Updated: Sep 23, 2019
The podiatrist looked at me with more than a little befuddlement as I clutched the X-rays to my chest and took a deep breath.
I gestured grandly to the empty patient room. I have never let the lack of an audience steal my thunder.
"Thank you, thank you all for supporting me, for encouraging me and most of all, for believing in me. This is undoubtedly the biggest, most challenging role of my career. The seemingly endless nights, the sacrifices, the stretch marks and wider feet. Everything I have done to reach this point! Being named Worst Mother of the Year is my crowning achievement!"
You see, Little Son has been working my last nerve, hard, for about three months. He can be such a drama king! Seriously, I have no idea where he gets his flair for the dramatic, but just between us, I think he gets it from his dad.
He began by telling me his feet hurt, so I began to dole out a nightly ibuprofen and tootsie massage before bedtime. But the complaints continued. I took him to buy some new tennis shoes. I figured that by spending almost $100, the problem would resolve itself. Soon thereafter, he began to try to refuse attending soccer practice. He said his cleats hurt so much he couldn't stand to run in them anymore. And if any of you have a pre-teen that is ... extremely strong-willed, you know what kind of arguments began to occur at my house on Monday and Wednesday evenings. His cleats had virtually no arch support or cushioning, so I bought him some cheapie insoles at the grocery and sweetly instructed him to suck it up, buttercup. Y'all, I am all heart sometimes!
The insoles helped for a bit, but the very next thing I knew, he was regularly staggering around the house, limping and sighing with ragged breaths. When he caught my eye, he would immediately begin to gingerly creep along, wincing with each step. He was like a caricature of a fragile old man. And whoa to me if I tried to hurry him because he would sob about being in pain.
"My feet hurt, don't you understand?" he screamed at me, clutching the wall for support. "Why don't you believe me?"
And because I try to not do long-term damage to his psyche, I choked back my first instinct to yell at him in outrage. Oh ... I wanted to tell him that I thought he was a big fat liar head, that he was so addicted to Fortnite that he was faking an injury so he could stay home. And that I got it, soccer is a total time suck but by God we made a commitment and we honor our commitments in this house. I wanted to tell him that he was only 10, fit and healthy and that there was no legitimate reason for his feet to hurt and that I was not going to keep listening to him whine about it.
But instead, I took the high road. "Well, we are going straight to the foot doctor. I hope you don't have to get a shot! Are you absolutely sure you want this?"
I was shocked when he answered emphatically yes, even if it meant he would get a shot.
When we arrived at the podiatrist's office, the doctor asked me if Little Son had always been so tall. I said that yes, he has always been at the top of the growth charts and that the men on both sides of his family were tall. Next he wanted to know if my son had been experiencing growing pains in his legs or if his clothing and shoe sizes had changed much recently. After completing his medical history, he took my baby boy back for an X-ray.
They came back about 10 minutes later.
"Well, Mrs. Nicholas, it's as I suspected. The growth plate in is heel is extremely inflamed, due to repetitive trauma. We see this a lot in children his age, especially if they are growing quickly and play sports. It's called calcaneal apothositis, or Sever disease."
It is extremely painful. And you are a jerk for not believing him. Well, okay, he didn't say that last part but it is part of my inner mom-ologue.
"He also needs correction for his pronated ankles."
I texted The Hubs in tears. He has a disease, I word-wailed!
"Well, we called that wrong," he wrote back. I told you he was the dramatic one.
Little Son was prescribed thrice daily stretches, New Balance tennis shoes and custom orthotic inserts. The tennis shoes have a rod inside the sole that helps keep his ankle up straight, instead of rolling inward, down toward the floor.
The orthotic inserts the doctor recommended are $500. Our insurance doesn't cover them, and based on Little Son's growth history, he would probably need two pairs a year. On the bright side, most kids outgrow calcaneal apophysitis by the age of 14 and he is almost 11 now! The doctor suggested trying a pair of New Balance inserts first to see if that helped. Maybe I wouldn't have to buy the pricey customs after all!
We tried for three weeks, and he was back to limping. I started to buy new inserts when The Hubs intervened.
"Melanie, he is only 10. It's not normal for a child his age to hurt all the time. We need to get the custom orthotics."
But The Hubs also likes a good deal and he started to research orthotics. He found a direct-to-the-customer vendor online. For $200! They shipped us boxes filled with foam that molded to his feet. We sent the boxes back and viola! A month later, the inserts arrived and we popped them into his shoes.
I cannot tell you the difference those inserts have made for him, and we can pop them into his other shoes as we need to. No more pain, no more limping. Even his attitude and overall mood are better!
I feel sure that am going to be carrying this guilt around for quite a while. As a parent, I listen for key words that tell me my kids feel anxious or scared. I listen for words that tell me they are sick and need to see the pediatrician. It truly never occurred to me that he wasn't crying wolf about foot pain because he is so young. Fortunately, he isn't holding a grudge, he's just grateful for the inserts. I'm grateful he inherited his dad's forgiving nature, too!