Friday, January 28, 2000

Alphabet soup

Anyone whose child has special needs can tell you about "alphabet soup," that string of diagnoses that follows the child around like a toy train made out of blocks. ADD, PDD, PTSD, OCD, FAS, FAE, RAD, SID, LLD--I always expect to see LMNOP in there somewhere, and now I've figured out what it should stand for: Labels of a Meaningless Nature Obscuring the Person.

The letters are good for something, usually getting services or getting medication or getting a grip, but they rarely present a complete picture of a child. Which means, of course, that there's always room for more labels, and we parents, those of us on the front lines, might as well come up with them ourselves. In that spirit, Mothers with Attitude humbly submits a dozen brand-spanking-new syndromes, suitable for use with balky Child Study Teams, disapproving tantrum witnesses, know-it-all in-laws, and clueless pediatricians. Read them, study them, memorize them, and soon you'll be saying: "His MTED is really acting up today. I wish I could stop the behavior, but between the ESS, SD, and OPPB it's impossible for me to get anywhere. I swear, sometimes I think this kid is PBD, but the doctor suspects MRTM."

CTD (Creative Truth-telling Disorder)

ESS (Extreme Stubborness Syndrome)

MRTM (Mom Reads Too Much)

MTED (Must Touch Everything Disorder)

NDSG (Not Developing to the Satisfaction of Grownups)

NSUS (Never Shuts Up Syndrome)

OPPB (Obsessive Pushing of Parental Buttons)

PBD (Possessed by the Devil)

PTD (Please and Thank-You Deficient)

SD (Selective Deafness)

TIDD (Teletubbie Induced Developmental Delays)

TTW (Traumatic Toys 'R Us Withdrawal)

Wednesday, January 26, 2000

Bad habits

Some people smoke. Some people gamble. Some eat too much or drink too much or shop too much. My son sucks his fingers. This behavior, harmless in a smaller child but socially unacceptable at six, earns him outspoken disapproval from those who feel he should know better. Yet he clings to those digits with the tenacity of a smoker standing outside in the rain to grab a puff or two. He doesn't care about disapproval or tooth damage or hygeine or drool. He needs to suck. And no parental tantrums or teacher edicts or two-bit behavior modification is gonna stop him.

Consequently, you rarely see him without his hand hanging out of his mouth. The two middle digits of his left hand seem to have magical qualities of comfort that the other fingers and even his thumbs cannot match. Oh, sometimes he'll suck on his shirt collar, or his cuffs, or his toys, but they're just placeholders. The fingers are his favorites, and he sucks them with the unbridled pleasure that some people reserve for fine cigars.

And so, of course, if it brings pleasure, it's got to stop. His teacher has put finger-sucking on her list of behaviors that must not be allowed. Also on that list are screaming in class and shouting out meaningless phrases repetitively at the top of his lungs. Now, it seems to me that on a scale of disruptiveness ranging from loud and hysterical noises to, I don't know, sitting comatose in the corner, finger-sucking skews far toward the latter. But the sight of it just drives some people crazy. Everybody knows of a child who was cured of this by tricks or threats or Tabasco, and so they think he should just cut it out already. "Fingers out!" "Fingers out!" is their refrain. This is like telling a smoker "Hey, cigarette out! I mean it! No more!"

If he's in a mellow mood, he might humor you and stop sucking until you stop watching. If he's in a mischievous mood, he'll take them out and put them in immediately, making a game out of your attempts to set him straight. If he's stressed, he will cling to those fingers for dear life, and you'd be surprised how hard it is to pry fingers from the mouth of a 35-pound boy who does not want them removed. It is a mighty struggle.

And one in which I am reluctant to engage. Frankly, this child has such an elaborate collection of issues--fetal alcohol effect, sensory integration disorder, autistic behaviors, developmental delays, and of course, the dreaded extreme stubborness syndrome--that I'm willing to let him have a little comfort. His array of comfort activities used to be much broader; they included banging his head against the floor, rocking in his bed so hard that he burned some hair off, and whipping his head back and forth like a spectator at some sort of turbo tennis game. Finger-sucking would have been my pick of that litter too, and I'm happy that that's the one that stuck.

