Why is it that the doctor's office is synonymous with "I get candy"?
Ronda Kaysen: It was 10 AM, and my son and I were at the doctor's office for a flu shot. He was brave. He took his shot like a big boy. And then he looked at me, his eyes wide with anticipation, and uttered the dreaded word: "Lollipop?"
I had a choice: indulge his whim and offer up one of the myriad lollipops awaiting him like kiddie crack, or hold my ground and say that no, mid-morning is no time for a dose of sugar and food coloring.
"You can have a sticker," I offered.
We all know how that scenario went down. Fifteen minutes later, when he was still wailing in my arms, writhing and moaning and refusing to get into his car seat, I was beginning to wonder if maybe I'd made a mistake.
That was until the nurse who gave him his shot showed up. "What's the matter, sweetheart?" she asked, in that saccharine sweet mommy-must-not-know-what-she's-doing voice.
Rather than take a hint, she marched right up to my impulse-driven 2 1/2-year-old and said, "How about I get you a lollipop for later? Mommy can hold onto it for you."
A crane couldn't have lifted my jaw from the parking lot concrete.
Of course, the tears ceased and my status plummeted from mean mommy to downright evil. His savior in baby blue scrubs, meanwhile, scurried off to get him his fix. If it were legal in the state of New Jersey, I would have strangled her right then and there.
Let's step back from the obvious absurdity of a stranger undermining a moment of parenting and discuss another absurd situation: Why does the doctor's office peddle lollipops in the first place? Are they trying to drum up business for the neighborhood dentist? Are they looking to find ways to worsen the obesity epidemic? Or are they merely hoping to send a child into a sugar-induced manic state for the pure fun of watching mom melt down?
Going to the doctor is no fun. But the message you send when you dole out candy for getting your throat examined is that taking care of your body is something that deserves a reward -- and a reward that does your body harm, no less.
I can't walk into the hardware store, let alone a gas station or pharmacy, without being bombarded with sugary treats for my toddler to rot his teeth on. Every time I set foot in the dry cleaner's, I have to brace myself for the inevitable fight over whether or not 9 AM is an appropriate time for a Hershey's Kiss. The last time I told my son no, the attendant offered him a lollipop instead. I could scream. Why does anyone, let alone a growing child, need a Hershey's Kiss before noon? And what is it with the lollipops, people? Why must every shop clerk have a bowl of lollipops beside his cash register like candy is some sort of basic necessity?
But it's the doctor's office that really gets under my skin. The pediatrician should be a refuge from the endless offerings kids are taunted with on a near hourly basis. It should be a safe haven where they're shown how to make good food choices and be rewarded in healthy ways for taking care of their bodies, not simply another way station for them to get their candy fix.
When the nurse returned with an orange lollipop in hand, she looked thrilled. After all, she'd made the child stop crying, which I guess is more important than making sure he makes it through adolescence without type II diabetes. "Here," she said. "I'll put it in mommy's pocket for you to have in the car."
My son dutifully climbed into his car seat, awaiting his treat. "You can have it after dinner," I told him as I buckled him in, bracing myself for a new set of tears that would drown out the sound of all the expletives racing through my head.
|Ronda Kaysen is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, BusinessWeek.com, Architectural Record, Huffington Post, New York Observer and AM New York. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.|