Waiting rooms are the first circle of parenting hell (yes, the one known as limbo).
If you’re looking for a reason not to have kids, here’s one: You’ll spend an inordinate number of hours over the next 16 years sitting in waiting rooms with them. More offspring equals more hours and more years.
I’m writing this as I sit in a pediatric dentist’s office. I’ve been here for two hours already with my two kids. There’s a woman here with four kids. She’s most likely going to be here until midnight.
To start with, waiting rooms are typically bleak — even when they’re “kid-friendly.” They always smell like disinfectant. That’s good, because you want the nasty contagious stuff that other kids are spewing into the waiting room to be destroyed. I’ve always wondered why doctors’ offices don’t have some kind of disinfectant spray subtly misted into their waiting rooms every few minutes. As if we’re all sitting on the produce shelf at the grocery store.
Let’s break these rooms of hell down further. First, there are the doctors’ waiting rooms. If your kids are anything like mine, by the time they’re 5 years old, you’ll count their pediatrician and Ear, Nose and Throat doc among your closest friends.
And you’ll count the front-desk receptionists among your enemies. Not that they aren’t great people — they’re just great people with the vile job of gatekeeper. Front desk receptionists clearly should be paid handsomely for having to deal with sleep-deprived scared moms with crying, feverish babies on their hips. Or, as just happened in the waiting room I’m sitting in, with a pissed-off dad cussing out his teenager on the phone for not being on time.
Front-desk receptionists are the folks who have to deal with the angry parents who’ve been trying to keep their toddlers from creating mayhem while they wait for the nurse to call them back. Or the parents like me, who think that their time is important, too, and have no problem letting everyone else know it.
Also, in doctors’ waiting rooms, sick people, who are hacking germs into the air around your already ill kid, surround you. Plus, kids are kids, so they’ve got their hands everywhere and in everything, and even though it smells like disinfectant, you know some flesh-eating bacteria got away and is just waiting for your kid to unearth it and then pick his nose with it.
Then, there are the dentists’ offices. At a certain age, as a parent, you’re no longer allowed into the back room with your kid. Which is kind of nice, particularly when the dentist has your son in a headlock while the boy tries to kick the hygienist.
While it’s great not to see other people putting sharp instruments into your kid’s mouth (my mantra: they’re trained professionals), it’s not much fun to have to stay in the waiting room with everyone else’s unhappy and annoying kids, especially when all the People Magazines have been ripped up.
That said I’d happily spend a couple hours in the dentist’s waiting room as opposed to the ones at the surgery center or the ER. Knowing your kids are under the knife, and you can’t bust through those surgery doors to check on them, may be some of the most difficult hours many of us parents survive. Those hours do tend to take a little chunk out of our hearts, even if the kid emerges completely OK.
And the waiting rooms just keep coming. I’ve been sitting in ‘em for almost 13 years, and I reckon I’ve got a good many more hours and years to endure. Orthodontist? Been there. Will be there for years. Dermatologist? I’ve had skin cancer, so that’s a requirement for my kids. Speech therapist? Yup. Various other specialists, including a neurologist, developmental pediatrician and endodontist? Yes, yes and yes.
Of course, by the time my kids can drive themselves to their appointments, it’ll be about time for me to start sitting in waiting rooms without them as I start on the downhill slide past middle-age. Yes, I’ll be by myself, and I won’t have to referee arguments or answer the question, “When can we go?” anymore. Which, despite all my complaining, makes me teary.