The naysayers think this is a sign of lazy parenting, and so be it. We had these same arguments a couple of years ago when he still wasn't toilet trained at age five. Late mastery of this skill isn't uncommon in kids with his neurological makeup, yet there was a fair amount of zealotry on the part of some school personnel about making him get with the program. One therapist even suggested I use suppositories to get him to do the deed on demand. I passed on that proposal. I had tried before to force the issue, and found that this child will do things when he's good and ready, and not before. Any attempts to rush developmental milestones ended with me screaming at a calm child who held all the cards. Life is too short.

In the end, when the time was right, he was toilet-trained in a day. Dry during the day, dry at night, no problemo. And the same thing will happen with the finger-sucking. One day, he'll just pop them out and never pop them back in. I trust this will be sometime before his wedding day.
If not, then it's his wife's problem.

Monday, January 24, 2000

Play's the thing

My daughter doesn't know how to play.

It's a strange dilemma for a nine-year-old. She should be directing her Barbies in elaborate dramas or appropriating the power of her preferred Pokémons or building worlds out of Legos or lavishing attention on her American Girls. But though she's come to know that she should want these toys, she doesn't have a clue what to do with them.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that she had no toys at all for the first half of her life--there being no Toys 'R Us expeditions from Russian orphanages--and she just never learned the ropes. Maybe it has to do with her language delays; she lacks an understanding of so many ways of the world that it's hard for her to imitate them in play. Maybe it has to do with her personality; she's a kid who likes rules and to be told what to do, and free play is rather terrifying.

Or maybe it has to do with the fact that her Mama doesn't know how to play, either.

Oh, I used to know. I remember playing endlessly with Barbies, and I was never at a loss for toys. I also remember constantly demanding that the grown-ups in my household play with me. So when my daughter now seems so directionless, I should be able to get right down on the floor with her and show her how it's done. But somewhere along the line, I've lost my patience with playthings and my interest in imagination. I get down on the floor and I think of the other 10,000 things I could be doing, and any sustained ability to talk doll talk flies away. And I look at my girl, and she's similarly clueless, and we wind up tossing them back in the closet and putting on a video.

My son knows how to play just fine. He can amuse himself for hours.
Though he's happy enough to play alone, he's constantly asking me to join him--demanding, really, gripping my hand and dragging me to his room--but again, my ability to sustain an interest in lining up cars in traffic jams is about as short as a stalled driver's temper, and so I am not much of a player in his games either.

Ideally, the girl with no ideas and the boy with many should play together like two halves of a whole. But the big sister doesn't feel it's appropriate to be led in play by her younger sibling, and frankly, she's not all that interested in traffic jams either. She does have friends over, and they do try to show her how to play with Pokémon or party with Barbie, but as I watch surreptitiously from behind the door, I can see that look in my daughter's eyes: the one that says, "What exactly are we doing here, and why?" The trappings of play may be there, but the deep desire is not.

So on those long weekend days when she's already watched her daily tape allotment and no friends are available, what does she do? She does worksheets to strengthen her academic skills. Sounds barbaric, but she likes the concrete rules and predictable actions, and I like the fact that it's good for something, and involves me only in the checking of answers.

Maybe we can say we're playing school.

Friday, January 21, 2000

Snow job

When I was growing up in southern California, I dreamed of what it might be like to live where it snowed. Sledding every day. Armies of snowmen. Snow forts. Snowshoes. Snowball fights. And, on days when the snow blocked the door and cars couldn't make it on the road and the world was all in white, that most wonderful of childhood events--a snow day. You don't miss a lot of days of school for snow in southern California. How magical, I thought, to be given a day to revel in frozen bliss.

Ha! As fate would have it, I did eventually come to live where it snowed, in a place where snow days are not uncommon. But I'm no longer able to enjoy them. I'm a mom now. And I say: As long as the planet still has atmosphere and gravity, I want those kids in school.

It doesn't help that where I've settled, in New Jersey, they'll call a snow day on the rumor of snow. Actual flakes cause a virtual panic. Store shelves are stripped. People refuse to venture outdoors. School buses cannot be expected to navigate streets with even so much as a dusting. Insurance, I hear. Now, isn't that magical?

There was a time in my life when I would have loved to frolic in the snow all day long. This is not it. Yet my kids can't wait to get good and cold and wet. They'll attempt to make snowmen out of the light coating of white that passes for a crippling blizzard hereabouts. On days when snow actually accumulates, they'll delight in playing with the snow shovel--making big mountains in the driveway, packing the snow down on the sidewalk, dumping shovelfuls of icy crystals on each other's heads.

