True Grit

Anna Mitchael essays

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The last time I took our one-year old to the doctor’s office was the day after he had gotten a plastic shopping cart as a gift. On the box this cart was pictured as a toy that small children pushed while smiling. But once we took the cart out of the box I could tell my child was not going to use the toy in the way pictured. Immediately he got this look on his face that was like, You’re all going to want to clear out of the yard immediately, I’m declaring this a danger zone in 3…2…1… And then he charged full speed with the cart into the fence so that the cart ricocheted backward, bopped him in the face, and knocked him down with such force that his head actually bounced off of a tree root.

While we were picking our son up and dusting the pieces of grass and dirt off his frontside Andrew was like, “Where did he learn to do that?” And I was all innocent-faced and I don’t know about the whole thing. But I knew. I knew how many times I had checked my watch and strapped him into the shopping cart while we raced through the grocery store. I know I’ve got 18 minutes to shop before he starts pitching boxes of cereal out of the cart onto other shoppers, so yes, I knew exactly where the look of determination on the child’s face came from.

The next day he had one of those well-baby checkups where they weigh your kid and tell you his height and the whole time you are supposed to smile and look motherly and say, Oh my, he’s grown so much as though it’s a surprise to you, when actually there is no one in the world less surprised by this news. On command you could sketch the size and shape of the child’s last poop—there are no surprises or secrets between the two of you. But this is the doctor’s office and there is a way of doing things (this is what the receptionist tells me every time they wait until I’m there to actually get on the phone and confirm our insurance – This is our way of doing things) and so I try to go with the flow and smile when they tell me he’s two pounds heavier than he was last visit. But in my head, I’m sketching feces.

The doctor came in to check my son and his first comment was, “Wow that’s quite a bruise on his head.” And I was like, Yeah, he got this plastic shopping cart yesterday.

I guess the doctor had only been doing check-ups with little girls who do orderly things with shopping carts, like put  Ana and Elsa dolls in them. Or maybe he had been having checkups on boys with mothers who do things like get babysitters before they go to the grocery store and so the child does not know how to mimic a look of true grit with a shopping cart. Regardless, the doctor looked at me like I was a little crazy. Like maybe, just maybe, I was the kind of person who liked to draw pictures of poop.

Then in about 30 seconds he mentioned, “There’s a bruise here on his leg too.” And of course there was, because had the doctor not heard what I said about the plastic shopping cart? The child had spent an hour running around the yard with the ‘toy’, ramming it into all kinds of fences and objects, of course there were bruises. But I had that feeling you get when you are in a store and a shopkeeper looks at you for a beat too long. And even though you’ve never shoplifted in your life—and would never even think to try it—you still feel guilty. The doctor’s comments about the bruises were giving me that guilty feeling. So I did what I always do, and instead of just waiting to let the situation play out, I dug in my bag of things to say and pulled out the weirdest. “No one in the family would ever hurt him.”

It was a totally inappropriate thing to say to a doctor. It’s like taking the ‘crazy’ sign off your forehead for the sole purpose of adding a “and maybe dangerous.” Hi, I’m crazy and maybe dangerous!

But why stop there? This is what I asked myself. I don’t remember asking it but I know it must have happened because otherwise I would have stopped the dribble. Otherwise I would have behaved like a sane person who knows the way things are in doctor’s offices and follows unspoken codes of conduct. Because next I said, “Except maybe the rooster.”

And so this is what our children’s doctor probably thinks of our house. Waaayy out in the country. With plastic shopping carts in the yard. A crazy mom who suffers verbal tourettes. And an occasionally dangerous rooster.

The worst part is: all of it is sort of true.


About the Author

Anna Mitchael

Anna Mitchael writes a monthly column about motherhood for Wacoan, the city magazine of Waco, Texas, and blogs at . She is the author of Copygirl, coming in October 2015 from Berkley Books. Anna lives on a ranch deep in the heart of Texas with her family, lots of cattle and a one-eyed dog.

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