Wednesday, March 26, 2008


This is for my friend S., who is one of my inspirations, as she has a child who needs extra understanding, and she still remains a MeanMommy in every sense of the word.

I remember the first time S. first used the term “evacuation” in my presence. She was describing a scene her child (may have been children) was making in Target, and she said, “I had to perform an evacuation!” I laughed so hard something may have some out of my nose. I told her she was brilliant, and promised her I would always give her credit when I used the term.

I wish more parents would perform evacuations. I have applauded in stores when witnessing one, and have gone so far as to stop the parent, explain that I am a pediatrician, and commend them on their discipline. If a child (especially a smart one) gets a whiff of the fact that you really need to get your errands done, and are not willing to evacuate, they realize (with the childlike glee that is to be expected at their age) they are holding you hostage! They will scream, they will cry, they will wheedle, they will whine. They will wear you down until you give in and get them a cookie/candy bar/toy/soda/game/fill-in-the-blank. You have at once reinforced the notion that they are in charge, and you are right back to square one in terms of your child understanding that YOU are to believed, because you say so.

After a few immediate scoop-and-run evacuations (with AT MOST a second chance to listen to you, but NEVER a third), the shock-and-awe will set in, and they will listen better. You can even threaten, “Do you want an evacuation?” If they have experienced a no-words, no-turning-back, no-negotiations evacuation, complete with appropriate consequences of your choice, they will not want to experience it again.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Drive-by Parenting (WARNING- LONG POST)

In all my years of practice, I have never had a fight with a parent. Never. So I guess I was due.
I’m not the pediatrician for everyone. If you want a doc who’s going to prescribe a ton of antibiotics, I’m not your gal. If you want a doc who’s going to let your kid misbehave in the office and not call you on it, or put your kid in time out, I’m not your gal. If you want to drop your 12-year old off at the office and not come in with them (at least to check them in at the front desk), I’m DEFINITELY not your gal. And that’s what happened the other day.
My assistant told me that my next appointment was here, but her Mom had dropped her off without coming in. I was flabbergasted. She was 12. 12!!! Granted, she had had to grow up quickly because her parents were really dysfunctional- her dad had died recently of what we suspect may have been an overdose of painkillers. Her Mom came in not long after that telling my assistant about her new boyfriend (a friend of her late husband’s), and all the great sex they were having—spilling all of this in front of her children!!! The girls were both morbidly obese (as were both parents), I think a combination of terrible food choices and eating habits modeled at home, and using food as a crutch to smother all their misery.

So I told my assistant to put “Sunny” in a room, but I would not see her until her Mom got back from picking up her other daughter at school. When she arrived about 20 minutes later, I examined the girl and when I was done I pulled Mom into the other exam room and closed the door. I said, “I have to tell you that I am disappointed that you dropped off “Sunny” at the front door without coming to at least check her in.” Mom responded with, “She’s growing up, and she can check herself in just fine.” I said, “She is TWELVE, and our practice’s policy is to not see children without a parent present, unless there is a note or verbal consent given. I think that is not being a responsible parent.” Mom said, “I had to get my other daughter at school!” (raising her voice) and I said, “Then you could have come earlier. I understand you think she is grown up, but she is TWELVE and YOU are her parent.” (not raising my voice, although I am beginning to shake inside a bit)

At this point, Mom starts to lose it, opens the exam room door and spills out into the hall, shouting, “I am a responsible parent! I have never abused my kids!!” Inside, I thought, “Well, that’s debatable…” but I kept my calm and said, “And I will always care about what’s best for my patients.” She responded by yelling, “I never liked you anyway!! I only brought my kids here because my daughters liked you!!!” I said, “Well, that’s really all that matters to me.” At which point she shouted at her daughter, “Sunny, do you want to stay here??!! (Sunny looked at me horrified, and I smiled at her, trying to tell her it was okay, I didn’t blame her for her crazy Mom.) Come on! We’re leaving!!” The girl looked at me helplessly and followed her Mom out.

I was shaking inside, more from pent-up anger at how this Mom was so crazy and her 3 kids were going to be trapped with all her madness until they could escape. I was also so powerfully sad that I had such a horrid example of what their life was. I am sad that I will be losing them as patients, but I am in no way sorry I won’t have to deal with their craziness anymore.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I do not think that word means what you think it means

So much is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty. Art. Well-behaved children.

I've been reading a lot of blogs, and there are many people who post and say, "We'd like to go to restaurant x. We have a well-behaved two-year old, so..." At that point I tune out. There really is no such thing as a well-behaved two-year old, to other patrons who do not have children with them. They can be cute, they can be precious, but they are two and as such should not be expected to be well-behaved. I guess it depends on what your definition of well-behaved is. Do you mean they don't throw screaming fits? Okay, then your child is not ill-behaved, but that doesn't mean they are well-behaved. Do you mean they obey when you tell them no (at least the second or third time)? Okay, maybe.

