All Articles tagged ‘parenting’

When Did You Last Have 48 Hours Alone?

FullSizeRender (4)This past weekend I had 48 hours alone. I mean really, f-o-r-t-y-e-i-g-h-t hours with no commitments. No one expecting me home, zero rushing, zero obligations, and no racing home. I did things I haven’t done, well, ever. I went to a movie alone, woke up and read a magazine cover-to-cover, went for a couple runs, sat on a hill at the sculpture museum for just shy of 2 hours without my phone in my hand. I spent time just letting my mind wander. This wasn’t the kind of alone time I experience when I’m traveling for work. This was real, true alone time at home.

Although it’s rare that the stars align, and it’s a challenge to make sure our families and our children are being cared for and in good spots without us, I can’t endorse enough finding time to just be alone.

Because my boys and husband were off camping this past weekend I went out to dinner entirely by myself with absolutely no end time. I read a book. I slept 9 hours straight for 2 nights in a row. At one point I seriously did NOTHING for a couple of hours. I didn’t accomplish anything I could check off a to-do list. It was perfect.

Opting out may be essential for thriving, creativity, and refueling. This may be one skill we’re regularly forgetting to model and teach our children.

I mean earnestly, when is the last time you had a couple of days entirely alone? For me I realized it was way back in medical school….some 12 or 15 years ago.

Part of my unscheduled time during the 2 days my family was away was prompted by listening to this 15-minute podcast: The Case For Boredom

Maybe we really can prioritize white space for ourselves and our kids

What kind of time-alone parent are you? I mean I get it that things have to be in good balance in life for this to make sense, no one can be ill or hurting in a big way. But I wonder if we can do this more. Will you take the poll — are you better at this than me? If so, just HOW do you pull it off?

Yes, Little Boy, You Belong

piano 2This morning I got up early to work so I could carve out an hour for something special before I took the boys to camp for the day. You know the drill if you work outside your home: I powered through emails as the sun came up, responded to some other requests in the inboxes, packed bags for camp with lunches, reminded kids to wear shoes (!), applied sunscreen and we hauled out the door. By 8:00am we’d arrived at the park with donuts and I’d arranged for my mom to meet us in time. I really wanted my 8 year-old to have the opportunity to behold this kind of day from the top with music. A magical little program, Pianos In The Park, made it possible to spin a daydream into reality. There are pianos beautifully planted in parks around Seattle and I knew playing a duet with Grandma would be something special for me to see.

I don’t think my son has any idea that playing a duet with his grandmother, on a cloudless, shimmering new day, in front of Mount Rainer alongside Lake Washington is anything all that special. I really don’t think he knows it’s unusual, which ultimately is a privilege. And as we make experiences for our families we’ll never know what sticks. For me this one will. As his regular day unfolds today I’ve shelved the memory of this morning into longterm storage.

Thing is, we all work so hard to perfect how we execute parenthood. And we all beat ourselves up at times along the way. Often we may not feel good enough. In parenting, the blend of worry, thrill anxiety, guilt, joy, intrigue, and the pure unconditionality of this all generates something very high-stakes. We sometimes don’t even feel the seemingly herculean strikes (piano in the park before camp) are ever enough entrenched with all the demands stemming from work, from our heart and from our hopes. And while I loved the space carved out today for my family and the memory we spun, the minute I dropped them off at camp I started to feel a little behind. Just late to getting to the inboxes again and maybe 10 minutes frame-shifted to the left. Thing is, I mess up all the time with the boys just like every other parent in the universe. We all spend times fretting about competing demands and how we falter; we all worry. I heard an interview on NPR yesterday afternoon where a soon-to-be dad said he just doesn’t worry about anything anymore to which the host wisely responded something like, “Get back to me after you have your baby!” We do just want to raise steady children and the potency of our dreams is immense.

This ubiquitous worry is why an article I stumbled upon yesterday (read: my mom sent it to me) provided such profound relief: The Gift of The Good Enough Mother. When I shared it on Facebook last night it was crystal clear it resonated with nearly everyone else, too. In it, Dr. Naumburg writes, Read full post »

Love Wins For Children

Orange denotes states where same-sex marriage is legal.

Orange denotes states where same-sex marriage is legal.

While I was out of the country last week there was remarkable progress when it comes to public health and the opportunity for children. It was wild to be so far away seeing the news unfold. First it was The Supreme Court Of The United States (SCOTUS) voting to allow subsidies for the Affordable Care Act (facilitating the federal government to provide nationwide tax subsidies to support poor and middle-class people when they buy health insurance). Then just a day later SCOTUS voted 5-4 in majority to make gay marriage legal in all 50 states. With the highest court in the land stating clearly that from here forward, “marriage is a right” we realize it changes the game. These laws are about dignity and rights and care but this is squarely also about families. As a mom and pediatrician this feels MOMENTOUS. Read full post »

Working With Babies Of Any Age

Illustration about what it feels like to go back to work by David Rosenman

Leaving anyone we love is fraught with duplicity. While we feel the tug of distance, we have the fortuitous lens to see two things at once: the treasure of the bond forged and the aching feeling of distance when it’s gone. This binocular into our lives inspires joy but it also occasionally does bear weight. I’ve often said that leaving my babies (now children, but let’s be honest they’re always my babies) and going to work feels a little like walking around without a limb or without a necessary body part. Without them around something essential is glaringly absent. At times thinking on them is wildly distracting, especially right at first.

