By Mordechai Schmutter

I have to say, I do not envy pediatricians. Sure, they become pediatricians so they can work with kids all day, pinch their cheeks for medical purposes, say things like, “Wow! Look how much you’ve grown!” and then measure how much they’ve grown. But really what they end up with are the sick, cranky kids, which are not exactly the cutest type of kid. They get well visits, but those are the kids they have to stick with a needle.

No one likes being stuck with a needle. Sure, it’s for your own good. The doctor is going to stick you with this needle, definitely, so that you won’t get the flu, maybe, although after he does it, you’re going to exhibit flu-like symptoms.

Hello, I’m not a doctor. To me, there’s no difference between flu and flu-like symptoms. Except that one comes with a needle.

But that’s not even the doctor’s biggest issue. I have a friend who’s an anesthesiologist. When I asked him why he didn’t become a pediatrician, he answered, “nervous mothers.” Pediatricians get every nervous first-time mother calling them at all hours of the night to ask about a serious medical situation that has developed, such as that their kid is snoring.

“Wow, thanks. So was I, until you called.”

And you can’t really blame them. First-time parents are handed this tiny delicate being and told that their one job is to keep it alive. Then they’re told, “If you have any concerns, call this guy.”

“Well, why can’t this guy just move in with us?”

An anesthesiologist, meanwhile, has no middle-of-the-night emergencies, and if a patient bothers him too much, he can adjust the dosages.

I’m not saying all mothers are nervous mothers. For example, when my seven-year-old son, Daniel, came down with a cold this week, my wife didn’t call the doctor until the third day. But she had to go to work that day, so I had to be the one to take him.

I’m not complaining. I mean, I complained then. I was like, “I’m busy! I have all this stuff to do!” Plus I wasn’t getting as much work done with the extra kid home, plus, ever since she’d made the appointment, he’d suddenly been acting better.

The truth is, he’s been home for two days already. He goes to a school with thousands of kids, and you have to figure that at any given point, at least a hundred of them are sick. So the idea is that if he develops something, we keep him home and let whatever he has run its course, and maybe get everyone in the house sick while we’re at it.

For example, my two-year-old son, Gedalyah, is absolutely thrilled with this development. He cannot believe that his brother is home all day to keep him company. All day long he’s going over and hugging Daniel.

“Stop hugging your brother!” I yell.

And he looks at me. Like, “What’s your problem now?”

So we want to get Daniel back to school as soon as we can, so that, instead of getting us sick, he can get his friends sick. He doesn’t really have a high temperature, which is the typical reaction that your body has so that your parents know that you’re not faking. But we’re pretty sure he’s not faking, because he’s been sleeping a lot over the past two days, which is very uncharacteristic of him. Usually, you put him to bed and he can stay awake for hours. I think he’s just kind of disappointed that my wife and I don’t have as many parties while the kids are at school as he thought we do. Also, he’s been coughing whenever he’s awake, which makes it very hard for me to work, especially since, every time I hear him cough, it’s followed by my wife yelling, “Cover your mouth!”

We figured it was a cold, especially since, by the second day, it started going away on its own. Then he came in this morning and told us that his stomach hurt. I was pretty sure he just didn’t want to go to school, because he hadn’t been complaining about his stomach the previous couple of days, that I could tell.

My kids have a genuine lack of knowledge as to what makes a person sick in the first place. They don’t know how to be sick, b’H. My kids come over to me some mornings and say, “I don’t want to go to school. I’m not feeling well.”

I don’t know where they pick this up. I think they learn it from the other kids.

So I ask, “What hurts you?”

“My leg.”

“Um… That’s not sick. You probably did something to your leg.”

So the next time they try a different body part: “My foot hurts.”

“Now you’re just getting farther.”

I wasn’t crazy about taking him, but the truth is he’d been in one of those bottleneck sleepers for like two days straight–the kind with the feet–and I couldn’t imagine what was living in there with him. We kept telling him to change, and we thought he did change, because after we told him to do it, we found him sprawled out on his bed in an undershirt. But then the third morning he comes up to me in the same sleeper. And I’m like, “I told you to change! You put the same one back on?” Because he does that with socks after his bath, and we don’t know until he comes over to us the following evening for help with his homework. So he goes, “No, I have two of these sleepers.” Which I’m not sure is true, but my wife wasn’t home to verify that. So at least the appointment got him out of his sleeper.

My wife had to go to work, but she nevertheless found the time, before she left, to arrange the appointment. My wife’s generally pretty good about these things. She arranges all the kids’ appointments, including their well visits. The way she remembers to do those is that she tries to schedule them sometime around the kids’ birthdays.

“Happy birthday! Here’s a shot! Prepare to experience flu-like symptoms!”

But she knows how often I schedule my own annual doctors’ appointments (twice since I’ve met her) so she kind of took control of the kids’ appointments. She even keeps books where she enters everyone’s height and weight, because sometimes she has conversations with the other mommies, and the topic of how much their kids weigh comes up, and she has to be ready to answer at a moment’s notice. I personally use the books before we go to amusement parks, so I can gauge which rides everyone can go on.

Also, she pays more attention to the kids’ symptoms. I was driving Daniel to the doctor, and I was trying to remember what he’d been complaining about, because I knew the doctor would test me. Also, Daniel hadn’t been the only one complaining that week, so it was hard to keep track. My other kids, as soon as they saw that Daniel got to stay home, were also telling me what hurt them.

“Totty, can I stay home? My elbow hurts.”

So I used the time, on the way to the doctor, to ask my son what all of his symptoms had been over the past couple of days, so that our stories would at least match. You know, in case the doctor took us into separate rooms to test our stories.

And it turned out that most of what my son told me I already knew, so our stories did match up. But not with my wife’s story. For example, I thought he’d only complained about his stomach the one time, and my son thought so too. But my wife later told me that he’d been complaining about it, on and off, for a week. So I’m glad she didn’t come along, because she would have blown our cover.

Anyway, stay tuned next week for the rest of this story. It’s not a particularly good story, but I’m making a big production out of it anyway, because, like I said, every time I go to the doctor, it’s a whole big production. v

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of three books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to

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