This is the job of children on snowy days. The job of moms is to sit inside and watch them through the window while sipping hot chocolate and reading magazines. And yet, perhaps to fill some need from my own childhood, I find myself out in the snow with them, receiving snowballs to the head, adjusting little gloves and tying little bootlaces and wiping snotty little noses, screaming for them not to eat the salty snow in the street, whining to go inside. Oh, to be a kid again. Then, I might actually enjoy this.

And maybe I'd enjoy a snow day, too. Now, it means calling strangers on the snow chain at 5 a.m. to break the bad no-school news. It means an endless succession of putting on dry layers of clothing, taking off wet layers of clothing, putting on dry layers. It means arguing with children who are blue but swear that they are n-n-n-not c-c-c-cold and can't they just play for five more minutes? It means a disruption in routine, and I don't handle that any better than my neurologically impaired children do. I'd rather hike across frozen tundra pulling them on a sled to get them to school than let them stay home.

Because once they're safely in class, I can indulge in my own version of a perfect snow day: sitting inside a warm house and watching the flakes pile up prettily. Not playing in it, driving in it, walking in it, sliding in it, shoveling it, brushing it from cars or clothing. Just watching it. Preferably with hot chocolate and a magazine close at hand.

Wednesday, January 19, 2000

Driven to distraction

Admit it, it's happened to you. You're driving down the highway, trying to tune out the Sesame Street tape you're hearing for the 5,642nd time, thinking about work or groceries or errands or that cute doctor on "ER," when suddenly open warfare breaks out in the backseat. Maybe somebody touched somebody, or took somebody's toy, or looked at somebody in a way that somebody did not wish to be looked at. Personal space has been invaded. Feelings have been violated. All hell has broken loose.

So you do what any good parent would do: You turn around and issue threats. If you're lucky, and do not meet with resistance from the injured parties, your eyes are only off the road for a few seconds. And when you turn back around, you hope that you do not see stalled traffic or the shoulder of the road or perhaps a tree approaching at 55 mph.

Parents have been perfecting this maneuver since the first caveman lifted his club and grunted, "I'll pull this wheel over right now and we'll just sit here until you can behave," and it's one of the top distracting driving behaviors found in a survey conducted by the Response Insurance Corporation of White Plains, New York. Of a thousand drivers questioned, 12 percent admitted to taking their eyes off the road to quiet screaming children. Fifty-six percent did the same to talk to someone in the car, and one wonders how often that someone was under the age of 10.

The survey also delineated various other driving dangers, including makeup applying, contact-lens inserting, laptop using, and nose picking. But this is the stuff of amateurs. Parents have more interesting things to do at high speeds than put on mascara or put in eyedrops. How many of these stupid parent tricks have you performed?

• Removing packaging from a Toys 'R Us purchase while steering through the crowded parking lot with your elbows.

• Stretching backward to force a recalcitrant child to PUT THAT SEATBELT BACK ON NOW!

• Feeding red-hot french fries one by one to a toddler in the backseat who can't be trusted with the bag.

• Grabbing an object of dispute and declaring it yours.

• Steering with one hand and doing the amazing contortionistic backward backseat window-rolling-up maneuver with the other.

• Quieting a full-blown, screaming, crying, threatening fit.

• Throwing a full-blown, screaming, crying, threatening fit.

• Throwing a Sesame Street tape out the window.

And of course, the most amazing, death-defying feat of them all:

• Driving while under the influence of children.

Monday, January 17, 2000

Do I look like a Complete Idiot?

While perusing the parenting aisles at the super-monster-mega-bookstore recently, I noticed a disturbing trend: the proliferation of parenting books that assume we're completely clueless. Now, I often feel completely clueless, and there are definitely times when I feel my husband is completely clueless, but we're a long way from wanting to bring books into the house that prove it. Yet there they sit on the bookstore shelf: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fatherhood. You'd have to be a complete idiot to let your kids see you buying these, but I guess that's the point, isn't it?

Some of the titles make a certain amount of sense. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parenting a Teenager—well, by the time your kids are teenagers, they already believe you're a complete idiot, so no harm there. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth—well, many people probably find themselves in that situation because they've been complete idiots, so giving them their own guidebook is only humane. And The Complete Idiot's Guide to Baby Names is certainly a public service, at least if it advises against naming your child after a Disney character, a force of nature or a mixed drink. As for The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Well-Behaved Child—hey, if you can get your child to behave, then you're a less complete idiot than I.

