All Articles in the Category ‘Parenting’

Earth Day: My Mom’s Great Lesson

purple skyMy parents were never hippies but when I detail what they’ve done with their lives most people eventually inquire if they were. This isn’t a post about how my family’s deep respect for the planet made me an awesome environmental steward. It’s Earth Day and I’m here to say I haven’t done enough. I feel I fail nearly every day in regards to my role in conserving renewable resources but I certainly didn’t lack great modeling. In fact, I’d suggest I work hard to do things on a daily basis that protect the planet and I do think I am above average in my efforts (here in Lake Wobegon) but I do know I can still do more. I’m fairly certain the actions of my mom are the primary reason I think about the earth when I do. Perhaps this is a nod to parents everywhere.

This is a post about choices, the extreme power of example, and the opportunity we all have to help our children protect planet Earth. Just this past week a lovely article, Raising Moral Children, begged us to remember that our actions scream out loudly during our children’s time growing up. Detailing research about generosity, responsibility, shame, guilt, and opportunity Professor Adam Grant reminds, “Children learn generosity not by listening to what their role models say, but by observing what they do.”

One thing I know for certain: I like being outside more than anywhere else. And I know this is because of how I lived as a child.

One thing every parent can do today for Earth Day is go outside and play with their children. Learning to love the planet will harness an inpatient need to protect it.

Be in a place with no ceiling today for as long as you  can.

My parents have spent the last 20+ years developing and sustaining a business committed to conservation, environmental sustainability, and purpose. Although it’s taken quite a bit away from them personally, it has gifted the world with a profound example: what we do with our time on earth really can change it.

But it may be what my mom did long before she made it to the tropical rainforest that causes me pause nearly every day. It happens anywhere — I think about reusing a bag, refolding a piece of tin foil, turning off the car while it idles in line. She never would buy a juice box (all because of the packaging) and it’s hard for me to do so now.

The reality and impetus for this post is that I remember not a single lecture (as a child) about sustainability, recycling, renewable resources, and “saving the rainforest.” But I really do remember all of this: Read full post »

Go, Dad, Go! Daniel Murphy’s Accidental Heroism

Not that I want these guys to get much more attention, but this is worthy of a mention and possibly a view (see video below). I mean it isn’t every day that we’re teed up to talk about fatherhood. Motherhood, sure, we’re constantly fed information about the elusive “balance” we all seek, but fatherhood and the incredible gifts/mentorship men bring to children’s lives, that seems only to be a sexy topic when it has to do with a sports star [read: I'm guilty of the bait here]. Or it’s Father’s Day.

Enter a new hero.

Earlier this week Daniel Murphy became an accidental hero for child and maternal health. His actions speak far louder than any words (or the words of others). His heroism and moment in time for children’s health is all thanks to these jokers on the radio. Now we get to make note of the incredible decisions parents make every day.

The story is this: a man with a career (he happens to play baseball) took time to support his family. He was at his partner’s side during the birth of his child and stayed there to bear witness, provide support, and be a father. He used time provided to him by his employer (that happens to be federally protected) for paternity leave.

But because Murphy is a real deal professional athlete with an opening season game to be played and because people like to talk on the radio there are numerous reminders for parents everywhere thanks to this story:

  • Paternity leave is a federally protected right. In California, Washington, and New Jersey, there are even laws for paid paternity leave.
  • Elective C-sections for convenience increase health risks to mom and baby. C-section deliveries require major surgery for mom and can put infants at risk for respiratory problems. A 2013 statement from ACOG (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) outlines the scientifically-backed opinion against these elective surgeries. The suggestion from the radio host is rubbish.
  • Paid parental leave is an area where Americans just don’t do so well; the below example a quirky reminder. Protected parental leave is clearly a place the US pales on the world’s stage (see this infographic on global parental leave).
  • Dads everywhere provide everyday, exceptional value for their children, Murphy’s decision is just one example. Parenting is hard work. The national focus on parenting centers on the work of mothers while fathers play roles of equal impact. All parents, of course, have vital roles in shaping earnest opportunity and health for children. Let it be clear that Murphy says it best, ”that’s the awesome part about being blessed, about being a parent, is you get that choice. My wife and I discussed it, and we felt the best thing for our family was for me to try to stay.”

Something In The Air: It’s Measles

Something is in the air right now. There’s a strange mix of vaccine-preventable illness sweeping the country (measles) and a strange bump in media coverage for celebrities and vocal opponents to tested and recommended vaccine schedules. Part of me thought we might be done with that but pageviews, clicks, and views all sell.

My hope is the coincidence of coverage and outbreaks is just that, a coincidence. But as a mom, pediatrician, author and media reporter, the view from here is unsettling. We can’t prove that mishandled media coverage is changing the way we immunize our children (or at least I haven’t seen the data) and how parents protect them, but there are moments like this it feels it’s possible that trust is simply being eroded with this 24-hour online/TV/print news cycle. Parents might be vulnerable to bad medicine when gowned as good business. A couple of examples:

Two weeks ago Kristin Cavallari (a wife to an NFL player and reality TV star) went on Fox News to discuss her career (and parenting) and ended up discussing her theories on a group of vaccine refusers and autism. Perhaps talking about medical theories is a really good model for accelerating a career? Next up was Huffington Post where she dropped the bomb, “’I’ve read too many books’ to vaccinate my child.” I suspect she’s yet to read mine. Particularly chapter number 57 entitled Measles In America. Read full post »

A Rocket And Planet Earth

rocket for pocket There are moments that take our breath away. I’ve said before that it tends to be the things we don’t think of that takes our breath away while parenting. Warning: this post will sound as if it’s written by somebody’s mom.

