Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An appointment with God's grace

My kids currently go to the closest dentist that takes our insurance. This particular office is a half hour drive from our house, but there is no co pay and they do a thorough job of cleaning and examining their teeth. We have been taking our kids there since our daughter turned three and have always been happy with the office. We have never been keen on the secretaries that work there, as they can be rather demeaning and short with people, but with little to no wait and excellent care, we aren't picky.

Last week my daughter had an appointment and came home with a good report. In response, my three year old son has been excited for his turn in the chair so he can get a new toothbrush, sand timer, and a prize. Monday it was finally his turn and he was thrilled. It was a whirlwind trying to get out the door on time, but we managed, and we walked into the office at exactly 10:10, the time of his scheduled appointment. The waiting area was packed full with people. I thought to myself, "great we will have to wait a while to get in." I signed us in and sat down to wait. Other people came in after us and signed in. We waited a good half hour before people came out of the exam rooms. Then the people who came in after us got called in and I thought that was a little funny. When the receptionist returned to her desk from dropping off paperwork to a hygienist, we had been waiting a full 40 minutes and I decided to check with her to find out how much longer we would have to wait.

"Are they running behind?" I asked her. "They could be," she responded. "OK well we have been here 40 minutes so I just wanted to check and see how much longer we need to wait," I told her. "OK, what is the name?" she asked me. I told her my son's name and she gave me a shocked look. "Did you check in?" she asked me. "Yes, we are number 15 on the sheet, right there," I answered. She looked and saw plain as day, our name, which she crossed off when she started the check in process. However there had been an error and somehow she marked us as a "no show" and we would need to reschedule. She was glad that I came forward to explain because otherwise we would have been sent a bill for the missed appointment.

I had a full day that day and more appointments to go to, so I was more than annoyed that I had driven a half hour and made my kids sit and wait for 40 minutes for no reason. However, I gave her the benefit of the doubt because people make mistakes and I wanted to show Christ's love and grace towards her. I calmly rescheduled the appointment for later in the week and wished her a good day.

The following day I check the mail box and I find an envelope in there from the dentist.I open it up and to my dismay it was a bill for a missed appointment. Forty dollars that I now owed for a missing an appointment that I went to. I knew that it was just another mistake and they would fix it, but I was angry with them. How dare they send me a bill and give me one more thing to deal with after what they put me through the day before! My husband and I prayed together about it, but I couldn't help but fume about the injustice of it all.

This morning, the day of the appointment, I wake up horribly sick. My allergies are hitting me full force and I have a nose that won't stop running, a head that won't stop pounding, and eyes that won't stop itching and burning. I am miserable that I have to go to this appointment, but I know that if I don't go, I will end up REALLY owing them forty bucks. My husband called when they opened and they apologized for the mistake and deleted the fee. It was no big deal and everything was taken care of, just like I knew it would. I drag myself and the boys out to the van and head to the appointment. However, we get stuck behind a construction vehicle driving well under the speed limit. The traffic is heavy so I can't pass him. I check the clock and begin to stress out because I know we are going to be late. In my head I envision the worst case scenario. I am going to be late and they are going to cancel his appointment. I am going to have to pay forty dollars for a missed appointment and have to come back AGAIN. Emotionally I am a wreck. I am sick, exhausted, and a worried mess about making it to this appointment. Fortunately the vehicle turns just out side of the town the office is located and I am able to make up lost time and walk in the door only three minutes late. The waiting room is empty. We check in and are called in almost immediately. Thing are running smoothly and as they usually go.

I park the stroller with the toddler in it just outside the room and get my son settled into the dentist chair. He and the hygienist are jabbering away about halloween and what he is going to dress as. He gets his paper towel bib thingy clipped on and the hygienist asks if bubble gum toothpaste is ok. My son looks a little puzzled. I point to the different toothpaste favors and ask which color he wants. Literally out of no where he panics. "I don't want this!" he shouts. "I don't want my teeth cleaned! I don't want a new toothbrush! I want to go home!" He starts thrashing around, kicking, throwing things, tearing things apart and climbing out of the chair while screaming at the top of his lungs.

Mind you he has had dentist appointments before and LOVED it. He has never behaved like this in public. No matter what I said or what the hygienist said we could not calm him down. The hygienist asked if he should get the doctor so he could take a quick peek before we leave so the appointment isn't a total waste. I say yes and he leaves. I literally do everything I can think of to get my son to follow through with the appointment. I try to validate his fear and comfort him. I try to bribe him. I try to demand that he follows through with the appointment. I try to guilt him into it. Finally as they walk in I am literally begging him to do it for me. He refuses. The dentist and hygienist try to convince him to show the dentist his teeth so we could get out of there. He refuses.