But then there's The Complete Idiot's Guide to Child Safety. What is this, like—"Don't let them play in traffic"? "Keep forks away from electrical outlets"? "Get your drugs with them little caps that don't come off"? One hates to imagine. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Raising a Smart Kid seems downright dangerous—can it be good for your kid to be smarter than you, a complete idiot? Combine that with The Complete Idiot's Guide to Raising Money-Smart Kids and you'll wind up with a smartass who will bilk you out of your savings. And don't get me started on The Complete Idiot's Guide to Adoption. Well, do get me started: People, if you are a complete idiot, and you know you are a complete idiot, please do not adopt. You'll make the rest of us look bad.

Now, I do realize that books which playfully suggest they are for people who require a basic knowledge of a subject are all the rage, and that they are not meant to be taken at face value. I've never had a problem with the "for Dummies" series because it seems fairly clear that the buyer is only a dummy in that specific subject. But buying "The Complete Idiot's Guide" to anything would make me feel like, well, a complete idiot.

And then I would need The Complete Idiot's Guide to Improving Your Self-Esteem.

Friday, January 14, 2000

The sharp debate on circumcision

The study sounded promising. It looked at several hundred thousand infants born in Washington State to see if those who were circumcised (about one-third) incurred any benefits or complications from the procedure. Here at last, I thought, was some data to answer the question that's been filling adoption e-mail lists for years: Is circumcision a benign and health-promoting procedure, or needless and potentially disastrous mutilation? It's a question that obsesses some folks to such a degree that it makes the debate over fur look like a cozy chat.

I'm not one of them. We didn't circumcise our son after we adopted him at age 2, but not for ideological reasons. Like most decisions in our house, it sort of made itself by virtue of our never deciding anything one way or another. I can't say I worry about it a lot--he seems pretty happy with his equipment the way it is, and frankly, if little boys check each other out and notice discrepancies, I don't want to know about it. But when the debates flare up on the lists, which they do with the approximate frequency of bogus virus alerts and get-rich-quick chain letters, I do wonder: Have we overlooked health issues? Have we made a political choice? Have we really thought about what's involved with cleaning this thing? Have we maybe been reading too much e-mail?

So the item in the January 11 Intelihealth newsletter got an immediate click on the link. "Study examines circumcision risk," it said. And why not? Enquiring minds want to know. The report, the result of ten years of research, came to this startling conclusion: Six of one, half dozen of the other. "Circumcising newborns causes virtually no medical harm, but offers practically no benefit, either." Well, thanks for that.

The researchers found a 1-in-476 chance of complications, which makes circumcision more than 20 times safer than LASIK eye surgery, another elective meddling-with-nature procedure that I really don't want to hear any details about. There did seem to be fewer urinary tract infections, but not enough to make up for the complications, although the complications were easily treatable, but so were the infections, and . . . oh, muddle, you parents all just go decide for yourselves.

This is what you've got to love about American medical research--countless hours and dollars spent in the tireless pursuit of conclusions that are completely meaningless. Which isn't to say the results won't be useful; both sides are sure to jump on them to confirm their pre-existing beliefs. Which means that the Circumcision Wars will continue unabated.

I'd tell them just to cut it out, but that might be seeming to take sides.

Wednesday, January 12, 2000

Opportunity trumps biology

I've been following the case of Elian Gonzalez, the six-year-old Cuban boy turned political football, with some interest. Not for the ideology involved, but for the very intriguing precedent being set. An American court actually appears to have ruled that living with a parent is less important than the chance for a better life. Good news for all those kids languishing in the foster care system! No more waiting for parents to get their acts together; if someone can provide you with a puppy and a PC, you've got yourself a home. At last, our priorities are straight: Opportunity trumps biology.

Previously, there's been such an effort to keep families together that kids could go for years without a family at all--the emotional equivalent, surely, of clinging to an inner tube on the open sea. Parents' rights were so important that children's rights to life and love and unlimited opportunity were almost completely overlooked. But now, all is changed. Anyone who can prove that they can offer a child a better address and better clothes and better educational opportunities and better vacations has as much right to parent that child as Mom or Dad. Send all them younguns to Beverly Hills and be done with it!

