Thursday, June 2, 2016

Lessons in Compassion From My Oldest Son





As a parent, we all struggle with whether or not we are good enough.  I am not certain there is a “right” or wrong way to raise a child.  We strive to raise them perfectly, but each of us has to find our “own” way over time with experience.  Setting children up for success in adulthood should probably be emphasized.  According to a recent article, good self-esteem, self-control, and compassion for others are predictors of future success as an adult.  Who knew?

I have not decided whether having a pediatrician as a mother is beneficial or detrimental.  My father was a pediatrician so I do have some first-hand knowledge of being a physician’s child.  However, he rarely came home and discussed details of his work day.  Sometimes, my children come to work with me and see patients, thanks to my very understanding families. They are being exposed to far more illness, injuries, and immunization administration than I saw as a child and have acquired an interesting skill set. 

My 2 year old can sit on the exam table, hold an infant’s hand, and say it will be “OK baby” while I give them immunizations. The babies cry less that way; it is actually quite remarkable.  My 5 year old is still concerned about a child he saw with a broken arm more than a year ago.  Last winter, my daughter told her preschool teachers she had “eczema” when they asked about a rash on her arms.  They called home asking if she had hives.  I told them it was eczema. They said my daughter had explained that, but “who is going to believe a 3 year old’s diagnosis?”  See what I mean about the unique skill set? 

My oldest, who is 7, started first grade this year and we were informed a child in the class was allergic to peanuts.  The students could bring peanut containing foods in their lunches, but just not at snack time.  We adjusted accordingly and my son had a lot of questions about what happens when a peanut allergic child gets exposed.  We discussed hives, swollen lips, noisy breathing, and other signs of allergic reaction.  I showed him the Epi Pen demonstrator because he was so interested; we discussed when and how to use it.  They are designed to be administered by a child 7 years and older. It seemed appropriate to show him at the time.  He has become close friends with this darling child as the year progressed. 

He got in the car a few weeks ago and said “did you see one of my friends in your office today?”  “Honey, I do not take care of EVERY child in Kitsap County; he has a different doctor.”  He said, “You have to call his mom. He had an allergic reaction at recess, went home early, and might be really sick.”  Tears are forming as he says “we need to make sure he is alright”, as if I am the ONLY one who can help him.  While I do appreciate my son’s faith in my skills as a pediatrician, I actually admire his deeply compassionate nature far more. “Did he need his Epi Pen?” I asked.  “No”, he replied.  So I tried to reassure him his young friend would be fine. 

I am unsure if I am parenting my children correctly or even in the same ballpark as “right”, but that is the larger point.  There is no perfect; there is only ‘making the best decision for my child at the moment.’  We all need to take a deep breath, relax, and trust our own instincts.  When giving advice as the pediatrician, some parents think that they must be doing it all wrong.  There is NO incorrect method, only advice, encouragement, and my best thoughts sent your way.  I always hope the information builds your confidence as a parent and sparks ideas in you. 

Exposing my children to the world of medicine, while a bit unorthodox, has given them some insight into suffering and healing at the same time.  My hope is they develop self-assurance to stand up and face whatever challenges come their way as they mature.  So far, with only 7 years of parenting under my belt, my children seem to have a solid self-esteem base, some self-control (a work in progress), and appear to be developing into truly compassionate human beings.  There is still a lot for me to learn and many years of trials ahead.  Whether or not my children will become successful adults, remains to be seen, but I can tell you it will be my life-long work in progress and it will be sprinkled with compassion along the way.




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