I reversed direction and creaked open Riley's room where I found him huddled in the middle of his bed, hooting weepily. "My ear," he said, pawing at the side of his head.
One dose of Motrin later he was re-tucked under the covers and seemed mostly fine in the morning, but by mid-afternoon he was whimpering about his ear again. Why do these things always happen on Friday, I wondered, and called the pediatrician.
"We're booked for the day," the receptionist told me, snippily. "You'll have to wait until the weekend and call urgent care."
I meekly said okay, hung up, and looked at the clock. 2:30. Well, shit.
Then I saw Riley come slowly padding out of the living room, retrieve his ratty, beloved blanket, and bring it back out in order to quietly climb onto the couch and lie down, facing the cushions. A 5-year-old, deliberately choosing to recline in silence? RED FLAG.
So I picked up the phone again (have I mentioned how I have, like, a crippling phobia of phones?) and re-dialed, hoping to get a different receptionist, but it was the same unfriendly voice.
"Look," I said in a squeaky high tone, before clearing my throat and pressing on. "You guys have multiple offices, and several doctors at each office. I'm willing to go to a different location. My kid needs someone to look in his ears for like five minutes, and you're telling me the only option is urgent care?"
"We're booked," she said, not bothering to hide her annoyance, and I nearly gave up but pictured a scenario involving 3 a.m. and a screaming feverish child.
"Your website even says you guys always allow same-day appointments," I said. "It's only 2:30 in the afternoon! What if we end up going to the emergency room tonight because we can't see someone right now? Isn't there someone else I can talk to about this?"
She abruptly put me on hold, then came back and grudgingly allowed as how there'd been a cancellation, and if I could get there by 3:20, we could see a doctor.
Long story short, we saw a doctor who confirmed a mild ear infection and sent us on our way with an only-if-we-need-it prescription for Amoxicillin, and Riley was totally fine. No midnight fevers, no more ear pain, the end.
I hate that I had to argue my way into an appointment, though. I mean, in retrospect we didn't even need one, but I didn't know that at the time. I hate conflict of all kind, and I hate having to directly oppose what someone -- an IN CHARGE someone -- is telling me.
If it were about me, I would never have called back. I would have languished to die in my own filth before demanding an appointment, I can tell you that right now.
But parenthood always forces your hand. Sometimes it makes you grow a pair and advocate for the people who depend on you, even if it's something as minor as battling with a pediatrician gatekeeper.
Such a small thing, really: a phone call. But it speaks volumes about how I've changed. Someday I hope to adequately tell my children, you made me a stronger person. In a thousand different ways.