On the surface, Dr. Justin Puckett, medical director of the Complete Family Medicine clinic in Kirksville, Missouri, is a knowledgeable family physician. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find he is an overreacting parent, just like you and me. When Dr. Puckett received a handwritten note from his daughter’s substitute teacher at Kirksville Primary School, implying that her lunch choices were unhealthy, he flew off the handle at having his health knowledge questioned.
The note written on orange paper posted by Dr. Puckett to Facebook stated, “The cafeteria reported to me that Alia’s lunch today included 4 chocolate bars, a bag of marshmallows, Ritz crackers and a pickle. Please see that she packs a proper lunch tomorrow.”
After reading the note, I am failing to see what the problem is. If I received a note like this from my son’s teacher, I would probably think, “Oh snap, maybe I shouldn’t give my kid marshmallows for lunch, no matter how much he begged me.”
But Dr. Puckett (or Dr. Dad, as I affectionately like to call him) and his wife, Kylene, were not so magnanimous in their response. Like so many other parents who are confronted by their children’s teachers, Dr. Puckett believed the note was all about him. He felt it was an implication that he and his wife were not able to care for their own daughter (by giving her marshmallows whenever they damn well pleased).
As a result, Dr. Dad took a stand by refusing to sign the teacher’s letter. Instead he very maturely wrote, “Request Declined.” Dr. Puckett said he was annoyed by the judgmental tone of the letter, which he believed directly questioned his parenting skills. Oh yeah, and he’s a doctor too, so I can only assume his physician’s feathers were ruffled just a little bit.
Dr. Puckett’s response to ABC 3 was that of a classic “defensive parent.” He said, “Unfortunately the letter didn’t have what she had correctly. She had four pieces of ham, a whole-protein meat. She also had some pickles, which we admittedly cheat on pickles every once in a while as a vegetable, because some fights just aren’t worth having.
“She also had four marshmallows in a Ziploc bag, and then she had three very small pieces of chocolate, of which she ate one for lunch, and then she also gave her brother and another friend one at an after-school program.”
Oh, Dr. Dad, there is no reason to be a lunch apologist. Yes, there were chocolate and marshmallows present. Yes, a teacher is responsible for overseeing all children in a class to make sure they get some nutrition at school, which they may not otherwise get at home.
Dr. Dad may be an excellent parent who understands from a medical perspective when a child should eat a marshmallow, but his response was out of line. Dr. Puckett said he believed the substitute teacher was doing the best she could to keep the kids safe, but his actions told quite another story. You would think that Dr. Puckett, as a doctor, would understand most of all how difficult it is to work in service to families and children.
The school has apologized after Dr. Puckett made a big issue out of nothing. Dr. Dad can now be proud that he wasted the school’s valuable time that could have been spent educating his child.