With the two boys I have so many of those moments, the ones so luscious that when they happen I can hardly breathe and certainly don’t see straight. When these wondrous, unexpected child utterances occur, it can feel a little like the earth stops rotating for a just a beat.

Two things recently to report. One happened this morning around 8am. I’ve written about preschool drop-offs previously. After getting over the tantrums and the wretched separation anxiety the drop-offs have really blossomed. It’s now a luxury to get to drop our 5 year-old off at school. O is really excited to be there and saying goodbye while watching him trot off and fold into his circle of friends is settling to me. Today though, he dropped a delicious bomb. We got to his cubby and he sorted through a few things. Then reached up and handed me a little piece of paper just as he was running off.

Mommy, a rocket for your pocket.

He’s a funny little guy and I’ve held onto that piece of paper (ahem, rocket) all day.

And then a moment on being a grown-up. We do this all the time, act our age… Recently we were talking with our 7 year-old about visiting grandparents and travel, the future and where he will live. One set of his grandparents lives in California and so as he was chatting about travel my husband asked,

Where do you think you’re going to live when you grow up, California or Washington?

To which our wise, old-souled 7 year-old replied,

Oh Daddy, there’s a whole planet to explore.

We really can be shortsighted while parenting these brilliant, funny, lovely people who walk around masquerading as the children in the room. We can think dreams to be contained and we can make the bad assumption that school drop-off is routine. All the while our children remind us the world is without margin and a whole lot sweeter and so much funnier than we ever imagined it could be.

Smartphones At Dinner: A Wake-Up Call

lego iPhoneA new observational study illuminates some ugly truths about parental/caregiver use of cell phones and smartphones at the dinner table. More than anything else, the observations serve up a hearty reminder that cell phones are embedded into our lives (see my son’s “Lego iPhone” as case in point) and that we have to be diligent in making digital breaks a habit. As phones and devices get more useful, they become harder and harder from which to separate.

Reading the new study I felt a little queasy for two reasons.

ONE: there are moments I fail my children in this regard. I think you’re fooling yourself if you don’t think you are (if you own a cell phone, smartphone, tablet, or computer). I would suspect most parents who read the study see a bit of themselves in there. I certainly remember (vividly) the day that my then 3 year-old son wanted my attention while I was working on my phone. He must have asked and gotten no response. He then literally put his head between my cell phone and my face to get my attention. Talk about a wake-up call…

TWO: I really hate to read about children becoming either helpless and/or giving up on trying for their parents’ attention (this was observed in the study). I also hated reading about children who kept vying for their parents attention and then get shot down and yelled at for interrupting. Just so unfair to children during dinner. Parenting really is different now. We weren’t raised by parents with these distractions. The implications on our children’s (and our own) health are just starting to to come into focus.

We’re all vying for a sane balance with our digital devices. The study detailed below offers up some uncomfortable observations and fuel to make changes now:

Read full post »

New Recommendations Parents Should Know

New 2014 recommendations are out for improving our prevention efforts for children. Parents can help ensure children get what they deserve at check ups. The updates to recommendations for wellness check-up are written to guide physicians but parents are a key voice in ensuring it all happens!

Updated 2014 Recommendations For Check-Ups

Some relevant changes to prevention/screening for children:

  • Infants: All infants need a pulse oximetry screen at or after 1 day of life to screen for heart defects. The test is non-invasive (just requires a technician, nurse, or doctor put an oxygen probe on their arms and legs). More information on the test here. Ideal time for testing is between 24 and 48 hours of life. If your baby is born at home or outside the hospital, go in to see pediatrician for the screen on day 1 or 2! Toddlers should be screened for iron deficiency risk at 15 and 30 months of age.
  • Children: All children should be screened for depression every single year starting at age 11 years. Don’t ever shy away from discussions about mood with your pediatrician. In addition, all children are recommended to have cholesterol screening at age 9-11. I reviewed ways to prevent heart disease and cholesterol screening policy statement here.
  • Teens: All teens need an annual check-up (a complete check-up will provide some time alone with doctor and nurse; mom or dad will be asked to leave for at least part of the visit). All teens need HIV screening test at age 16-18 (or sooner) and girls get their first pap smear at age 21.

