In the 1960s, in the Soviet Union, my father wanted to be a doctor. But, he was Jewish, so he was told he couldn’t be one – because he wore glasses. By a Russian doctor. Who was wearing glasses.
So, instead of becoming a medical doctor, and in spite of the infamous “Jewish Problems” designed to keep ethnically undesirable students out of Soviet Universities, he got a PhD in Bio-Chemistry.
And just doctored on the side – as a hobby.
He did it in the Soviet Union. He did it upon immigrating to America. He did it to his children. And now he does it to his three grandchildren.
He did it before he’d ever heard of the American Academy of Pediatrics, or the American Medical Association, or magazines where experts advise nervous parents about what they should and should not do. And he does it now in spite of them.
Below are some comparisons of the prevailing pediatric medical wisdom (PPMW), and what my Soviet Immigrant Father (SIF) tells me to do with my kids (over the phone, over e-mail, over IM, over Skype)….
PPMW: Do not pour fluid into a child’s ear in cases of ache or infection. The eardrum may be perforated.
SIF: Heat up some oil. Pour it in. Plug up with cotton ball. Put on a hat. And bedroom slippers.
PPMW: Stay out of the sun, reapply sunscreen every two hours, wear specially treated, anti-UV Ray clothing. In case of sunburn, apply cold compresses and a topical pain reliever.
SIF: Children need Vitamin D. The sun is good for you. If your skin is peeling, that means it’s healthy. In case of sunburn, apply raw scrambled eggs directly to the skin, it’ll suck the heat right out.
PPMW: For a sore throat, give your child either hot tea with honey, or cold ice pops.
SIF: Vodka. (Not to drink!) Soak a rag in alcohol. Ensconce it in a plastic bag to prevent leakage. Wrap around child’s throat. Duct tape it in place nice and stiff so they can’t move their necks. Send them off with an order to get a good night’s rest. And put on a hat. And bedroom slippers.
PPMW: Turn down the water heater thermostat in your home so that your children don’t accidentally scald themselves in the bathtub.
SIF: Do I hear sniffles? Immediately boil some water in a tea kettle. Get a metal bucket. Fill it with hot water. Dunk child’s legs in hot water. Keep adding boiling water from the kettle in regular intervals until skin turn bright, bright red. Put on thick, woolen socks. And bedroom slippers.
PPMW: Common colds should be dealt with by bed-rest, saline drops, fluids, and no over the counter medication for kids younger than 4… or 6… or 12 (depending on who you ask). And get a flu shot.
SIF: Colds (and the flu) should be dealt with by rummaging up a dozen miniature glass jars, sticking a lit flame into each one in order to create a vacuum, then pressing it onto the sick person’s back in order to increase circulation and blood flow, and thus encourage healing. Explaining the subsequent, perfectly round, brown bruises to their teacher and principal will only aid in said child developing their burgeoning English language skills.
PPMW: Mustard is a condiment.
SIF: Mix dry mustard and water, apply directly to coughing child’s chest with only a thin layer of cloth over the skin, and piece of plastic to keep in moisture. Every time child complains it’s getting too hot, take a peek under the cloth and announce, “No, not red enough yet.” Wait until child is really complaining, then count slowly to one hundred and remove. Cover with bulky sweater. And wear bedroom slippers.
Please don’t report us to the authorities. He means well.
And I can produce photos of all three kids holding today’s newspaper to prove they’re still alive…