It's good news for international adoption, too. There can certainly be no argument that children stuck in Russian orphanages can have a better life here in the U.S. with adoptive parents who will provide the therapy, education, tender loving care and PokÈmon paraphernalia they so desperately need. Perhaps the INS could just waive all that paperwork. Perhaps social workers doing homestudies could just take a look at how nicely we've fixed up the child's room and stamp "approved." Perhaps we could forgo all the messy meddling with foreign bureaucrats and just smuggle the kids out. It doesn't need to be legal anymore--it's a better life, and that's all that matters.

And how do the kids feel about this? From what we hear, Elian is a happy camper. Any day now he'll be cutting one of those commercials--"Elian, you survived a perilous trip across the ocean, what are you going to do now?" "I'm going to Disney World!" And that's where the situation's going to get sticky. Because, you know, our own kids could get the wrong idea. How long will it be before some homegrown kid announces, "Mom, Dad, it's been nice, but Mr. and Mrs. Smith have a big-screen TV and a new minivan and a faster computer and fewer kids, and I think my opportunities for a good education and a high allowance are much greater there. No hard feelings, but I've got to look out for my interests."

If the Smiths live across the street, he won't even need the inner tube.

Monday, January 10, 2000

Are hugs supposed to hurt?

Ah, the tender affection that passes between parent and child. The warm hugs, the soft cuddles, the butterfly kisses, the caress of a cheek, the touch of a little hand. Or, if you happen to live in our house, the stranglehold of little arms around your neck, the hard pushes, the head butts, the pinching of little fingers, and the biting of little teeth. I'm telling you, in our family, love hurts.

Parenting children with sensory-integration problems  is a perilous business, to be sure. Since kids whose brains are miswired in this way often don't process touch the way the rest of the world does--feeling light touch as threatening, feeling hard touch as pleasurable, feeling pain not at all--their idea of an affectionate pat may feel like a slug in the arm to you and me. Mostly me. Ouch.

And of course, our hugs and snuggles are liable to feel equally disagreeable to them. For a long time after we adopted him at age 2, the closest I could get to hugging my son was squeezing his foot. When he finally consented to sit in my lap, he often ended this cozy time by whipping his head back and bopping me in the nose. (I believe that this has served to realign my sinuses, not for the better.) He enjoyed it when I wrapped him tightly in a blanket and then leaned some of my body weight on him; though he may have felt cuddled, I felt like a pro wrestler.

My daughter has also never been a big fan of hugging; she says it makes her feel trapped. So, in the spirit of "the best defense is a good offense," she hugs hard. Breath-takingly, lung-piercingly, rib-crunchingly hard. A regular backwards Heimlich. Hates cuddling, loves rough-housing. I used to worry, when she was a cute little 5-year-old, that my husband might hurt her when they played hard; now that she's almost 10 and almost 75 pounds, I'm afraid she might hurt him. Maybe she’s the one who should be a pro wrestler. Her favorite game is "I'm stronger than you are," and it involves pushing my hands very hard in an attempt to propel me around the room. I can still beat her. If I start with my back to the wall.

Still, I can't say there hasn't been progress on the affection front. My daughter does now consent to smackdown-free snuggling; only when she's sleepy, but it's a start. And now, at age 6, my son finally loves to let me hold him. Then, when he feels nice and happy and relaxed, he offers me an affectionate gesture in return: usually a solid pinch on the arm, sometimes a puppy-like bite instead.

He means well, but...ouch.

Friday, January 07, 2000

Where have all the mothers gone?

If you read enough about the internet, you'll get a lot of opinions about who's using it. You'll hear about business people using it to start up companies or advertise their services. You'll hear about young people using it to do their homework or download bootleg music or hook up with pedophiles. You'll hear about singles using it to meet strangers for romantic purposes. You'll hear about marrieds using it to meet strangers for romantic purposes. Shoppers use it for shopping and crazed fans use it to follow their favorites and movie buffs use it to gossip and terrorists use it to plot the end of the world. But what you never hear about is what I believe to be the largest single demographic of Web users: Mothers who use it to hide from their kids.

