Seattle Mama Doc

Striving For “Polygamy” In The Digital Age

Dr Stephen Ludwig, one of my most treasured mentors from medical school gave a speech last year that he entitled, “Striving For Polygamy.”  I didn’t get to hear it live but I’ve read the speech many times since then. He wasn’t talking about polygamy like you’d expect. Rather, he spoke to the goal of balancing a set of  marriages described by the poet David Whyte in his book, The Three Marriages. The goal for all of us might be balancing 3 essential marriages in our lives: a marriage to our family, a marriage to our work, and a marriage to ourselves. Where social and digital media fit into this “polygamy” remains unknown. That’s where we’re all working hard to find harmony with our devices, as seemingly technology lives in all 3 of these spheres.

Think about it. How often do we take the time to put all three of these marriages on the table? I certainly don’t balance these well all the time. Although I believe in compartmentalization, the act of prioritizing ourselves amidst our deadlines while in the presence of our beautiful children is a challenge. Often when we’re raising young children we fall out of balance–the necessary daily tasks in raising children to adulthood take over while pushing other commitments asunder. When coupled with work, our personal care suffers. This imbalance creates a work-family frenzy for so many of us where we’re left with a dearth of time for personal reflection and much less silence.

In a quest for silence, I’m taking a 1 month sabbatical from the blog. Last August I took a sabbatical away from social tools to create more space and time with my children and more time in search of reflection and quiet. Stillness.

Technology and ever-available networks, communities, work inboxes, and devices have incredible and essential utility in improving our lives and our health. But so does the real, quiet world. I’ll be back in September. In the meantime, I’ll be with my family and friends, my patients, and the ever-elusive silence that surrounds us.

Swim Lessons Before School

New data around the world has found that early swim lessons (between age 1 and 4) may confer added protection against drowning. Maybe a new rule should be swim lessons before the start of school?

Many parents tell me in clinic that they are terrified about their children drowning. If you’re one of those, arm yourself with information: read some of the links (below) and consider signing up for lessons. However, don’t use swim lessons as an excuse to decrease vigilance around the pool or lake or riverside. Young children between age 1 and 4 years of age drown the most. Drowning happens quickly, and sometimes it’s very quiet or even silent.

Information, Myths, Truths, And Opinion About Swimming Lessons And Water Safety

  • Never let an infant or toddler out of arm’s reach when swimming or playing in water. There is good data stemming from an article published in March of 2009 to suggest swimming lessons may prove to be protective against drowning. Drowning is the second most common cause of death from injury in kids less 14 or younger.
  • 6 myths about water safety  Read full post »

Katie Couric’s Biggest Accomplishment

Without question, for nearly all of us, parenthood is the center, the privilege, and the highlight of our lives. Like a glowing pin at the center of a large target in the middle of the night, our children are really our focus points. We often see that very clearly, even with dark glasses.

That’s why it’s not surprising that when Katie Couric interviewed this morning in Seattle at KING5 News, she responded that it was her motherhood she was most proud of:

 

I think I did a pretty good job

She meant raising what she described as her “nice girls with good values.” Her daughter is just 21 years and her younger girl is 16 years old. But out of all of her opportunities in the media, all of her fame and celebrity, all of her fundraising and initiatives in cancer prevention, and her very public life on the news, she is most proud of her motherhood.

I’m not surprised. The complexity of raising children draws upon our instinct, our wisdom, our decision-making, our education, our communities, our families, and our values. Getting our children to adulthood with judgment, respect, vision, and compassion is a enormous task. This job we parents hold demands extraordinary things–and success here is more respectable than any other accomplishment we complete. Parenthood is that important. Parenthood is that precious of a resource.

Katie listed her work to improve cancer screening and raise hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research “dream teams” as her second biggest accomplishment.