Up there, look at that graph. Haven’t you had days like this?

The fortune in raising and loving children is that we’re continually reminded of these dual realities. Life after a baby is forever transformed; as parents we are never again simply singular. Or at least as I see it, we’re not entirely whole again when alone. When we meet our babies big real estate in the heart is rapidly taken up by our children and although wandering, working, traveling away, and seeking new experiences is essential to our personal evolution, we do always seem to notice the absence of our babies when we’re apart. I’m coming to know this is true at any age. Read full post »

Living Into Middle Age

6-1 LunaMaybe forty is middle-age, for me it’s certainly been in the-middle-of-something. I turn 41 later this week and I must admit, my year being 40 felt slightly more rigorous than the ones that came before it. Perhaps just circumstance, but my year was peppered with rare opportunity, great loss, brilliant connection, and perspective-building change. The change and loss has been arduous in ways, each lesson feeling like just another onion layer of innocence peeled away. Hard work to love and to lose. Hard work to try and to fail.

Yet nothing about me wants to be younger.

I’m thankful for the perspectives I’m gaining and the experiences I’m acquiring — even the brutal ones. I also know my experiences aren’t nearly as “brutal” as many. But somehow I feel even more ready to parent my little boys after losing beloved people, saying goodbye to a pet, and enduring challenges unexpected. Finding patience for change and learning more about living, where we have very little control, certainly is quite a gift.

This past weekend we lost Luna, our 13 year-old puppy doggy, which has me thinking again about Mary Oliver’s reminder of this “one wild and precious life” we’re given. Our puppy had a long life but there’s no question saying goodbye and living into the absence of her abundant enthusiasm aches. Her early and steady devotion to me and to our boys was mind-blowing. The lessons she facilitated were somewhat profound, even as I said good-bye to her. I wished I’d done things a little differently; wished I’d rejoiced and sent her off in her very final moment soaring. All I could do was bury my face in her ears. Thankfully pets are tirelessly generous, letting us fail with very little consequence. Messing up with the dog at times certainly improved the strategies I have in juggling all the responsibilities with children and work and loss now moving forward. I’m so grateful. Read full post »

Power Of A Google Search: Community

5-22 Addison

2-year-old Addison Hyatt survived a  pediatric stroke at birth. (Image courtesy: Kaysee Hyatt)

One Google search can sometimes change everything.

After learning something new about our child’s health or condition, especially for worried parents and caregivers, leveraging online search as a resource in diagnosis, clarification and education is typical behavior. Searching out support, camaraderie and tips online just makes sense. In fact, 2013 data from the Pew Research Center finds that 1 in 3 Americans goes online to search for information and support in finding a diagnosis. If you’re a woman, college-educated, or younger (under age 49) the likelihood of searching online increases and approaches 50%. Not only are we searching for health info and connection online, we’re doing it more so with mobile devices. Pew data from April 2015 finds that 64% of Americans have a smartphone and that 6 in 10 are searching for health info on a mobile device.

That smartphone in your pocket can connect you to information yes, but also to others like you. Read full post »

What About You? The Value Of Sleep

The minute we become parents we immediately start to hone in on the value of our children’s sleep. Their growth, their feeding, their development and their sometimes labile temperament quickly illustrate the import of real rest in our lives. Many parents advertise their commitment to their child’s sleep as a huge parenting win. Those of us who struggle with it, we often admit defeat. It’s clear, pretty early in infancy, that sleep transforms who we are, how we think and how we live from day one. Our babies are savvy professors in this regard.

Modern parenting conversations are teasing out the value of child sleep versus the value of adult sleep in multiple ways. In some cases, it’s the tug-o-war and battle-of-minds while discussing data and beliefs around when to let a baby cry-it-out. Working parents often report on their inability to sleep in the early working/baby years. In the U.S. we constantly revere those who don’t sleep a lot  — productivity seems to trump wellness in the hierarchy: there are politicians, profressional athletes and successful business people who brag about their capacity and earnest commitment to their craft via the lens of accomplishing greatness on minimum sleep. All this, despite the mounds of research that find health and performance benefit from a good night’s rest. Read full post »

Mindfulness In A High Stakes Job

4-17 mexicoWe’re just back this week from a vacation with our children. The 6 days we had together, the variant pace at which we were able to live for the week, and the challenges that bubbled up offered some reminders but also some fears for me. We’re always on quicksand while raising children. Parenting demands exceptional grace but also exquisite flexibility and immediate rapid-fire insight. Our job descriptions, as parents, are ever-evolving; we’re asked to shift what we know as we step from stone to stone and into something new as quickly as our children do. The minute we feel we’ve figured something out — whammo — a new challenge arises we never even thought to consider.