5 Things Parents Need To Know About Check-Ups

  1. Read full post »

The Moment Is Now

Today my heart is stuck in my typical quarterly crisis about how I’m spending time on earth. Each goodbye with the boys leaves me a bit emptied. I planned to write about kids’ check-ups and health insurance today, which I will do– but tomorrow, because my heart is here:

It’s becoming more obvious to me that the current work-life-balance crisis I’m swirled up in (or smashed into) was triggered by the recent deaths of 2 people I loved, a delicious movie about connection and time, the juxtaposition in watching Jimmy Fallen express love for his Winnie just a minute before Will Smith mentioned everyone’s art could be used to enhance lives, and a voice in me that’s getting louder and louder. I’m hearing the echoes of this voice in almost everything I do right now. Yes I desperately want to work to improve children’s health. Yes I desperately want to witness my life. The gist of the echoes are urging me to consider how I carve out time for mindfulness and unhurried time with the boys. Over the last 24 hours I also read two articles, “Recline! How ‘Leaning In’ is Killing Us” and “Clinging to Each Other, We Survived the Storm” and I knew I could sit quietly no longer. (pssst, read those articles) Read full post »

Want A Copy Of Mama Doc Medicine?

Mama Doc Medicine Cover Hi-ResMama Doc Medicine shipped from online retailers over the weekend. It’s been such an exciting time to hear from colleagues and friends all over the US reading the book. Much of the book content stems from writing I’ve shared here and I remain so thankful for all those who continue to help me learn how to translate science and health information.

Like every blogger on planet earth, I’m so thankful for comments on the blog. I learn a ton from parents, pediatricians, and all you experts here. Conversation can be exceptionally fruitful. As a tiny token of appreciation for the comments (you can also read about my appreciation in the Acknowledgment section of the book) I’m giving away 20 copies of the book to loyal followers and commenters. I’ll sign and endorse the book for you or for whomever you’d like!

2 Ways To Get A Signed Copy Of Mama Doc Medicine:

  1. If you’re a loyal follower and/or specifically a loyal commenter (Viki, you know who you are) please leave a comment below. WordPress (the service that hosts the blog) knows how many comments you’ve left previously (it tracks commenters by the email address you use when leaving a comment). However if you’re a loyal reader who doesn’t leave comments, will you please leave a comment below so I know you’ve been here reading? For 10 who respond/comment here, we’ll send copies to you as a thanks! Leave a comment below (perhaps including a post you’d like me to write). I’ll email you back for details to send you a book if you’re one of the frequent commenters or prove/insist you’re a very loyal reader :-) You have 1 week (until March 4th) to leave a comment. Please do!
  2. 10 copies of the book will also be gifted through GoodReads giveaway (just click on the link, register on Good Reads, and enter). Ten winners will be randomly selected by GoodReads as winners. You have until March 4th to enter the GoodReads giveaway as well.

Many thanks for all of your support. Really hope you enjoy the book and find the links, infographics and stories helpful!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Mama Doc Medicine by Wendy Sue Swanson

Mama Doc Medicine

by Wendy Sue Swanson

Giveaway ends March 04, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win


Caffeine Intake High For Children But Shifting

CoffeeI was up helping my son for the majority of the night. He’s got a stomach bug (which he got from his brother) therefore I was up dealing with the enormous mess that comes with vomiting in the middle of the night. I know you know my woe. This is the second round of this bug at our house so I was clearly exhausted when 6 am rolled around.

First thing I reached for was my cup of coffee. Pretty typical for a working mom just trying to get by. As I write about caffeine, from my perch in this dear coffee town, I’m in no way suggesting we parents should ditch the latte! In fact the health benefits of moderate coffee intake during adulthood continue to unfold amidst ongoing small concerns. The pendulum seems to swing back and forth on the health benefits lurking in coffee. Moderation, like always, is key.

Yet when it comes to children, we may be more lax about caffeine intake than ideal. Caffeine consumption is pretty high in the US with more than 70% of children having caffeine on a daily basis. New research out today evaluating trends in caffeine intake from 1999 to 2010 illuminates the shifts in our children’s consumption. The researchers summed it up best here:

Mean caffeine intake has not increased among children and adolescents in recent years. However, coffee and energy drinks represent a greater proportion of caffeine intake as soda intake has declined, and generally have higher concentrations and amounts of caffeine than soda.

Read full post »

A Detour From The Kid’s Menu

Wikimedia Creative Commons

Last weekend while heading home from a weekend medical conference in Canada we exited off the interstate to drive through the Skagit Valley on the country roads. The skies were clear and the valley stunning. The land is so spacious in the valley, stuck between the mountains and the sea, it inspires a feeling of brimmed, fertile opportunity. The moment we exited the highway the drive home immediately felt more of an adventure.

Unsurprising to any parent who drives with children in the car, as I ate up the scenery the boys got hungry. We pulled off the road to grab a late, impromptu lunch. For once we weren’t in a hurry so spontaneity governed as we honed in on a spot where we could sit down and eat while looking over the Puget Sound. The plan was nearly thwarted–as we opened the door to the tiny restaurant just off Chuckanut Drive I immediately saw a sign declaring they didn’t serve children under age 9. Instead of being outraged by the ageism, I asked if we could have lunch. The boys were tucked under my arm. They’re 5 and 7 and clearly look nothing like a near 10 year-old. The restaurant was nearly empty as it was close to 2pm. The waitress smiled.

Turns out we looked like better business than no business and we were seated in the back corner. Read full post »