However, if your definition of well-behaved is a child who sits quietly and isn't disruptive in any way, then that is not possible-- if your child is developmentally normal and healthy. They will throw their food around, because they do not have the best manual dexterity to get said food to their mouths. They will demand attention, because they are two and that is their job. If you are not paying attention to them, they will drop things for you to pick up. If you take things away, they will get mad-- again, they are two, and that is their job! They are in the process of defining the world, and that takes a lot of time and energy.

Parents, understand that your toddler is supposed to be like that, and don't subject other patrons in restaurants or movie theaters to a definition of well-behaved that still impinges on their enjoyment. Get a babysitter, get takeout, or wait before going out to a non-family establishment-- I promise, if you are being a MeanMommy, they will soon be a joy to take out in public.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Escape from Alcatraz-- or alCARtraz

Yesterday I saw a patient of mine whom I've been following since birth- she's now going off to kindergarten. Very smart kid, mom kind of soft. I began my usual discipline discussion with, "How's the minding going?" Mom rolled her eyes and began to chuckle, so I knew what was coming. She recounted a recent story: Last week, they were out running errands, and Angel (not her name, and I use that with full irony) was very sassy in the car. When they got home, Mom said she was getting a car time-out. She could sit in the car for five minutes while Mom went inside the house (I would not have okayed this in the summer, but it was about 30 degrees out, so no risk of hyperthermia). Angel then gave her Mom a rude response, so the time was upped to ten minutes. "Shut up!" bought her an additional five minutes, and something even ruder got her up to twenty. At this time, Mom got out of the car and went inside the house. I was proud of her up to this point. However, Mom then told me that seven minutes later, Angel walks herself into the house. Mom's response? Laughter.

Stunning. Just stunning.

I appreciate the absurdity of what happened (the five year old discovered a way to get herself out of her car seat, out of the car, and into the house, just to spite her Mom), but what message did she give Angel? That disrespect is acceptable. That Angel could treat her mother like that with no recourse. That consequences delivered by Mom have no teeth. That Angel is in control of that relationship. Is that going to lead to a healthy and happy child?

I told Mom that Angel needed to know that Mom was in charge, needed to believe she was safe because Mom was in control and nothing bad would happen to her as long as Mom was looking after her (now, as adults we obviously know that nothing is certain, but a child should absolutely feel 100% certain of their safety with their parents). As long as that was in question, Angel would continue to test the limits of Mom's patience. Once she believed it, once she KNEW it and internalized that, the battles would be fewer and farther between, and Angel would settle down, be less crabby, less clingy, less the anxious child that pushed every button Mom had.

I hope that Angel's Mom can be the MeanMommy that Angel deserves.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Because I said so!

I see it every day. Parents trying to reason with their kids.
"I want some ice cream!"
"If you have ice cream, you'll ruin your dinner."
"No I won't. I promise I'll eat dinner!"
"No you won't."
"Yes, I will!"
"No you won't!"
"Yes I will!!!!!" This escalation is sometimes (... often.... usually) accompanied by screaming, crying, pouting, etc.

It doesn't have to be ice cream. It can even be as mundane as, "I want to go to Amy's house to play."
"Because we have to go to Grandma's house."
"I don't waaaaant to!"
"We have to."
"Noooooo!!!" with the aforementioned crying, kicking, etc.


We did our children a disservice when we took the phrase, "Because I said so!" out of our collective vocabulary. You should not be reasoning with your children, especially when they are below the teenage years. You should not be explaining, cajoling, bribing them to be respectful and listen to you. You are their Mommy- their MeanMommy. That should be enough.

Say there is a reason you don't want them going to Amy's house. You don't like the way Amy's father acts, or you don't agree with their parenting decisions, or they plop their kids in front of the tv and you don't like that. Whatever. It's not your child's business why you make your decisions. You should not be telling your child your reasoning-- there are some things a six year old doesn't need to know.

You are the MeanMommy, and what you say goes. Because you said so. Period.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Welcome to Mean Mommy

This is for all the mommies out there who wish their kids could sleep through the night, or get off the bottle, or eat their veggies, or listen when they say, "No!" or stop hitting/ biting/ pinching/ kicking/ whatever behavior du jour you wish would simply STOP.  This is for all the mommies who wonder why their child laughs when they tell them to climb off the couch but behave like angels for everyone else.  This is for all the mommies (and daddies, but really, it's more a mommy problem) who think they can be their child's friend as well as their parent.  I am here to tell you you can't.  You can only be one or the other, at least as long as your child is a child.  When your child says, "You're a mean mommy!" I want you to smile and say, "Thank you!" and know you're doing your job-- and doing it well.

In these posts and comments, I will share with you what I see every day as a pediatrician.  I will tell you the horror stories and give you the simple truths that will allow you to see that while raising children is the most difficult job in the world, it is really not as complicated as you have been led to believe.  I hope you will share with me your questions and trials, and support one another in the quest for healthy and happy families.