The dentist says "I guess you will just have to come back tomorrow." "This is my second time here this week! I cant come back AGAIN!" I tell him. He asks the hygienist what happened the first time and why we had to come back. He just stands there blankly. Apparently he never caught wind of what happened on Monday. As I am explaining what happened I lose it. I am so angry, frustrated, sick, miserable, exhausted, humiliated, and stressed out that I just burst into tears. I stood there helplessly sobbing while my son stubbornly repeated that he wanted to go home, over and over. The dentist throws up his hands and says that he doesn't have time to wait and we will just have to figure it out and leaves. I drag my son out of the chair and head for the door. The hygienist calls after me asking if I want to try again in a couple weeks. I said I didn't know and I would have to call back.

As we are heading out of the office, another hygienist stops us and tries to talk to my son. Apparently, she overheard what was going on and wanted to try and help. I am pathetically standing there, tears streaming down my face while he tells her bluntly that he is going home. He bolts and is nearly to the parking lot when she stops him and calms him down. She convinces him to go with her and try again. He turns and hugs me and says "I'm sorry mommy. I will get my teeth cleaned now." He follows through with the appointment just fine, his teeth look great and he does everything he is asked to do. I stood outside the door still bawling my eyes out the entire time. Different people stopped to try to encourage me, reminding me that he's is only three, that everyone there is a stranger to him, that he will get used to it, he will do better when he is older, not to take it personally and on, and on.

The hygienist finishes the appointment, and we make our appointment for a six month check up. The same receptionist that made the error on Monday checked through our account and confirmed that the missed appointment charge was removed and we were all set. I thanked the hygienist multiple times and we leave. I get into the car, turn on a DVD for the boys and just sat there and cried. From the backseat, my son is throwing his prizes at me, demanding that I open them for him. I ignored him so I wouldn't turn around and either number one beat the tar out of him or number two scream profanities at him.

In the end he did what I asked him to do. He followed through with the appointment. But I had been totally humiliated by his behavior and unable to be supportive of him when he felt so uneasy. In hindsight I can see where the first hygienist may have gone wrong, and how the other hygienist did things differently to ease my sons fears and help him get through the appointment. I felt like a total failure as a mom that a total stranger had to do my job as a mother to bring comfort to my son because I couldn't do it. I am so grateful for her because it saved me from having to go back yet again, but it got me wondering what on earth happened.

I never did figure out what spooked my son, but I know for one that my reaction definitely made things worse. It all started in my mind, with the assumptions, worries and fears that I had built up surrounding the appointment. I worried that we would miss the appointment. That would have upset my husband because we would have had to pay the fee, plus the gas to drive out a third time. It would have been a inconvenience to me to have to reschedule when I am feeling so sick and miserable. I was afraid that I would be seen as a bad mom because I didn't have it together enough to get my son to the dentist on time. Then when he threw a fit, I was horrified that his behavior showed that I don't know how to parent my children to behave properly. Then I felt guilty that I wasn't being there for him when he needed me and that made me a heartless monster instead of a loving and responsive mom. I worried that he would be traumatized by the experience and never want to come back and every future experience would be a fight to get him to follow through with the appointment. I had assumed that he was excited to be there and was able to "handle it" and didn't have worries and fears of his own running through his mind. I was caught off guard by his behavior because I was so caught up in my own "worst case scenario" that I hadn't even considered his feelings about the appointment.

I know I am not a bad mom or a failure. The appointment is done. We made it there just fine, we got through it just fine. God knew how it would all pan out and supplied me with his favor to get through it. He supplied me with grace to extend to the secretary's error. He corrected the bill mix up smoothly. He helped get us to the appointment safely. He was there with us through the kindness of the other hygienist. He brought comfort through the words of the other employees when I was so upset.

This is the reality of humanity. We are all fallen and all make mistakes. The secretary made a clerical error. My son refused to do what I asked of him. I wasn't there for him when he needed me. But that is what Gods grace is for. If life was a bowl of cherries, I wouldn't need God. The truth is, I am a sick, overtired, emotional mess, and without him I am nothing. Because of his grace I can forgive the secretary. Because of his grace I can go apologize to my son. Because of his grace our relationship will be restored. Because of his grace my stupid allergy flare up will stop and I will feel better soon. Because of his grace, I can pick myself up, dust off, and just keep moving forward. I can do nothing in my own power, I am just miry clay. But "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Today, I thank you God for your grace, I sure need it!


Niecey said...

I can't express how much I love you. And the words you share. And your beautiful attitude. <3 <3 <3

lady mommy said...

Awwww I love you too! And your many little babies <3