My older son has been entrenched in science curriculum ever since he was 12 and hired his own tutor. I told him we were unschooling and I don’t believe in standard curriculum. We argued. Then he said, “Mom you’re so good at finding people to hire, you should find me a biology tutor.”
I was so surprised by his diplomatic approach that I acquiesced. I said, “That’s a really effective way to talk with me. A great way to get someone to do something they don’t want to do is to focus on their strengths.”
He said, “Mom, if I wanted you to keep being my teacher I wouldn’t be asking for tutors.”
Take ownership of your feelings toward the person you want to motivate.
Since then, he has detected his own sprained wrist when I told him to quit complaining. And when I told him to drink water instead of orange juice he sent away for a water testing kit to show me the well water on the farm was undrinkable. (Note: I asked him to send me a link to the kit he used. He sent me this link.)
Mostly he tells me things I don’t want to be true. But I try to remind myself that my anxiety doesn’t make him wrong. So when he announced there is a cancerous mole on his brother’s back, his brother called him a bad word—actually a whole string of them— and I made an appointment at the dermatologist.
Don’t use bribery, create purpose instead.
My older son wanted to come along.
His brother said no.
My older son said he won’t catch any more skin diseases on his brother unless I let him come.
You want me to bribe you to be a decent family member?
It turns out he wanted to take home some of his brother’s removed skin. “For my education!” he said.
Have you ever been to the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia? They have preserved the longest intestine, which, presumably, includes the longest poop. They have pieces of Einstein’s brain. And a doctor’s collection of 2,700 things he removed from people’s airways in the 1800s. Once you visit this museum you will be unfazed by a request for a tiny piece of mole.
Probably the dermatologist has never been to the museum because she told my son to wait in the lobby.
Be persistent. Often people don’t hear the first call-to-action as a call to them.
One week later, the doctor’s office called. I didn’t pay when we left because I’m sick of paying cash. They can bill me. It’s like getting a little loan from the dermatologist. I didn’t answer the phone all day. The next day they called four times. I decided that they were pissed about the loan. Fine. I will pay.
It takes me twenty minutes to find my credit card, which was under the bunk beds so I had to also tell the boys they can’t take the credit card if they don’t put it back.
They said, “Are you gonna answer the phone?”
I pick up the phone and the dermatologist says, “I’m calling to give you the results of the biopsy.”
I didn’t even need to hear the rest. Now I see why they called 500 times.
The doctor tells me about how kids my son’s age rarely have this type of brown thing. The doctor says, “It’s a small area, so it’s probably going to be possible to remove everything we missed during the first removal.”
I need specialists. I need to change his acne medicine. I need medical records from the World Trade Center Health Registry because if you were at the World Trade Center when it fell and you or your kids have a rare cancer you go straight to the Health Registry which is, of course, the Why Your Health is Fucked Registry.
I should have a dermatologist check both kids all over. This is a mess. And then I get a twinge in my left breast, which I feel is God telling me to go get a mammogram. I want to make check-up appointments for me and the kids. At every doctor. Preventative care is so enticing when it’s too late.
Instead of lecturing, invite the conversation to get the person to care.
While I am doing this, the vet calls.
Our dog has cancer.
I say, “Do I owe you money for the appointment?”
The vet tells me again that the dog has cancer. More words. Nicer voice.
I say, “Yes. Okay. Thank you for your call.”
He says, “Would you like to come into the office to talk about it?”
Why is he saying this? Surely this is not how the world works. He is not a therapist. I told him I heard him. I don’t owe him money. Oh. I get it. “I’m very sad,” I tell him.
He is quiet.
People don’t believe you’re sad unless the tone of your voice is sad. I don’t want to tell him my kid has cancer stuff on his back. I don’t want to tell him I have no bandwidth for the dog’s cancer. I cry. I tell the vet, “I’m crying now. Can I call you back?”
We hang up. I pick up my list of doctors again. Pause. I am not sure if I need to cry for real. Unpause. Dial.