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Last Comic Sitting . . . in the Waiting Room.


kids healthMy wife has white coat syndrome.  She grew up in a military family where she was taught to respect people in authority, especially if they are wearing a uniform.  Doctors wear a uniform and are in authority at their office so they benefit from the double-whammy of respect from her.  So my wife gets pretty stressed when she goes to the Dr. and sometimes needs someone to advocate for her.

I suffer from the opposite malady of “white coat syndrome.”  I have the, as yet to be diagnosed, Rebel Syndrome.  I think people in authority are not to be trusted and uniforms only serve to identify the people to people to mistrust.

So I go with her to doctor appointments.  Sometimes I try to be comedy relief for these appointments, but most of the time my attempts fall short.  As it turns out, my wife doesn’t think joking with the doctor is a good thing.  I think she’s afraid they will take revenge on her somehow medically if I am not funny.  And, I should probably add, that my wife rarely thinks I am funny.

One time when we were dating, she was trying to run away from me (it’s a loooong story that does NOT involve creepy stalking . . . unless you count throwing pebbles at her dorm room window trying to get her to come down and neglect studying and hang out with me).  I had some flowers for her, but she did not want to hang out; she wanted to study. So I brought the flowers to the bottom of the stairs at her dorm and she came and got them, then started sprinting up the stairs before I could get kissy.

. . . So, we were at the emergency room with her having a broken leg.  I was there to be supportive, it was probably one of my first stints as “doctor companion,” plus, she was blaming me for her leg being broken.  We had another friend with us also; one of Giselle’s girlfriends named Jennifer.

So, I’m doing my ‘thing’ and trying to keep Giselle entertained and her mind off of her leg.  It was all falling flat.  In the hazy memory of my mind, I think I might have been making the doctors, staff, and the whole waiting room laugh, but not Giselle.

Our friend Jennifer picks up a pamphlet for STDs . . . and asks Giselle if she needs to read it.  And, that cracks her up. She just wanted to know if testing for chlamydia was possible when there were no symptoms.

I can’t win.

Anyway, I go to waiting rooms with Giselle a lot.  As you might guess, a lot of women also go to some of these appointments and many times I see them toting their kids along because they are too young to stay by themselves.  So, I’ve had a good vantage point to observe how kids take advantage of moms when they are involved in something that my wife would say is quite stressful.

I was in a packed waiting area with Giselle once, and a lady had several kids with her sitting in chairs.  More and more people came in until every seat was filled.  Then, an older lady came in to join our crowd.

I am a guy, so it was my duty as a gentleman to give this matron my seat.  BUT, it was actually the kids that were present that should have gotten up first.  Sure you could say that the mother of these little bra . . . I mean, ‘kids’ should have told them to get up. And she probably should have.  But the doctor is stressful for many people, so you are probably guessing whom should have taught these kids manners . . .

Yes, it’s dad.

BTW, though it may be guys’ job to teach kids about basic honorable behavior, it is totally a ladies job to teach about when to use “who” and when to use “whom.”

In another waiting area I saw a mother on the phone frantically trying to find insurance information for her appointment.  Her kids were bored and wanted attention.  So they were interrupting her, over and over again.

Situations like this make me think about how important it is for dads to teach our kids behavior BEFORE the situation calls for good behavior.  So, Dads, let’s just review a few of the general guidelines for kid behavior in public places or when adults are otherwise occupied.

Teach them to wait while you are talking to adults.  I prefer the ‘wait’ hand signal (I think it’s holding up one finger to communicate ‘give me a minute’) to indicate to kids that you have transitioned into talking to an adult.  Show them how to remember their issue, sigh, and look appropriately bored while they wait.  While you are at it, you might want to teach them how/when to use the phrase “excuse me” for times when they have to interrupt (like potty emergencies).

Teach them to wait while you are on the phone.  Kids can usually obviously tell when you are on the phone.  Again, the one finger ‘wait’ sign in helpful.

Teach them to wait silently.  Back in the ‘old days’ kids were to be ‘seen and not heard.’  That’s pretty extreme; kids need their voice to assert themselves and learn how to communicate in social settings.  However, sometimes parents need a break from constant chatter.  This is where I recommend to all parents to have your kids listen to the Byrds.

