When you take a baby or child to the doctor, that doctor looks at your child in light of whatever you, the parent, claim as the problem. The doctor a) dismisses you with admonishments to relax; b) makes a diagnosis and treats your child; or c) refers you to a specialist.
You, the parent, will a) accept your admonishment and watchfully wait while trying to relax; b) go to another doctor; c) administer the prescribed treatment; d) see the specialist; or e) some combination of the above.
When you see the specialist, that doctor will look at your child in light of whatever you, the parent, claim as the problem, plus whatever his or her specialty is, plus whatever notes she or he has received from the referring physician.
Meanwhile, your child has whatever problem your child has, and if that child has a complex problem, you may or may not be highlighting the right symptoms, and you may or may not be seeing the right doctors, and you may or may not be administering the right treatments. If the problems your child has are not the kind that can be easily measured, you may feel like you’re throwing money, time, and drugs at the problem, fingers crossed.
It doesn’t feel particularly scientific, in spite of the prominently displayed and very impressive degrees covering one wall of every office you visit. It feels a little like faith, and you may think, I already have a pastor and a God; what I really need here for my child is evidence-based everything.
And of course you’ve chosen carefully, and it’s all evidence-based and those degrees represent years of education and training. These people know their stuff and they’re delivering the best care.
Except it’s all based on what you, the parent, claimed (way back then, in the beginning) as the problem, which set you all (the child, the parents, the doctors and therapists and teachers) on a trajectory. The doctors are not puppets; they see your child. They assess and draw their own conclusions and make diagnoses of their own.
Except you will always be the person who identified point A, and what if you chose the wrong point A? Or the point A that was only partly correct? Or what if you identified 3, or nine, or thirty point As, and the doctor du jour chose what he or she saw as the most salient (interesting, urgent, plausible, treatable) point A and the rest of it got filed away for later and in the rush and press of appointments, treatments, and life, you got tired and started following doctors instead of collaborating with them?
What if, in a moment of clarity and energy, you identified some lost point As and asked for the tests to investigate them?
And what if, when those tests came back, you saw, in black words on white paper, a problem that, had you highlighted it from the beginning, might have made everything very different?
It is possible that, on reading such a report, you might write some words in second person (even though you hate when people write in second person) because you need some distance from the enormous potential reality the report represents. It is also possible that you have such a mingled mash of thoughts and feelings that you have yet to make sense of them, even two months after you first read the report.
When you take a child to the doctor, you are a fallible human presenting a fallible human to a fallible human. And doesn’t that just suck sometimes.