Taking Care of Your Child: A Parent's Guide to Medical Care. By Dr. Robert H. Pantell, Dr. James F. Fries and Dr. Donald M. Vickery. Addison-Wesley. $12.95.
The authors of this parents' guide to medical care open with a provocative statement: "You can do more for your child's health than your doctor can." Perhaps.
As recently as 15 years ago, Dr. Benjamin Spock, grandmother and obstetrician, wielded ultimate authority. Issues of colic and chicken pox were topics between neighbors at the playground. Raising your child was less complex and more instinctual.
But things are much more complicated now. For what was once a normal, natural process, parents now reach for a high-tech instruction manual. Like the plastic card at the automated bank teller, it works (sometimes), but it is not for everyone.
The purpose of this manual is to help parents "manage the common problems of childhood" and "make better decisions about when to see a medical professional."
This book provides detailed information about becoming pregnant, childbirth, growth and development, what to expect from a doctor and even what to do when the child is having problems in school. Reasonably secure parents will find some of these guidelines helpful for looking up specifics, like information on immunizations.
First-time parents, however, may have their anxiety ignited by statements such as: "The hospital can be an excellent place for your child to be born, or it can create problems."
An attempt has been made to calm emotions by including statements from parents about their feelings. One mother says: "In having children and raising children, nobody is likely to experience something that hasn't happened to someone else." Profound if uttered by one's mother, but this and other quotes are cliche'd when disembodied.
The informative sections are solid. For example: Chicken pox rash first "appears as flat red splotches which progress to pimples and blisters which crust." These signs, if accompanied by convulsions and severe letheragy, need a doctor's attention now, the book advises.
But the narratives are weak. The information is not conveyed with the emphathetic, fatherly style and humor of Spock, who advised mothers not to have a sandwich in the baby's room with the light on during the 2 a.m. feeding.