I’m not really a helicopter parent. I’m not. I encourage my kids to go outside, to play independently. I’m happy to actively advocate for my kids, but as Jessie got older, I stepped back more and more. I talk to her teachers once a year, on Open House night, and she completely manages her own academic career. She makes her own decisions about clothes, about a social life, about seeking out Fellowships and internships. I encouraged her to visit her sisters at college, to go to college parties, and told her that if she wanted to try drinking, it was okay with me, as long as her sisters were there, she limited it to one and was careful. She manages her own money, found her own job, and buys her own clothes.
Jessie is fiercely independent and I love that about her. I respect her. I trust that she’s old enough, and mature enough to make her own decisions about her life. She’s in charge of her college search, making her own choices about what classes to take, which teachers to approach for recommendation letters, and manages her own distance learning.
Which is why I was so surprised when she told me that I was a helicopter parent when it comes to doctors. I make all the appointments, talk to all the doctors and chase down the referrals. I don’t entirely trust her to advocate for herself, to be honest with the doctor about symptoms that don’t seem all that significant to her, but might well be indicative of a serious problem. She’s got celiac disease, and has been dealing with a lot of joint pain and major fatigue. So when a routine ANA test came back positive, I jumped into mom mode. I called three different hospitals, and begged for an appointment before her Fellowship started. It took two days, and multiple calls all over the place, but I got her a tele-health appointment with a pediatric rheumatologist out in Boston.
I got the requested blood work, brought it down to her pediatrician so that it would be ordered out of her office and then made sure they added in a celiac test. Brought her in for the blood work, but on the way home, she asked me to please let her manage the process from here on out. She wants to be the one calling for the results, making sure that the results are sent to the doctor in Boston. I can be in the car, I can provide suggestions and helpful tips – but she wants to be the one driving. As she put it – it’s a lot easier on her when I do it, and she knows that I’d rather be the one in charge, but if she doesn’t start, she’s never going to know how to make her own appointments, how to advocate for herself.
She made so much damn sense, I had to agree. I had to really acknowledge that as much as I think I’m a free-range, laid back and trusting parent, raising a kid who knows she’s capable and can talk to me about anything – I’m a complete control freak when it comes to medical issues. I like to know exactly what’s going on with my kids, to ask the questions that might not occur to them, to know what to watch out for, what to worry about, and what’s no big deal.
I think any parent who’s had a kid in the PICU is going to be a little extra when it comes to medical issues. Jessie’s issues aren’t life threatening, but there’s a lot more than I ever dealt with at her age.
We compromised. She’s making all the calls, and doing the vast majority of the talking. But I still get access to her on-line medical records and can check and double check and obsess over results to my heart’s content.
This letting-go process isn’t easy, and I’m not at all sure that I like it. Turns out I’m fine with letting her grow up when it means picking AP classes, talking to her teachers, even taking the T to get around in Boston. But letting her be in charge of her own healthcare feels like an impossible ask. But ask she did, and so I’ll try. I’ll honestly try.
And selfishly be grateful that Sam’s just as happy to let me do all the talking to all the doctors. Forever. And Julie’s still too little to fight me on it.