Charting Growth

  • Lauren Norton Carson
    Address correspondence to Lauren Norton Carson, MEd, 38 Matchett Street, Apt 1, Brighton, Massachusetts 02135.
    Lauren Norton Carson is the mother of one boy and teacher to many. She lives in Boston, where she teaches reading to teenage boys in juvenile corrections settings
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      My lanky 17-year-old son lurches through the door of the pediatrician's office, just missing the toddler careening toward him. The waiting room is packed with parents and children—babies, toddlers, 8-year-olds—and my high school sophomore, Devin. In massive Timberland boots, he steps carefully over the children and their kaleidoscope of toys and finds a seat against the wall. Pulling the hood of his sweatshirt up over his head, he plugs into his iPod, smiles at me briefly, then leans back and closes his eyes. Finding his place among the little ones—now a comfortable routine—wasn't always so easy. As an infant, Devin was as frequent a patient as any new baby, coming regularly forcheckups and the inevitable ear infections. The doctors handled him with expertise and humor. They handled me that way, too, as they shepherded us through the usual and not-so-usual illnesses of childhood. When Devin was a toddler he loved seeing the doctor. A trough of toys awaited him—wooden blocks, cars and trucks, huge jigsaw pieces joined to build a house. As a grade-schooler, fun increased when he added the ritual of reading the eye chart at the end of the inner hall. Next, while waiting in the examining room, we'd play “I spy” using the duck print wallpaper, the shiny medical instruments—anything at all to pass the time. If we were really lucky, we'd be placed in the back room that looked out on a few scraggly trees. There we'd find the zoo—a bear cub, a skunk, a beaver, a sheep. Funny little furry animals on wooden forms, stuck in the ground outside the window in a perpetual prowl, like a parade of bedraggled but beneficent friends.“Look, Mommy!” Devin would shout with amazement. “They're back! They always come back!” Devin knew that when he came to the pediatrician's office he could count on that parade, just like he could count on the toys, the eye chart, “I spy,” and the plastic treasure he would pick from the drawer in the hall, opened by the sometimes-frazzled-but-always-smiling nurse. I knew that I could count on excellent doctors, skilled nurses, and a bevy of helpful women jammed into a front office the size of a shoebox. When Devin turned 13, another developmental change took shape. My sweet son morphed from an animated, impish boy into an often uncooperative and surly teen. He balked at a lot of things I suggested, but when he balked at seeing the pediatrician, I was bereft.
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