that, holy shit! The butler is doing one hell of a fucken job! 10 cent raise for you, Chilton!
Blame this third cup of coffee that Chilton made for me for all these goddamn exclamation points. Good lord.
Also, remember this kid?
I don’t often get to interact with strangers around Leta, but when I do I’m struck by what I think my friends are struck by when they encounter her: her humanity. She is genuinely warm with people and wants to know who they are, wants to know what makes them happy, wants to make them to feel comfortable. And yesterday after checking her in at the pediatrician that humanity came flying at my head and almost knocked me out when the nurse called us back for her visit.
“You got my name right!” she said to the nurse as we walked through the door and headed toward the scale. “Normally it takes people two to three times to remember the hard E sound, so I’m used to hearing people yell my name incorrectly.”
The nurse grinned, blew on her knuckles and polished them on her shirt. “I knew I had a 50/50 shot of getting it right. I chose well!”
I barely said another word for the next 20 minutes during the intake because they were joking around with each other, and every question she had about Leta’s general well being Leta answered herself. Leta talked about her dance lessons and her love of reading, rolled her eyes when I told her she hadn’t mentioned piano (DID MOZART’S MOTHER LET HIM QUIT COMPOSING? THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT), and even opened up a bit about how frustrated she is that she doesn’t think eighth grade is challenging enough to prepare her for what’s coming next. Yeah. That’s my kid. My kid is the one who comes home from school, and when I ask her if she has any homework she visibly holds back her seething indignation while saying through clenched teeth, “No! I don’t! Again! AS IF IT IS NOT THEIR JOB TO PREPARE ME FOR HIGH SCHOOL.”
My child complains that she doesn’t have homework. In middle school. In all capital letters.
I have already won the lottery twice in my life: first, when I met my psychiatrist 13 years ago. And second, when my psychiatrist was my psychiatrist on a very specific day back in January of 2017. (I didn’t tell you about that day? That’s okay. You’ll get to read about that day very soon.) I won the lottery again, here, I will admit.
Leta was just as warm and generous with the doctor who after asking whether or not Leta eats any fruits or vegetables stared us down when we both looked away. Leta and I immediately shot our eyes to the floor and asked each other through ESP whether or not we should lie. Because I am not about to force feed a 13-year-old a green pea, and she is most certainly in no fucking way going to eat a goddamned green pea—she would rather fucking die—and suddenly she mumbled, “I will sometimes eat a carrot.”
She offered the doctor a carrot.
I almost bit a giant gash in my lip from trying not to laugh.
After the whole exam was over—Do you wear your seatbelt? How much sleep do you get? How often do you exercise? Are you exposed to cigarette smoke? Porn? Diet Coke? “Three’s Company”—the nurse came back in to give Leta a flu shot that we opted into. After we determined that the least conspicuous place for a shot would be her upper left arm Leta hopped back onto the examining table and lifted the sleeve of her shirt.
The nurse’s body was blocking my view of Leta’s arm, but I knew exactly what was going down. And as the nurse prepped the needle she asked Leta a question to try to distract her from what was about to happen. “So, you play piano and you’re this amazing reader and you dance? You are just all that and everything aren’t you?”
Leta’s eyes were darting left and right and then left and right again, and the exact moment the nurse jabbed in the needle Leta said in the most awkwardly confident voice ever uttered, “Well, of course, I am all that and everything. Yes, of course I am.”
Because she was repeating what she had just heard as a way to deal with the trauma of the injection of the needle.
She had no idea what she was saying, and both the nurse and I knew it. And when we both cracked up laughing Leta realized what words had just exited her mouth and she got really, really embarrassed and said, “Oh my god! OH MY GOD. Oh my god. I did not mean that! I DIDN’T MEAN IT! I did not mean that. I am not that person! I AM NOT THAT PERSON!”
The nurse put a comforting hand on the injection site and said, “You should mean every word of that, kid!” And then she continued laughing while turning around to me and winking. After she cleaned up the packaging from the needle she leaned into me as we were walking out of the room and whispered, “She just made my entire day. This has been the most fun I’ve had in a long time.”
It’s the most fun I’ve ever had. My god, this age. Please, Leta. Don’t ever grow up and have to pay bills and boss around a Chilton. Stay here like this forever.