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7:30 a.m., kitchen table: “Little girl, you have to eat breakfast before I can send you to school.
— Mom, I’m NOT hungry.
— Cereal or bagel? Egg? Waffle? You gotta eat something!
— I told you, mom, I’m NOT hungry!
— At least eat this organic chocolate chip breakfast bar and have some cereal (pleading).
— Chocolate? Okay, I’ll eat it.

2:45 p.m., exam room at unnamed multi-specialty children’s clinic, neurology consult.
Really tall doctor wearing tie: “ …and another thing you can do to avoid headaches is to eat breakfast every day.
— Little girl looks up at mother with guilty eyes. Makes puppy face and says nothing.
— Mother looks back with “I told you so” at the tip of her tongue, but refrains…

With my apologies to my doctor friends, and especially to our wonderful pediatrician, Dr. Monsalve in St. Augustine, this scene illustrates a parent’s daily struggle. Maybe we don’t invoke the Bogeyman anymore, but we invoke the authority of the doctor. “Dr. M is going to ask you if you’ve been eating well.”

If you have a good child who is respectful, and only a little hardheaded, this simple phrase works better than “Santa is watching.”

When I was a child, my grandmother used to threaten me with the Bogeyman, and sometimes with the garbage collector. Depending on the infraction, either El Cuco (the Bogeyman; it was never a bogeywoman) or the garbage collectors would cart me away. For the record, my parents never mentioned the Bogeyman; this only happened when I was at my grandparents’ house in Arecibo, PR.

I would never threaten my child with the Bogeyman. But the Bogeydoc? Only if it prompts her to eat nutritious food. It made me eat better between blood sugar checkups when I was a teenager trying to avoid juvenile diabetes. I knew Dr. I would lecture me if my blood sugar was too low.

In the age of nurture-parenting, when we reject the notion of the Tiger Mother (upcoming book), and over-rely on positive reinforcement, what’s a mother to do?

Let me rehearse my line: “Eat your veggies, or the Bogeydoc will call to check on you!”

Nah, our doc’s too nice for that.


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