The stakes are high. Of anything that unites us all as parents it’s knowing that truth. Along the way we will fail, fail, fail and have wondrous little successes too, thank goodness. Yet the tasks involved in raising a child will never look just like they did last month. I loved a This American Life (#553) segment I listened to this past week where a mom discussed some of the complexities in the requisite shifts she faced raising a principled little 7 year-old boy named Elias who is vegetarian and very emotional about animal-eaters. He finds himself living amid a family who explores an occasional pepperoni pizza and turkey sandwich. As his parents upend the way they eat at home (they end up banning all meat at home because of their son’s feelings) narrator Ira Glass states,

“If you’re hearing all this and you are feeling judgey about these parents and I know you are, because that is a national pastime — judging other people’s parenting – I just want to say I totally felt that way until I heard Elias….just like she says. Hearing Elias made me realize ‘oh, right, she actually is in a really tough situation. Where she has these two kids and those both have really strong feelings about this and she doesn’t want to crush either one of them.’”

Judging others’ parenting is often just the malaise of parental insecurity. We all have our own shakiness at times, especially as we’re asked to rise to new heights each new day. It’s of course so easy to judge, and so much harder to elevate and emulate others. In my mind, the best we can do while parenting (failing or succeeding) is tease out others’ profound moments. Learn from them but also copy and try those things out ourselves and see how we can make them work in our own lives. Read full post »

Balance And Bad Parenting, Maybe

3-27 jumpingLast night four Swansons sat in row 6 of a little commuter airplane on the way to visit family, all plugged in. Four people who love each other with four separate devices hardly communicating for the two hours or so that we sped through the air. At first glance it can look like an utter failure — you can hear the criticism ringing in your ears — this family must not be connected, or these working parents, pounding out emails and prepping presentations while their children watch videos and play apps, really must have their priorities off, right? Right.


On that flight I read a beautiful blog post from tenacious pediatric researcher Dr Jenny Radesky that questions the new world in which children are being reared. The one where their parents are plugged-in, distracted, perhaps less attentive and less available while raising infants and young toddlers. It’s the same world today, where preteen digital natives may be connecting more by text than by talking. She cites data that found, “if you take away preteens’ mobile devices and make them hang out with their peers in the country for one week, they get better at reading other people’s facial expressions.” Perhaps these children and teens are swapping thumb skills for interpersonal ones. Radesky is the researcher behind the observations out last year evaluating parents’ use of mobile phones at dinner that alarmingly demonstrated children’s near need to act out to get their parents’ attention.  Are our parent-child connections forever changed because of the profound brilliance that digital devices have in capturing our attention? Radesky brings up the zone of proximal development (I’d not previously heard of it) and its profound value. She says,

In order to effectively teach children how to regulate their behavior, we need to interact with them in what psychologist Lev Vygotsky termed the child’s “Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).”  This means  knowing their cognitive and emotional sweet spots: what they can do on their own, what they can’t do, and what they can do and learn with an adult’s help.  You can’t fit the puzzle pieces in yet?  Let me guide your hand a little bit until you figure it out by yourself. You can’t calm down when you’re frustrated yet. Let me help you identify what emotion you’re feeling and then show you some options for calming your body down. And I’ll slowly take my support away until you can do this skill on your own.

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Vaccines, Profanity, And Professionalism

Screenshot 2015-02-01 12.30.40You’ve likely seen the Jimmy Kimmel “public service announcement” on vaccines. Over 3 1/2 million people have viewed it on Youtube so if you’re not yet one of them you’ll likely add to the tally now. The first 3 minutes of the monologue are spot-on and they’re also very funny. Jimmy takes a stand against the “anti-vaxxers.” He mentions that some parents are more scared of “gluten than small pox” and references the reality that some schools in this country have 20% of students opted out of some vaccines. His monologue is followed by a series of pediatricians voicing profane frustration. Most people think the video is hilarious and many of us fired up about vaccines feel a rush when the safety and trust we have in vaccines gets the spotlight like it does here. Jimmy’s script is brilliantly written and his execution is direct.

Thing is, I didn’t like the video. I was left feeling somewhat uncomfortable and embarrassed for my profession. Immediately I wanted to explain that even though many of us are frustrated with where we are on vaccine hesitancy, we really aren’t interested in offending. We will always work to partner with parents –we won’t mock, swear, or intimidate you. Our goal is to support, protect, and cure children whenever we can and our privileged responsibility is to listen to parental fear and connect families with resources that soothe. This really is why we went to medical school.

It’s exciting when celebrities voice-up and stand to talk about vaccine issues that reflect science. It’s especially exciting when they include practicing physicians. Counseling families who are hesitant or flat-out refuse vaccines is a part of the job for every pediatrician. A study published in the journal Pediatrics this week found 93% of pediatricians had reported they’d been asked by parents to skip or delay vaccines in the last month. The current measles outbreak has changed the tone of these conversations for many of us; I’ve written about my new stance because I’m enraged pockets of measles can even occur in 2015. That being said, even though I really do like to swear like these pediatricians when I’m out of public earshot, I’m unsure the tactic of this PSA will do any good for those parents who hesitate to immunize their children according to the tested and safe schedule.

It seems to me that if parenting is governed by love, pediatrics is governed by respect for that love and for the integrity of children individually.

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