Nothing on earth is more important than family. I want my family to be happy, happy, happy all of the time! Therefore, I avoid them whenever possible. 

Just kidding. The fact that my family spreads from Texas to California to Ohio actually creates a buffer that allows me to spend quality time on the phone or Facetime with each and every one of them. I always make sure that I tell each of them something meaningful. 

More often than not, I say this: “Here’s your mother.” 

That always cheers them up. 

It Isn’t Chair Time, It’s Quality Time
But as lovely as family may be, family also may cause our most palpable distress. 

Nowhere is this more true than in the office. Young optometrists, please listen. Do not believe for one minute that your family will be your first and best patients. Oh, they’ll probably come to you for eye care and eyewear. After all, the price is right, right? But, they will not lead to a profitable practice. That’s not their problem. It is yours and yours alone. 

I’ve been in practice for 35 years. That means my family includes people I would have never met if it wasn’t for the office. I love them. They (mostly) love or at least kindly tolerate me. It’s a family.

Sure, we squabble. I fuss at them for saying asinine things like, “My insurance won’t let me come for an exam this year.” Folks, you can have your eyes examined any damn time you want. Suppose your insurance only pays every other year; that just means you get 50% off EVERY YEAR—but only if you show up every year. 

And they ask, “Are your glasses cheap?” Yes, my glasses are free! But your glasses, purchased right here, will NEVER be CHEAP. Inexpensive? I can do that. Worth it? I can do that, too. Cheap? No. 

“Can you tell Mom she can’t drive any more?” How would I know? She never drove me anywhere. But I can tell you whether she does or does not meet the legal visual requirement for driving in the state of West Virginia. So, tell you what… If you’ll call my Mom and tell her she can’t drive, I will call yours. Deal? 

When You’re Here, You’re Family
It’s just family stuff—things we all face as sons and daughters and spouses and parents and grandparents. Now, for me, I still think spanking can be a good teaching tool. However, my glaucoma patients who swear they take their meds every day but they’re still on the same sample bottle I gave them last summer may disagree, smack me back, or, more likely, prosecute. 

A jury of my OD peers would never convict me. 

But if you don’t believe in spanking, how about a “time out”? Next time your patient’s cell phone goes off during the exam, try stepping out of the room for a while. An hour or so should do it. 

Also, the next time a long-lost cousin comes up at the family barbecue and asks you about his eyes, just smile and “remind him” that you’re a dentist. And don’t forget to tell him you moved your office to Canada.

Treat the patients like family, that’s all I’m saying. That means listen to them. Teach them and learn from them. Respect them. And, when you need to, send them outside to cut their own switch.