When the doctor was in the middle of the ticklish job of lancing an infection for me the other day, the phone rang. While I enjoyed a brief respite from "now this will hurt a little" he talked, or rather listened, to some proud mamma. I heard him say "yes" and "no" a dozen or so times, whenever it seemed possible to get a word in edgewise. But she was persistent, and rambled on indefinitely about her diagnosis of little Jimmy's failure to "burp", or something. Everything comes to an end sometime, however, and eventually--bang went the doctor's receiver. Now this man has pretty good control of himself, but I'll swear he jabbed me at least two inches deeper after that telephonic soliloquy, than he did before. In self defense I asked him if the lady got the advice she needed. He grunted a reply which implied that if he gave it he would loose a good customer. He also observed that very few people who call him on the phone ever think to ask if he is engaged with another patient. As I think of this incident in retrospect it occurs to me that doctors have been very successful in building up a barrier to their holy of holies by means of the waiting room. They still reign supreme to the impatient, you're nexters in the anti-room. But the telephone has knocked this barrier to smithereens for those who merely want to talk about their troubles. And the lack of consideration displayed by otherwise polite people under these circumstances is understandable, though exasperating. Under the emotional stress of trouble the best of us become selfish, because pain is so consumingly personal, demanding exclusive attention. It requires unusual poise to rise above the call of pain, especially a new one, and see things in normal proportions. Incidentally, the lady who interrupted my butchering job would be shocked to learn that her chronic enjoyment of pain has distorted her possibly charming personality.
A lot has been said and written about the "problems" of adolescence. I do not have any pet theories on how to bring up a child; but nobody can escape speculating on how others do it. There are a few self-evident facts which occur to me, which no doubt you will immediately brand as my pet theories. Nevertheless, and not-withstanding. A child in the teens is undergoing a transition from blind dependence to exaggerated individuality. In fact, the process probably starts at five, and increases until twenty-five with startling and unexpected crescendos. Sophistication is the result of attempting to make their individuality felt in the face of disconcerting innocence. The result is, they make painful social mistakes, and treat loving parents like barbarians, for no other reason than their sensitiveness having been touched. And the short-memoried parents have often become heartbroken--not to say indignant. Now the main burden of such problems is shouldered by the parents. Which is fortunate, for that is where the burden belongs. Tarkington once said "A child is a little surprised by most anything, but not much surprised by anything." In other words, a painful scene is quickly dismissed by a child as soon as the next diversion comes along. But the adult retains its full effect until understanding comes to the rescue. That is, if and when it does. An adult is a privileged character from the child's point of view; and when a youngster displays a lack of respect for his elders he is merely trying to achieve what he imagines to be these priveleges. Such outbursts are merely growing pains; they are normal; and are not related to ungratefulness. Nine times out of ten, if the child is well, they are caused by the parents' failure to recognize budding manhood or womanhood--they do not let that baby try to grow up. Parents can save themselves a lot of grief if they learn to discern between the purely protective needs of a child and his or her individualistic traits. The latter should always be met on an adult to adult basis, regardless of triviality; for herein lies the making of manhood or womanhood; And be sure of one thing: if you don't, somebody else will.
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