Mama Doc Philosophies

All Articles in the Category ‘Mama Doc Philosophies’

On Being Mortal At 40

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 10.13.56 AMI felt very much alive reading Dr. Atul Gawande’s new book, Being Mortal. Not because I have a sense of youthful immortality, but because stuck here in the sandwich generation I’m feeling a bit caught in-between — feeling simultaneously mortal and then very alive. In my mind this has a little bit to do with turning 40, a bit to do with the gift of raising young children, and a whole lot more to do with a year of losing people I love. Over the last 11 months I feel like my soul has aged by a decade as people I’ve loved and held onto have passed away. When dealing with death some hours can feel far more centurion than any others we can remember.

Gawande’s words granted some space to reflect on both my profession and my role as a parent, wife, daughter, sister, relative and friend. There’s a balanced vulnerability woven throughout the book that facilitates our joining into his stories as peers. And although the book begins notably academic, it accelerates into a rich narrative of love, endurance, small failures and singular courage. In its essence, Being Mortal is about one man’s journey loving his family, caring for patients, discovering inadequacies in his profession and interrogating the options afforded us all in living our lives with intention.

As a true “middle-ager,” sitting with these words felt to me a bit like peering over a vast, newly frozen Great Lake. Imagine letting your eyes move from left to right, looking out at the cracks in the ice and swirling snow as you capture the enormity of the expanse and what lies in front of you. But remember that this Great Lake is enormous, as big as the potential space of the lives in front of us. The words in Being Mortal can feel like a nudge. It’s as if while looking out from the shores of that frozen lake you hear someone whisper, “ Why, yes, it’s only been frozen overnight, but please just get up and run across it, Girl.” And you will, never knowing just when you’ll fall in. Read full post »

Malala, Malala, Malala! A Child Wins The Nobel Peace Prize

Photo: Claude Truong-Ngoc/Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Claude Truong-Ngoc/Wikimedia Commons

Malala, Malala, Malala – this is a historic day! A child has just won the Nobel Peace Prize! Our heroine, Malala Yousafzai, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She shares the prize with Kailash Satyarthi. Children and parents everywhere on planet earth have a perfect bedtime story. The youngest ever recipient of the prize goes to a girl born and raised in Pakistan who was denied equal access to her education. I mean, really, whenever you think your child’s potential is bounded or someone in the community minimizes the importance of your child’s ideas or implies that their potential is truncated by their age, limited by their perspective, or premature because of their experience, we have a new story to tell. We have an extraordinary antidote to those who treat children as lesser citizens of the world.

Malala Yousafzai.

Malala, you amaze us and you open up doors for little girls and little boys everywhere. Parents and pediatricians can and will share the news with young children and teens who falter.

First off, don’t let her globe-trotting-book-writing-media-circus attention fool you into thinking she’s an adult. She found out about her Nobel while in class, a place where all the other 17 year-olds in our country get the opportunity to sit…

Malala has leveraged her skills as a brilliant communicator and wed it to the courage of a champion to change the world’s understandings and opportunities. We are all so lucky.

Quick Facts For Your Family About Malala Yousafzai:

  • Malala and her father report that part of her success is based on the reality that her “wings were not clipped.” More from her dad in this popular TEDtalk.
  • Malala is a world leader. Read Amy Davidson’s New Yorker article from earlier today as a reminder of her influence — note Davidson saying, “It is past time to stop seeing Malala as simply the girl who survived, as a symbol. (The Times called her a ‘global emblem.’) She is a girl who leads: who addressed the United Nations on her sixteenth birthday; who amazes Jon Stewart and asks Barack Obama about drones.”  Watch her interview on Jon Stewart for examples of her unflappable courage and determination.

Age-Appropriate Malala Bedtime Stories:

Age 2-5: There once was a little girl loved to go to school. But one day the rules changed where she lived and she was unable to Read full post »

Deliberate Ambiguity

Deliberate ambiguity

I was at Back-To-School night this week at my boys’ school. Heard something I’m still thinking on. One of the teachers talked about how students are introduced to technology in the school house. She detailed how her philosophies helped shape their evolving understanding of, skills with, and opportunities with computers, code, and digital tools. She discussed her opacity with instructions as just one way to help develop grit. She said,

 

 

 

I use deliberate ambiguity. I want to make it a bit of mystery getting from point A to point B…

In ways, this is our job as parents in rearing independent children. Strike through childhood with deliberate ambiguity and provide a sense of mystery each day. With it, we can prime opportunity for our children to discover and stumble upon a sense of mastery. We can vilify technology in our children’s lives or we can facilitate our children’s use of new tools for expression and creativity. But deliberate ambiguity? That’s genius that we can apply in all sorts of places in our children’s lives.

