Weekly Column: Pamphlets for Dummies

© 2008, Stephenie Freeman
It’s never good news when a doctor sends you home with a pamphlet.  It’s even worse when he sends you home with two.
In a recent act of either genius or insanity, I schedule my children for their regular dentist and pediatrician visits both in one day.  I figured if each visit was going to be crazy and stressful, better to compact all of the craziness and stress into one day rather than spreading it out over several. 
First was the dentist.  The boys sat side by side in dueling chairs as teeth were counted, scraped, and cleaned.  About the time I was considering the visit a success—no crying, fits, or meltdowns having occurred—the dentist, a very lovely lady hovering over my three-year-old, asked me a question.
“Does he suck on anything?  His thumb?  Fingers?  Maybe a pacifier?”
I answered her that, yes, he had sucked his index finger ever since he was a baby.  I didn’t answer with embarrassment but instead with motherly endearment, showing her the tiny callus that had formed at the bottom on his finger because of it.
Even though my son had just turned three, it hadn’t dawned on me that his finger sucking was beginning to turn into a bad habit.  I hadn’t been worried about it.  He doesn’t walk around with his finger in his mouth all day.  It isn’t keeping his speech from developing.  On the contrary, my youngest is actually quite the talker, having already mastered the fine art of back talk and important toddler phrases like “No!  I do it!” and “I go to time out.”  No, finger sucking wasn’t one of the things that I was worried about.
I was sent home with my first pamphlet with tips on ways to encourage my child to stop sucking.  It was obvious from the bullet points that it wasn’t going to be easy.  Unlike a pacifier, I couldn’t have the Pacifier Fairy come one night and take his finger away leaving behind a toy in its place.  No, this would require me to dip into my parental reserves of diligence and patience, two areas that have serious been depleted over the last several years of parenting. 
We moved on to the pediatrician’s office.  With one set of prizes and stickers under their belt, they were actually looking forward to what the next doctor’s office would bring. 
Today’s pediatrician offices are way more fun than the ancient, dark, wood paneled offices filled with nothing but Highlight magazines of my youth.   These offices have waiting rooms that are painted like the ocean or outer space with toys to match.  They are filled with video games on flat screens and Nick Jr. showing on televisions strategically placed around the office.  Nine kids out of ten that have a meltdown in the doctor’s office do not do it because their afraid of getting a shot, but because they don’t want to leave the waiting room.
Once inside, the boys were quickly taken through the rigors of a regular check-up.  It was around the time when I stripped down the three-year-old to nothing but a diaper that talk of a second pamphlet appeared. 
“Have you started using the big boy potty yet?” 
My child nodded his head but without much conviction.  The doctor explained how potty training was a goal that we should be working toward.  Much like the finger sucking, it was better to get control over the situation now rather than later.  He handed me pamphlet, which I quickly shoved into growing collection inside my purse. 
I floundered while trying to explain how we had tried but with limited success.  I would have told him how the use of candy bribes seemed to be working, but I feared additional pamphlets about things like diabetes and childhood obesity.
Over dinner that evening, I explained to my husband that we had to work on stopping the finger sucking and start seriously potty training.  He asked me what the pamphlets said. 
I tried my best not to tear up as I told him, “They said that he can’t be a baby anymore.”
“Did they have any pamphlets for helping mommies cope with the changes?” he asked.
It was about that time that I pulled out one final pamphlet. 
Much like Hallmark cards, there is a doctor pamphlet for all occasions.  I should know.  Most of them are at the bottom of my purse.

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