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Surviving the Waiting Room

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Jan 30, 2015

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I need to get better at Rock, Paper, Scissors, the quick hand game often used in our home to break stalemates.

We had just returned from a lazy Saturday lunch, and I was teetering on the brink of a food-induced coma when the calendar on my phone buzzed. It alerted me to our son’s dentist appointment in a half hour. My husband and I looked at each other questioningly. Which parent would draw the short straw and accompany our son, while the other settled into a leisurely nap?

I picked rock. My husband picked paper. I whined while he fluffed his pillow. It was the third time this week I had lost to him in this game.

After convincing my son to brush his teeth to clean out the remnants of a chocolate dessert, I grudgingly and sleepily accompanied him to the pediatric dentist. I audibly groaned as soon as we entered the waiting room; it was full of kids and parents. I recognized one of the mothers, and we acknowledged each other with tired nods, just as battle-weary soldiers would. I knew her as “mom to the boy with blue-tinted braces.” She probably knew me by a similar moniker.

There was standing room only, so I made my way to the corner of the waiting room with my son. I eyed the short stack of dog-eared magazines that had been lying in that room for the last two years. Even the crosswords in it had been done and re-done. That stack of magazines was in as much need of a refresh as I was.

A child’s high-pitched scream came from inside the dentist’s cabin. Within the waiting room, it had the effect of creating fear on the faces of the waiting kids. Mine slid a little closer to me, and I put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. Through the corner of my eye I saw the Boy With Blue-Tinted Braces moving closer to his mother, too.

This was just another regular Saturday afternoon without activities for kids, and we were the new weekend warrior parents.

With school and work schedules, the only available time to catch up on the children’s vaccinations, health check-ups, dental work, and hair cuts is usually on weekends. And hence, these precious recovery times are often spent in a variety of different waiting rooms.

Pediatricians’ waiting rooms are particularly difficult. If you’re there for a regular check-up or vaccination, you try to avoid sitting near the poor, little, child who is coughing, sneezing, and looking downright miserable. If you’re the anxious parent of that poor, little, sick child, you feel horrible that all the eyes in the waiting room are boring down on your little one, as if she were the plague itself.

Kids who are there for vaccinations have started crying even before the first sight of the needle. Smaller babies are crying because, well, that’s just what they do. Parents look like they want to cry. All in all, the pediatrician’s waiting room is not a place conducive to a weekend rejuvenation.

However, the biggest (only?) advantage of these waiting rooms is the distraction-free time that you get with your child. With limited seating and long lines, I’ve often spent close to an hour with one of my children in my lap. We’ve played with each other’s hair, snoozed, and whispered “I love you” to each other.

And then our reverie has been interrupted by a piercing scream from inside the doctor’s cabin.

Over the years, I’ve befriended the assistant at our pediatrician’s office and have slowly worked on extracting the most valuable piece of information from her: I now know the time slot on the weekend with the least wait time.   That was a huge coup for me—and I’m not sharing that information here!

Not unless you have a foolproof strategy for winning Rock, Paper, Scissors.  In that case, let’s talk.

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Written By Tina Trikha

Tina Trikha is a mother of three school-going children. She has lived and worked in India and abroad, and she now, most importantly, raises her kids in Mumbai.

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