My advice to new parents? Make sure you really like your pediatrician, because you're going to be seeing a lot of them. My partner Lisa and I were surprised when they packed us up with our brand new baby boy, waved goodbye at the maternity ward door, and reminded us to be in the doctor's office in three days. Three days? Isn't he totally healthy? Yep. See you then! And a week after that. And a month after that. All before Theo became a typical baby germ factory. How many doctor visits did we get out of the day he sucked the carpet in the Los Angeles Airport waiting area? Quite a few, I'm sure.
But that was just the beginning. Theo ended up becoming a true pediatrician frequent flier. First, he couldn't seem to shake his colds, then he got pneumonia, and finally he was diagnosed with asthma. While we were figuring out the best way to treat him, he spent a lot of time in the doctor's office. He'd have to stay to do breathing treatments with a nebulizer. Then, we rented a nebulizer when he got sick. Finally, we accepted the truth and bought one. That's when you know you're an asthma family.
Through all of it, we watched our son experience fear and pain. Awful for any parents, but with two moms, we had no one to be stoic.
One night, I got that mom-spidey-sense that I should go check on Theo. When I did, he was sitting up in bed unable to breathe. We called 911 and broke the glass on the 'in case of emergency' pill they'd given us at his allergist. Theo rode in an ambulance and spent the night in the hospital. It was a scary night for us, and more so for him. As a parent of a sick child, all you want in the world is to make them feel better, safer, more comfortable, less afraid. And you'll do anything to make that happen. Absolutely anything.
Me, I made a TV show.
Not long after Theo's night in the hospital, I had an 'aha' moment. Why hadn't anyone made a show that demystified doctors for little kids? There are so many shows about first days of school, all hoping to ease kids through that trauma, but long before backpacks and cubbyholes, every kid faces the doctor. And shots. And scrapes, and sniffles and splinters.
And, well, even if every other kid didn't need that kind of show, mine did. And that's what I do. I make kids TV. So when I had the moment of realizing this could help my son, I actually had the ability to make it happen.
I've written for kids for fifteen years, long before I had one myself. But, I couldn't have written "Doc McStuffins" without becoming a Mom first.
Doc is as personal as it is universal. It's my gift for my son. One I'm happy to share. Doc and Theo have grown up together. (You can't believe how long animation takes to make!) In the time Theo has learned to walk and talk, and gone from a sweet toddler to a boy who wants to talk about dinosaurs and poop, Doc found a studio and a production company, got a director, learned to walk and talk (with the help of amazing animators and voice actors) and has transformed from an idea in my head to twenty-six episodes of television about to premiere for the whole world to see.
In October, Theo turned five. At his yearly check up, our pediatrician told him she was going to take his blood pressure. As she reached for the cuff, I saw Theo flinch. I asked him if he knew what a blood pressure cuff was. He stopped, and thought for a second. He did, he told me; he'd seen Doc McStuffins use one on Sir Kirby, a small toy knight. Then he smiled, turned back to his doctor, and told her he was ready to have his blood pressure taken. No problem.
Me, I got teary. Theo didn't notice. Our doctor was confused. But, Lisa? She knew exactly why I was wiping away tears. I'd spent the past three years trying to give my son something, and I'd just realized I'd done it. That moment was everything I'd hoped for. I'd taken something foreign and scary to Theo, and given him another context for it. I can't make shots not hurt, or having the flu any more fun, but maybe I can take away a little bit of the fear that comes from seeing the doctor. I did it for my son. But I sure hope it works for your kids too. And don't worry. Theo's pretty good at sharing.
Photo credit: ©Disney Junior/Bob D'Amico