We were doing some grocery shopping at our neighborhood Winn-Dixie when I saw them. There, on a plant shelf beside some typical greenery, stood the most gorgeous flower I had ever seen.

I picked one up and studied the tag. They were variegated orchids - indigo blue. The tag also told a tale about how delicate they were and how much care it would take to keep one healthy.

I admit that I do not have a green thumb. I have killed a few plants in my time. My husband is much better at caring for plants than I am - perhaps because he was a country boy growing up. I, on the other hand, lived on the main street of town.

But, I had a mother who had a green thumb. The talent just skipped me. But, I digress.

I desperately wanted one of the blue orchids, but $30 seemed like too high a price to pay for something that could shrivel up and die within days at my hands. I asked Jim, "Will you take care of it if we buy it?" He retorted, "Your plant, your job."

So, we walked past the orchids and didn't put one in our cart. (Where it probably would have been crushed by another grocery item anyway). I think the reason I fell in love with the blue orchids is that I have been collecting indigo blue glass for 40 years. The color is my favorite, and the blue glass collection decorates our Florida room here and the indoor porch in Pawleys Island.

When the sun hits the blue glass, the shimmering reflections make the whole room look like a fairyland. But, I digress again.

The blue orchids reminded me of a column I wrote years ago - about the "rare orchid syndrome." Some parents are afflicted with that disease.

How can you tell when a parent has the rare orchid syndrome? Basically, you watch that parent treat their child as if the child was a rare orchid - deserving special treatment.

"Now, Dr. Smith," I can hear you saying, "Children are unique, rare, and precious human beings. Doesn't each child deserve special treatment?"

Of course. Each child deserves a special life. But, he also needs to be taught that - even though he is a prince at home - out in the real world he is just like the rest of us.

Parents can get caught up in providing absolutely everything and anything that their child could want. Just like orchids need tender care, special dirt, organized watering, limited amounts of filtered sun, soil that contains manure, and correct temperature, so do these "rare orchid children" need similar handling.

I recall one parent who came in my office when I was the elementary school principal. She wanted permission to bring a microwave oven to school to be available in her child's lunchroom. Apparently, her little princess did not like the school lunches and Mom didn't want her to eat a cold sandwich every day.

I said "No" to that request and told the Mom to train her first grade daughter to get used to cafeteria food or enjoy a home-made lunch - just like the other 500 kids in the school. She left my office with a sour face, but I'm sure that her daughter learned to eat cafeteria food.

Rare orchid children expect to be the best, need attention constantly, want to be first all the time, and have the newest and most expensive clothing, toys, and technology. They can't understand why the teacher won't call on them every time they raise their hands, and they won't play nicely at recess unless they can decide what game will be played.

These children seldom suffer from a lack of self-esteem, nor do they understand why others don't like them. They expect that everyone should treat them the way their parents do - like the prince or princess they are at home.

I pity the parents who are raising a "rare orchid" child. Their lives must be frustrating and full of resentment. They can't imagine why the teacher, principal, coach, or anyone else doesn't make their son or daughter the center of the universe.

The most obvious similarity between raising an indigo blue orchid and a "rare orchid" child is that both take a lot of manure.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM [1] OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.