This Will Not Change Pediatrician Resolve

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 3.50.30 PMFlorida politicians will not change pediatrician resolve to advocate for and protect children. There’s no question that a gag order cannot halt a passionate child advocate. I’d call the recent Florida ruling a dull tool taken to a very sharp crowd. Consider this post an open letter to Florida politicians…

I live as far away from Florida as any continental American (you do the math) yet Florida politics this past week affect pediatricians and families everywhere. In my opinion, every parent should tune in and follow this case. Florida just restricted physician free speech and hindered a physician’s ability to help your neighbors, your relatives, and your family create a safe environment for children.

Guns In Your Home? Do you ask about guns at playdate drop-off? Have you seen the Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America online presence (and progress) or follow their feed on Facebook?

Florida may have gotten this wrong thinking that restricting a pediatrician’s words and inquiry about safely storing firearms meant that pediatricians were trying to take away guns. Not so fast.

The Florida Physician Gag-Order Law:

Last Friday The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Florida upheld the “physician gag law” in Florida, a law that violates the First Amendment rights of pediatricians and family doctors and threatens their ability to counsel parents about how to protect children from unintentional injury and death. This started way back in 2011. Then the law was appealed. Now the appeal is overturned. This ping-ponging is just politics but the waste here is distraction from protecting children. In 2011 I explained the gag-order for pediatricians — basically it’s this: Florida says it’s illegal for pediatricians to ask about how families and guardians store firearms in their home even though we know about 4,000 American children die every year from firearm injuries. Read full post »

This Makes It Tougher: LuluLemon’s False Claim

lulu lunch bagSometimes it can feel that a career of crafting prevention messages can be snuffed out in a moment. Every once and a while this work in media/messaging can take my breath away, for all the wrong reasons. Today, I realize my work educating parents and children about sunscreen use, UV radiation, aging, and skin cancer risks may pale in comparison to the potential power of a single quote on the side of a shopping bag. I mean, how can I compete with a company that sold $1.6B of merchandise last year and likely distributes tens to hundreds of thousands of reusable bags around North America everyday? Shopping bags have the luxury to walk around for years and tuck into peoples lives in remarkably intimate ways. Even I use these bags (or used to) to carry my lunch on a daily basis. It wasn’t until yesterday that I realized I’d been carrying my lunch around in a bag that goes, in part, against my entire mission. When I read about recent dermatologist outrage for Lululemon bag quotes I literally turned my head to my kitchen counter (see photo) and there sat my lunch bag on my counter just staring at me. Under the tote’s handle was the devious myth, “Sunscreen absorbed into the skin might be worse for you than sunshine. Get the right amount of sunshine.”

Now, that’s not true. In fact there is no “right” amount of sunshine and absorption concerns for sunscreen haven’t proved more dangerous than sunshine. Also, absorption varies with age and body site, here I review information about why to use physical sunscreens (and sun protective clothing) in infants when possible to reduce any risk from ingredient absorption because of their more immature barrier. That being said, I’d always recommend sunscreen over sun exposure for infants and children. The conversation about getting sunshine is centered around getting enough vitamin D. Although minutes (not hours!) in the sun provides vitamin D, we can safely get vitamin D entirely from the food we eat or a daily supplement (all children are recommended to have at least 400 IU Vita D daily). We don’t need to consume sun. In fact all sun exposure comes with UV radiation that contributes to mole production, aging, and skin cancers– even the most deadly kind, malignant melanoma. Sun protection keeps skin looking beautiful (prevents aging) and prevents skin from discoloration and cellular/immune changes that can lead to cancer.  Sun-protective clothing, seeking shade, and sunscreen are our best bets for beautiful, healthy skin. Read full post »

Women At Work

My husband is often in earshot when people probe, “I don’t know how you do it all with your family and your career.” In asking the question there is doubt, of course, that it’s possible. My husband is never the recipient of the same question regardless of the facts: we both have intense, high-demanding careers in medicine as physician leaders. Reality is, there may be little different in our level of responsibility, time commitments, and our opportunity to improve pediatric health care while there is no difference in our passion and commitment to raising our boys. So the calculus around the questioning doesn’t equate — nobody ever asks him about his balance with work and family.

My grudge with this disparity wavers in intensity. I bring this up now because of Matt Lauer’s controversial conversation with General Motors CEO, Mary Barra. He wondered if she could be a good mom and run GM on national TV. He said,

“You’re a mom, I mentioned, two kids, you said in an interview not long ago that your kids said they’re going to hold you accountable for one job, and that is being a mom,” he said. “Given the pressure at General Motors, can you do both well?”

