Lana had a routine well-child checkup with the doctor today. Looks like everything is healthy and well with her physical development and body. What surprised me was how shy she became in the presence of medical professionals.

Christa and I would say she’s usually a brave girl but we see her in the context of our home: The oldest of a crew of kids whom she bosses around loudly, demanding their participation in her imaginative adventures. Sometimes she just wants to be left alone to draw, usually when her sisters are too wild and distracted to attend her complicated plot lines. The adults she sees often, she knows and freely approaches — or so we think.

We arrive at the doctor’s office and sign in and pay the copay. She won’t come near the cashier woman. We drop off our paperwork with the nurse in charge of the waiting room. Lana won’t look at her. When our nurse approaches us to check her height, weight, eyesight and temperature, she clams up. I ask her to speak up, look at the nurse, do what she asks. The best I get from her are mumbles. She acts limp or deaf when the nurse asks her to move around.

The worst part is taking her temperature: In the ear! She won’t let anyone come close to her ears. She bends her neck, raises her shoulder, swats away the thermometer with her hands. They don’t hurt: No ear infection or tenderness.

About that time I start searching my mind for an explanation. Do I tickle her too often, causing an automatic defensive reaction? Does she have so little practice interacting with adults? Are Christa and I too bossy?  Dictating our demands in detail instead of letting her figure things out and make decisions for her self?  Or are we insisting on flawless obedience from her, the oldest and most capable? Have we endowed her with so little confidence?

After the nurse but before the doctor Lana and I have time alone. I ask her how she’s feeling. Isn’t this fun to be in a doctor office? We take a tour of the equipment: Blood pressure straps and bulbs, eye-inspection light, ear-inspection light, reflex hammer, rubber gloves, sharps disposal, hydrogen peroxide. I spend extra time preparing her for the ear inspection.

“No one is going to tickle you. The doctor is a good guy; he’s on your side; it’s not going to hurt. You have to relax and let him look in your ear….”

She does much better about her ears with the doctor. He can’t get any response from her, however. He leaves for a moment and asks her a few joking questions. “What’s your name? Dora the Explorer?” Silence meets him from her downcast eyes.

“Lana, are you tired? Why aren’t you answering the doctor? Is your name Dora the Explorer? It’s okay to talk to the doctor. He’s our friend. He’s making sure you feel good and nothing’s wrong with your body.”

On the way home, we drop some books off at the library, including Your Body Belongs to You.  We re-read that one before returning it.  I emphasize the part about how doctors are safe to let touch.

We stop for a piece of pie.  After a while, she says, “Daddy, I would have talked more with the doctor but I was just shy.”

Maybe sometimes you’re just shy.