After I did my live colonoscopy we saw colon cancer screening go up by 20%

She briefly discussed the role of epigenetics in cancer prevention and the exciting time to improve health. When asked about all of the work that we see–that public work like reigning on the Today Show for years and the CBS evening news–she said: Read full post »

Aurora Shooting: What We Can Do

It’s almost a relief that it’s summer vacation. For the sake of our children, I mean. The buzz about the horrific, deadening, jaw-dropping news regarding the massacre in Colorado may be slightly less focused at the center of their lives–they’re not congregating in the hall or at recess. Well, maybe. That’s the difference between 1999 and 2012–back when Columbine happened we all watched as television detailed the horrific events of a school shooting and the radio reported on the lockdown and a mourning community—but our children and teens weren’t on Facebook or Twitter or Youtube then. The stories weren’t quite as accessible–they weren’t in our pockets. Now we’re texting and streaming one video after another.

All this bad news takes its toll on us. It endorses the curiosity we have about tragedy and violence and it can trickle into present repeatedly. At some point, part of how we help our children and teens cope is by facilitating digital breaks. Unplug the phone, log off Facebook, and help your children mourn offline, understand how it may affect their plans, and encourage them to reach out for face-to-face support networks.

I agree with the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry:

 There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ ways to talk with children about such traumatic events.

The 24-news cycle is amped-up, accessible, and ever-present. It fills us with information by the second & minute, not the hour. Our children and teens learn, hear, and spread responses with unparalleled rapidity. Never before did we consume media and news like we do today. Even daily hours of television viewing are increasing. We’ve also piled our digital time on top of it.  This tragedy seeps into our centers.

After a cafe shooting here in Seattle in June and ongoing mass shootings throughout our country, I think we’re profoundly scared. Our culture encourages and enjoys violence in movies and video games. Shootings are glorified and little babies and children bear witness to death (at early ages) via digital & traditional media and advertising. The NRA fights to keep guns accessible. Politicians have attempted (and failed) to censor conversations about gun safety in the pediatrician’s office. Even today, influential leadership avoids discussions about gun control. All this and then we chat, talk, tweet, stream, and absorb violence with a hunger. It’s just so horrifying that sometimes it’s hard not to watch. We follow along in bed, on the bus, in our cars (!), and during our face to face time with loved ones and family. This news is upsetting and torrential. Many of us are left feeling a bit helpless or vulnerable. So are our children.

Now is the time to be assertive with your children. Listen more than you talk. And maybe commit to turn off your phones as much as you can.

7 Tips To Support Your Children After The Aurora Shooting

  • Hearing about events like the massacre in Colorado makes us feel increasingly vulnerable. Read full post »

Fear Of Needles

Vaccine hesitancy comes in all flavors. It’s not always concerns about safety that causes children, teens, and parents to hesitate or even refuse vaccines. Sometimes it’s about pain. Or simply discomfort. Or anxiety. It’s perfectly natural, of course, to have a fear of needles. It’s rare that a child enjoys the pain of an injection (although those kids, even at young ages, are out there).

Sometimes the fear and anxiety of needles really can manifest itself as a sincere phobia. In those cases, the fear is so overwhelming that it changes family decision-making around vaccinations and leaves children unprotected. It can torture parents when they have to scoop their kids up from under the chair. And parents get embarrassed when their child/teen becomes combative with shots. Sometimes they avoid coming back to clinic simply to avoid the conflict. Makes sense in a hectic world.

However recently in clinic I took care of a teen soon after she’d had a terrible experience with Influenza (the “flu”) and it’s changed how I care for my patients. She was an asthmatic, high school student. Because of her asthma, her doctor had recommended a flu shot. Even though doctors recommend flu shots for all children between 6 months of age and 18 years, we work very hard to get high-risk patients protected. Children and teens with asthma are more likely to have a severe pneumonia after contracting Influenza. We worry about children who wheeze and have asthma (even mild asthma) because it can land them in the hospital and/or can cause a life-threatening illness.

Most parents with asthmatic children get flu shots yearly, early in the season. But not all.

When I saw the girl in clinic she was exhausted and stressed, confused and scared. Through the course of her Influenza illness she had missed 2 weeks of school and lost over 15 pounds. She was still coughing a few weeks later. I looked back to the chart note visit prior to her infection where her pediatrician had recommended the flu shot. “She’d declined,” it said.

“Why?” I asked.

Read full post »