YouTube yourself to and listen to this classic song by the Byrds.  Do the lyrics sound familiar?  They are from the Bible in Ecclesiastes 3

A Time for Everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-7)

3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

I taught my kids this verse since they were very young.  Then you can reinforce it for daily life by saying, “’There is a time for every purpose under heaven; a time to be silent and a time to speak.’ right now I need you to be silent for a little bit and let me think.  Then it will be time soon to speak again.”

Any kid can be silent for a ‘time.’

And I guess a lot of these behaviors so far in the list involved waiting.  So, teach them to not be entertained all. the. time.  This might involve demonstrating to your kids how to wait.  It might require some instruction on how they might use their imagination or powers of observation while they wait.  It might involve the age-old practice of twiddling your thumbs.

Teach them to hold open the door for people.  This is a good behavior for all situations, not just waiting rooms.  If your son/daughter opens doors for people or holds doors for people, they are providing a courteous service and being kind to their fellow man.  Not only that, but it sometimes really helps people to have the door held if they are carrying something or the door is heavy.

Teach them to rise and help people.  If you see an older person or lady struggling with a heavy load or unloading things, or trying to reach something or looking for something . . . demonstrate for your kids how to walk over and ask if you can help.  – Exception– Make sure you teach them to help safely.  One of the classic lines of pedophiles driving around in unmarked white vans is to ask kids if they can “help them . . .”

Teach them to give up their seat to anyone older than a teen; ladies and elderly get first priority, then adult guys.

Teach the decibel level of “inside voices.”  Sometimes if your kid gets loud, just replying in a soft spoken voice will remind them.  But dads, we need to stress what an inside voice is before the waiting room or social situation.  Then they will know.  If speaking in a soft tone doesn’t give them a clue, your wife or someone can just admonish “inside voices” to indicate softer tones.  This is an easy one to practice at home.  Everyone can do Outside Voice, then transition to Inside Voice to practice.   Maybe even throw in other voices; Stadium Voice, Dinner Voice, and Australian Swimmer Voice.

If they are causing a drama in the moment – learn the twist – the skin on the inside portion of each upper arm is really tender.  Pinching it, especially pinching it with a tiny twist, is enough pain to get most kids attention.  If drama is past the pinch/twist, then it’s time to take your kid to the bathroom.  Oh, the ominous bathroom.  Or the ominous outside.  Either way, it’s ominous and useful to remove the kid from the situation and give you a chance to:

  • Look your kid in the eye
  • Lean close
  • Speak softly in a scary calm voice.
  • Threaten them to within an inch of their young lives.
  • Verify that they understand you.
  • Tell them what they will do when you go back to the social situation.

Then, hopefully they will march back into society as a model citizen.

How are you going to do all this last part if you are not there for times your wife has appts?  Well, that’s my last point for this installment, and it’s a big one for dads.  Take your kids places and help them learn in social settings.  Frequently I’ll hear women say phrases like this.

“Pray for Jake tonight.  He’s taking the kids to Chuck E Cheese by himself”

“I hope Bob can handle watching the kids tonight while we have girls’ night out.”

“I can only stay out an hour or so, that’s only as long as Bill can handle the kids.”

Sad.  Because these guys should be rocking kid-duty.  Jake should do Chuck E Cheese like a BOSS.  Bob should take the kids for a nature excursion.  Bill should go show the kids what an airport looks like.  If these ladies come home and the dads haven’t done more than ‘watch’ them, then they have done everyone in their family a disservice.

This is a big topic, and you probably saw me use the term “installment” in the paragraph above.  Yes, that means we are due for a series, a series of articles on some basic manners to teach your kids.

I need your help again with this topic.  You probably have insight, or some horror stories to share, or some questions.  I’d like to make it practical to issues that crop up in real life situations.  If you’d like to teach your kids the correct way to utilize a table setting . . . there are guidelines for that; but I’m thinking more about kids at church, or the neighborhood, or the grocery store, or a friend’s house.  Very rarely do children eat a four-course meal that involves salad forks.  We might get there, but for the first several articles we’ll focus on basic behavior.

Then . . . maybe we can do an article series on teaching your kids waiting room and doctor’s office humor.  I think I might be an expert.

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