“Survey Says? Your Parenting Stinks” by Molly DeFrank
Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.
This week, the questions only lead to more questions.
Survey Says? Your Parenting Stinks
by Molly DeFrank
Infant, Three, Five, and Six
We pulled into our parking space at 9:38am. Yes, we were technically eight minutes late. But I’d managed to dress and feed four hungry tiny people, wrestle them into car seats, and drive here. Eight minutes late was a win.
Dr. Bergen’s receptionist did not agree. “It’s 9:42. Your appointment was at 9:30 . . . I’ll ask if they can squeeze you in.” As if the doctor had been waiting for us with bated breath since 9:15.
“That would be wonderful, thank you.” I politely replied. I had to stop myself from pointing out that never in the history of pediatric appointments has the doctor been less than twenty minutes late for a scheduled appointment time. Whatever, lady.
“You can fill out this health questionnaire for three-year olds while you wait.” She handed me a clipboard with a yellow sheet that listed a series of yes or no questions. I herded my cats to a cluster of germ-covered chairs while I balanced a baby and a clipboard, one on each knee. I assumed the questions would be basic family history stuff. Instead I found these:
“Do you offer your child fresh fruits and vegetables with every meal?”
Well, not EVERY meal, but many meals. I guess that’s a no?
“Does your child eat high-fat foods such as ice cream, pizza or fast food?”
Answering no feels un-American (and is a lie), so I guess I’ll be circling yes.
“Do you make sure that your child plays actively for at least one hour each day?”
Does Bo On the Go count?
“Do you have the Poison Control phone number stored in your cell phone?”
Yikes. This thing was starting to feel less like a health assessment and more like an indictment of my lousy parenting. I thought this form was just supposed to be a long, bureaucratic way to ask me if we have a family history of diabetes. I half expected to find these questions on the backside:
“Why did you even have kids if you don’t know how to feed them?”
“Do you limit your child’s screen time, or have you chosen to ignore the causal relationship between baby screen time and serial killer development?”
“Have you considered that maybe you aren’t cut out for parenthood?”
“Did you bring your child’s vaccine card, or do you not even care anymore?”
Twenty minutes after that fun exercise in parent-shaming, the medical assistant beckoned us.
I hustled our crew into the exam room, where we spent thirty noisy minutes waiting for the hopeful sound of the Doctor’s rat-a-tat. The baby nearly lost her mind when I refused to let her lick the floor. The three-year-old’s unrelenting requests for a snack were drowned out by the five-year-old’s neighs and gallops. The six-year-old quietly read her book. (I’m eighty-percent sure this was because the children take shifts to display obnoxious behavior and she was on break.)
I pulled out an iPad and three baggies of Goldfish crackers as the doctor entered. Experienced parents know that an uninterrupted conversation with another adult sometimes requires a snack or a screen. Instant child hypnosis.
“Good morning!” Dr. Bergen was always genuinely cheery. After the effort it took to get us here, fed, bladders emptied and shoes on, part of me felt like he might give me a high-five or Starbucks card for being an incredible mother, but then I remembered the survey.
“Looks like Carter is growing perfectly well. Any concerns?” He asked in his characteristic grandfatherly tone.
Yeah, your “health survey” comes across as a little Third Reich-y.
“Nope! All is well.”
He did the whole stethoscope/ears/throat thing, chit-chatted with the kids, then rattled off the standard recommendations. “Make sure he’s getting plenty of sleep, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and try to avoid simple carbs . . .”
We both awkwardly eyed the children inhaling their baggies of Goldfish.
“Yeah, those aren’t the healthiest . . . but carrots are kind of a bummer so . . . they’re the whole grain ones?” I mumbled.
He wasn’t really listening.
“Ok, we’ll see you at his four-year check-up! Oh, wait, I guess we’ll see you three times between now and then,” he said, motioning to the three other hooligans.
MOLLY DeFRANK used to work in an office for an actor-turned-Governator, where she ate lunch sitting down and used the ladies room without a toddler entourage. She quit her paid job, had four kids in six years, and now spends her time burning toast and cleaning up messes she did not make. She wouldn’t trade it for the world. She has written for Babble and Scary Mommy. You can find her at www.mollydefrank.com. Or on Facebook.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Oct 4, 2016
Category: Terrible Twosdays | Tags: Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays, flash fiction, fiction, short fiction, seven, age five, five, GTFTS, age six, infant, Survey Says? Your Parenting Stinks, Pediatritians, Molly DeFrank