It’s not only his egregious comment that aggravates, we’ve all gotten used to similar questions for women who work. What sets the interview on fire is his deflection of bias and responsibility. With this episode in the never ending media series on women and work-life balance we learn again that there is quite a bit of:

  1. Ongoing persistent cultural bias against women in leadership roles: we constantly wedge women and their success into the construct of balance with work and home when we rarely project men against the same backdrop.
  2. Ongoing anxiety about this bias coupled with a desire to eradicate it. Culturally, most of us don’t want to think about men and women’s responsibilities in the work place and home differently. We like to mature past our current realities when it comes to equity and sharing responsibilities for child-rearing and work.

Can we acknowledge the ongoing, profound cultural bias against women leaders and control that doesn’t exist in similar ways for men? Read full post »

On hand-holding

handholdingThe boys still eagerly hold my hand when we go out and about. And it’s not just when we cross the street. I find that, my 5 year-old in particular, will just show up alongside me while we’re walking and all of the sudden his hand will be in mine. Divinity. This little hand doesn’t go unnoticed and I suspect although it won’t always come so frequently or so eagerly or so spontaneously, I’ll get to hold my son’s hands throughout my life if I ask. I really do treasure that hand in mine.

There is nothing of more value than this love of family we find as our children grow. Nothing more striking really than the intimacy that can exist between a family totally in love.

When we’re walking hand-in-hand my mind often slips to a stunning obituary I read last summer. In it, Jane Catherine Lotter (who wrote her own obituary) details her life’s achievements, her love for family, her gratitude and wisdom, and her memories. As she’s closing the piece she says, “At any rate, I am at peace. And on that upbeat note, I take my mortal leave of this rollicking, revolving world-this sun, that moon, that walk around Green Lake, that stroll through the Pike Place Market, the memory of a child’s hand in mine.”

There’s wisdom in clarity and it seems to me Jane had it and was generous enough to share it. One distillation of life’s joy being a child’s hand in her own. When you hold onto that hand today perhaps take notice of the extraordinary thing it is to have it curled up inside your own. I mean, wow.

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.

Digitally Savvy Parenthood

As a pediatrician, I encourage families to search online for health advice. Yet how you search and where you click matters. Tips for you and your time with “Dr Google” or “Surgeon Bing.”

The Pew Internet Project’s research finds that over 70% of Internet users in the United States say they have looked online for health information in the last year. Furthermore, most health information seekers (ie freaked out parents searching in the middle of the night) don’t start their health search on their pediatrician’s website. More than ¾ of people in the United States start their health search by typing something into a search engine like Google or Bing. Where you click and what you do next is key.

As a mom, pediatrician, blogger and general online enthusiast, here are a few insights to assist you when looking online for health information for your child or family. We parents are active information seekers on our phones and computer ~ I maintain that this is a GREAT thing! For practicing physicians, there is a tricky balance in believing that the Internet can help save lives. Have You Been In To See Doctor Google? A few ideas to improve trust for us all.

7 Tips For Becoming A Savvy Digital Parent:

Read full post »

Finding Calm And Confidence

Mama Doc Medicine Cover Hi-ResOfficial launch of my book is…… today! Mama Doc Medicine: Finding Calm and Confidence in Child Health, Parenting, and Work-Life Balance. I’m seeing patients in clinic today but certainly am planning on walking over to the bookstore during my lunch break at clinic to see if it’s there. That will be a first…

More than anything, I wrote Mama Doc Medicine to connect parents and families with science and story (see video below). Although in some regards this book was designed to be the perfect baby shower gift, it has information on parenting children at any age, work-life-balance, and tips for raising your children with great social emotional skills.  There is information about sunscreen on babies, fostering generosity, fighting cavities, Tina Fey, risks for SIDS, Measles in America, taking digital breaks from your cell phone, and chicken pox.

In addition to about 100 magazine length sections (perfect for reading while nursing or sitting in the bleachers waiting for practice to finish), there are tweets, infographics, bar graphs (bouncy house injuries!) and boxes with custom links to research, awesome parenting videos, and online resources I go to.

If you’re wondering just when and why the soft spot closes or exactly how much crying is normal for a one month-old, or are looking for simple ways to increase your family’s health (hint: go outside) this is for you. The book is available in bookstores everywhere today and of course, online. Kindle version is also available!

Book Reading And Appearances

similarities

The book has offered up a flurry of opportunity to talk about health and prevention, vaccine science, and my journey as a digital and public physician. In addition to a number of Seattle and Chicago appearances,  I’ll be on The Today Show on March 13th and interviewing with Katie Couric (and taking audience questions) on Katie in April. Would love to know you’re watching while I’m there…

I’ll be presenting and doing a book signing this weekend in Chicago at the American Academy of Pediatric Expo — the first ever Healthy Children educational event designed for parents and children. Only $8 to attend (kids are free). I’m doing a talk with 10 things families should know and a book signing at 12pm (first 300 books are free and we can connect in real life!).

Next couple book readings are near Seattle: University Book Store (March 20) and Third Place Books (April 9th) and Village Books (April 26th) Read full post »