Face it, it's tough for moms to steal leisure time. Sit down on a sofa with a magazine and you're sure to have a child in your lap in less time than it takes to turn a page. Try to watch TV, and you can bet there will be something else on that someone else just has to watch. But sit at the computer...well, hey, you could be doing something important. You could be working. You could be writing a letter to the editor or a letter to the principal, you could be compiling the minutes of a meeting, you could be researching a medical issue. Or you could be doing online crossword puzzles and downloading pictures of Antonio Banderas, but who's to know? That's the beauty of it. A simple, "Honey, I'm working now. Go watch TV." gets the kids out of your hair ever so much more effectively than "Honey, if I don't get some time alone I'm going to scream." It works with spouses, too.

I guess I should be glad that we're such an underappreciated demographic, because publicity would certainly blow our cover. We'd have to develop our reflexes to flip to something serious if anyone enters the room, just like common office workers. We'd have to purge our browsing history after each session, lest prying eyes discover our surfing habits. And we'd have to invent cover stories on a dime: "No, really, I was just checking our prescriptions against the Mayo Clinic's database. I have no idea how those pictures of Antonio Banderas wound up on our hard drive. Interrogate the children!"

Wednesday, January 05, 2000

A kidney for a cause

Philanthropy has taken an interesting new turn in Iran, where you can apparently support your favorite militant cause not with your rials but with your internal organs. A story in the Los Angeles Times reports that more than 500 Iranians have offered to sell a kidney each to increase the price on the head of Salman Rushdie. The Iranian government is no longer officially pursuing the death of the infidel author for the offense of writing The Satanic Verses, but it does pursue the sale of kidneys, overseeing the clinics where down-and-out Iranians can come to have a little surgery and score a little cash. The donating of body parts to benefit a cause seems to be a new wrinkle, and I for one hope PBS doesn't hear about it.

Can't you just hear the pledge drives now? "Join us at fifty dollars, and receive a book. Join as at one hundred dollars, and receive a tote bag. But join us with the very special pledge of a kidney, and we'll send you a crate full of noses, ears, arms, and other assorted appendages from your favorite Muppet friends!" Telemarketers would go crazy, harassing people on the phone until they literally cough up a lung or give an arm and a leg. School fundraisers--well, forget the candy and gift wrap. "We're collecting money to send our band to Europe, and all we need from you is a kidney!" God forbid yours should be the only kid in the class whose parents choose to keep their insides inside. No pizza party, and it's all your fault!

Think it can't happen here? We're certainly accustomed enough to donating blood, and selling bodily fluids and other renewable resources--even womb time--is hardly unheard of. You'd give your kidney or your bone marrow to someone you love; why not to something you believe in? Or at least something you'd like to get off the phone so you can finish your dinner. Just be careful not to tell your kids you'd give your right arm for them; the Girl Scouts may just decide to stop selling cookies.

Monday, January 03, 2000

The big bad bug

Have you heard? When the big bad antibiotic-resistant bug to end all bugs descends on the human race, it will be our fault. That's right -- it's pushy moms who are rendering antibiotics ineffective by ordering doctors to prescribe them against their wills, willy nilly. An article in October's Southern Medical Journal warns: "Pediatricians may believe that parents will be dissatisfied and seek treatment elsewhere if children with colds are not given antibiotics. Pediatricians may thus prescribe antibiotics against conventional medical wisdom simply to appease the parents. Such a tendency to prescribe antibiotics unnecessarily is particularly disturbing in light of the increasing emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria."

Now, I don't know what planet these folks are on, but here on planet Earth -- the planet of three-hour waits in the sick-child waiting room and HMOs that figure it's cheaper if you die -- you're lucky if the doctor speaks to you at all, much less quivers to do your bidding. I've had pediatricians who preferred to wait until the child had been oozing snot for several months before they'd prescribe, and pediatricians who couldn't find anything wrong but insisted on prescribing antibiotics anyway, just in case, but neither decision seemed to have an awful lot to do with me, the parent, that inconvenient extra adult in the room. I'm as proactive as the next mom, and I sure do share my opinion, but I usually just get that look: the one that says, "There's an unpleasant buzzing in this room, and as soon as it stops I can proceed with my work." And so the idea that these doctors are merely slaves to parents' whims is . . . well, laughable comes to mind.

So whose fault is it anyway? I'm always happy to blame HMOs, who have probably calculated that drugs cost less than a doctor's diagnostic time. But then there's this insight from the newsletter of the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics: "Although we would like to believe otherwise, it is often less time-consuming for a physician to write a prescription than it is to engage in a lengthy discussion with parents about the natural history of an infection, diarrhea, or sore throat."
Now that I can believe.