“I thought you said we could play doctor?” five-year-old Philip pouted and stuck out his lip. He and his playmate Natalie, the five-and-a-half year old from next door, usually just colored or made mud pies in the backyard, but ever since his older brother told him about this fun game called “Doctor” he had been desperate to try it. Getting some of the general details of the game from his brother, something about trading clothes or touching elbows, Philip couldn’t really remember, all he knew was it sounded weird- which meant it was eleven kinds of fun.
Jutting out his lip even further, Philip gave Natalie his angriest face- just to make sure she knew she wasn’t playing right. Placing her hands on her hips and tilting her head just like she had seen her mother do when she was talking to father, Natalie replied in her tiny voice, “You said you wanted to play doctor and that’s what I was doing. I can’t help it if you were playing it wrong. Now if you still want to play, let’s go sit at the table.”
Too confused to protest, Philip followed Natalie to the plastic picnic bench and they sat down across from each other. Natalie shuffled some of the drawings she had been working on and in a business-like tone said, “Ok, so where were we. Oh yes. We were discussing your OPP. Now, if you go with this plan, we are talking an 80/20 split, which is pretty standard. Philip, are you paying attention?”
Philip put down the stick he had found and shook his head no, “What’s an OPP?”
“Glad you asked. OPP is short for Out of-Pocket Payment, you know how much you pay or something… like from your piggy bank,” Natalie said matter-of-factly.
“I have a bear, not a piggy… it’s a bear bank,” Philip announced with pride- after all, piggys were for girls and babies.
Not seeming to hear this last statement, Natalie went back to shuffling her pictures and continued, “We will also need to discuss your deductible and what you can afford to pay per visit. And then there is the decision about starting an HSA. Isn’t playing doctor fun!” Natalie squealed and clapped her hands in genuine delight.
Philip was confused… again. His brother hadn’t mentioned anything about piggy banks or a bunch of letters that didn’t mean anything. As far as he could tell, playing “doctor” was the most boring game he had ever heard of. Remembering his half-built Lego fortress in his room, Philip decided he had had enough of this dumb game. “I’m outta here. Playing doctor is stupid,” and with that he sprinted inside the house.
“But we haven’t even gotten to the prescription coverage!” Natalie hollered after him. The screen door slammed shut, Philip was long gone. She couldn’t understand it; he had said he wanted to play doctor, so why did he run away from her? Gathering her pictures, Natalie made her way home. Walking into the kitchen, Natalie shuffled to where her mother was sitting at the table looking through the day’s mail. “Men!” Natalie huffed, in perfect mimicry of her mother after a tiff with her father. Looking up, Paula managed to muffle a laugh- she really should be more careful with her outbursts when Natalie was in earshot.
“What’s the matter, honey? You and Philip have a fight?” Paula asked as she got up to pour her daughter a glass of water.
“He didn’t like the game that he wanted to play! He said it was stupid and then just ran away,” Natalie said, staring blankly at her picture of a praying mantis, colored pink.
“Well what were you playing?” Paula placed the glass in front of Natalie and sat back down at the table.
“He wanted to play doctor. So I started playing… just like daddy taught me, only Philip didn’t like it. He said I was playing wrong but he was the one playing wrong!” Natalie said, fire in her five-and-a-half-year-old eyes.
“What’s going on in here?” Natalie’s dad, Frank walked in and giving Paula a kiss turned his attention to his obviously upset daughter.
“Natalie was just telling me how Philip wanted to play doctor and that he didn’t like the way Natalie played the game,” Paula said to her husband, a knowing gleam in her eye. His eyes widening a little, Frank set his face in a serious fashion and, with a composure he was thrilled to somehow maintain, turned to his little girl.
“Sounds like Philip doesn’t know the rules to me. Maybe tomorrow he can come over and I’ll bring him up to speed, what do you think Natalie?” he managed to say with a straight face. Natalie seemed appeased by this display of parental support and giving her daddy a hug skipped back to her room.
Waiting until they were sure she was in her room, Paula looked at Frank and they both exploded in laughter. Wiping the tears from his eyes, Frank said, “See honey, I knew teaching Natalie how to ‘play doctor’ would work! Not only is she gaining invaluable information to use in adulthood but she’s keeping that pervy neighbor kid from getting fresh and doesn’t even realize it!”
Still laughing, Paula was a little stunned that after all these years; her nerdy health insurance salesman of a husband could still surprise her. His little trick with teaching their five-year-old how to ‘play doctor’ was nothing, if not a stroke of genius. “So Einstein, what’s next? Teaching her that “spinning the bottle” is just a fashionable way to recycle?”
Cocking his head to the side in exaggerated contemplation, Frank responded after a moment, “You know Paula, that’s not a bad idea!”
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: Man, on days like today, I really wish I was a five-year-old. But alas… Anywho, it’s open enrollment for health insurance for all state employees this week! Happy, happy, joy, joy! All of this PPO and HMO and HSA and CPV and OPP, soooo over my head. I don’t know what health insurance to pick- I have no clue. All I know is I pay out the ying-yang every paycheck for something I don’t use. Yeah, yeah I know, one day I’ll need it and I’ll be glad to be one of the lucky ones to have it, but man could they make it any more complicated? How bout this, I’ll just plan on not getting sick, mkay? Thankfully, I happen to know someone in the biz… so I put in a call to my connection today. After about an hour’s worth of conversation and stupid questions asked by yours truly, I think I may finally have an idea of what to do (thanks Pops!). The whole thing somehow spiraled into a story about protective parents arming their daughter with knowledge that served as a kind of insurance in-and-of-itself. You can see the connection, right?
Love & Squirrels.