My Whac-A-Mole Life: Obsession Safety Checklist   

Obsession Safety Checklist

When I say my child is obsessed with doctors, dentists and medical procedures, you probably think I'm overstating it. Perhaps you were the mom glaring at me in Target when I screamed at my daughter: "No, I will not take you to the doctor today!" If so, I refer you to this post: All Kids Do That: Obsessions from the fabulous "All Kids Do That" series over at Yeah. Good Times. (Update: the Expo obsession finally did run its course. However, healthcare appears to be a keeper.)

Got it? Now, obsessions tend to overtake every activity. Somehow, everything comes back to the obsession one way or another. (Isn't that kind of what makes it an obsession?)

So, therapeutic and behavioral interventions aside, here's a look at some safety steps one should take to protect a child, a family, and a budget from little obsessive junkies seeking a fix. For discussion purposes, we observe my 8-year-old daughter's inexplicable and precocious interest in all things medical....with an even sharper focus on dentistry.
Steve Martin as Dr. Orin Scrivello - Watch this clip!

  • Lock phone. She will navigate to my contacts and call the dentist's office. She can't talk, so not much will happen, but it just doesn't seem like a good idea.
  • Block YouTube. She probably can't spell monkey, but she correctly keys in phlebotomy (could you?). And you don't even want to know about the "related" videos that are recommended when one searches for "tooth surgery." Redirect to cutesy tooth fairy cartoons, perhaps? Don't insult her.
  • Set iPad restrictions. Wow, there are lots of  bad apps out there. And they can be expensive.  She says, "Free Free" and hands me the iPad to type in my pass code for the purchase. Not so fast, little girl, but nice try. Critically important: Don't forget to turn off in-app purchases lest you inadvertently are the proud new owner of a pair of extra cartoon pliers to yank out cartoon dog teeth. (Pulling teeth out is a specialty of hers when playing Virtual Dentist.)
  • Purge photo stream. The multitudes of doctor/dental practice logos she enjoys looking at on the Internet are harmless, but...graphic, diagnostic stills of various stages of dental disease? A kid would be better off watching The Walking Dead.
  • Purchase more toner. Those logos I mentioned above? She loves those. Also fun: printing and copying. She likes to print the logos "big" and make 10 copies. (Why 10? Why not.) That's a lot of toner right there, my friend, but NOBODY wants to run out of toner. If you run out of toner, you can expect a tantrum from any number of family members. Including yourself.
  • Lament the under-representation of age-appropriate books exploring what happens DURING medical procedures. We've stumped many a librarian...even those within the actual children's hospital.
  • Trust your instincts. So, after weeks of her whining, complaining and tugging at her teeth, you cave and schedule an emergency appointment. How bad would you feel if she really was in pain? I mean, she is largely nonverbal, and she's been unrelentingly typing, approximating and signing "dentist," "pull teeth," and "hurt." Perhaps a visit to the dentist will quell the obsession beast, at the very least. You think to yourself, I doubt there's anything wrong, but what if...? Sucker! (While there, confirm that the tooth she keeps wiggling is indeed a baby tooth and not a permanent one.)
  • Hide keys: Alas, no dentist appointment today...but why should that stop us from trying to go anyway?
  • Scout out new locations and routes in advance: if there is a dentist's office nearby, proceed with caution. You know what looks awesome?     



 is next door, you will spend your entire allotted hour trying to reason about why jumping is preferable to drilling. Well, to be clear, YOU'RE trying to reason; she's screaming.
  • Avoid anyone with bandages, scabs, bruises, etc. She is overly curious and not afraid to explore hands-on.
  • Master the art of waving. My best parenting moment? "No, sweetie, we can't go inside the children's hospital today, but we can wave at it." Since then, all trips out of the house involve passing and waving at some sort of medical establishment. I can't even explain this properly as it's so very weird. Just trust me when I tell you that as a meltdown avoidance technique, it's negotiation gold.
  • Supervise On-Demand picks. Like many kids, she knows her way around a remote control. She searches for "teeth." Sure there's a tolerable episode of Bubble Guppies called A Tooth on the Looth! and you might even shamelessly pay the $1.99 to purchase it for 24 minutes(!) of peace. But that's not quite what she had in mind. Unfortunately for her, I conclude that watching Corbin Bernsen's fine work The Dentist could scar ME for life.
I know what you want to say, because I hear it all the time: "So maybe she'll be a doctor." I cringe... because we both know that, sadly, she won't. Still, if she somehow does become a healthcare professional (never say never), I imagine her mentor would be Dr. Orin Scrivello, So, thanks for your encouragement. I might even arrange for you to be her first patient. Good luck.
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