Remembering the Greatest, Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali

I cried and then I smiled. Growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, I followed Cassius Clay, a young promising boxer through a career that took him, as Muhammad Ali, to the title of heavyweight champion of the world. Yet even more impressive than his athleticism in the ring was his conviction and compassion as a human being. Ali was a caring man and a true humanitarian.

As a pediatrician, I had the privilege and honor of providing medical care for one of his children. While his charming wife Lonnie usually brought their son to my office, The Champ would sometimes accompany her.

Ali lit up a room with his presence, wit and charisma, yet it was never about him. Sure he often played to the camera and bantered how “pretty” he was, but when talking with him individually, he focused on the person and made them feel special.


Lessons Learned from the Loss of a Gorilla


In a well publicized story last week, a 3-year old boy climbed a fence and fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo then was dragged out of the water and onto a landing by a western lowland 450-pound silverback male gorilla.

The incident exploded into a full-blown internet controversy when the 17-year old gorilla was shot and killed in order to rescue the child, with seemingly everyone weighing in and assigning blame to the zoo for not creating unscalable fences; the parents for letting their child slip away; and the zookeepers for destroying the animal rather than attempting to distract him. Even Jane Goodall weighed in with a gentle rebuke, suggesting that the gorilla was in an attitude of “protection” rather than the zoo’s description of him being disoriented and unpredictable.

While animal activists protested the slaying of an innocent animal in captivity, any parent will tell you that zoo officials did the absolute correct thing in shooting the massive primate.

Plain and simple, the child’s life was in danger, immediate action was necessary and correctly carried out. It is fortunate the boy only sustained minor injuries from the fall and, as a pediatrician, I hope precautions are now taken about the possible emotional scars or trauma.

I am sure both the zoo and the parents are mortified and deeply regret the incident and the loss of the animal’s life. The alternative, however – gambling the small child’s life – is too horrifying to consider.


Adam LaRoche and the Working Dads’ Blues

Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune

On March 16, Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche announced that he was “stepping away from baseball” and his 13 million dollar contract.

The reason he gave for leaving baseball was wanting to spend more time with his family and son, but the timing was key: he made the announcement after the White Sox team president requested that he not bring his 14-year old son Drake into the clubhouse on a daily basis.

As a father, I applaud Adam LaRoche’s commitment to his family and his son. When he announced his decision to retire via Twitter he used the hashtag #FamilyFirst. It’s obviously admirable to want to deepen his connection with his son.

As a parent, quality time with our kids is paramount to foster communication and forge bonds. When my daughters were younger, I certainly supported Bring Your Daughter to Work Day and my girls came to my office for short visits to witness their Dad in his environment as a pediatrician.


Ignore Your Relatives – Develop Your Own Parenting Personality

A scene from the film August: Osage County

Over the Holidays, I found myself attending quite a few family gatherings and having conversations with relatives I hadn’t seen in forever.

Most of my relatives were curious about my passion for helping parents develop their own Parenting Personalities. A vocal few of them, however, were extremely skeptical and kept asking questions like “When did being a parent turn into “parenting” and what’s the big deal?” My Uncle Hal insisted that his formula for successful “parenting” was making his kids play outside as much as possible so they’d use up all their energy. He also had made sure his wife, my Aunt Edie, gave them castor oil every day. That may help explain why my cousins were a tad weird!

As a father of 33 years and a pediatrician for 40 years, my life has been blessedly full of kids. I reflect a lot on parenting and whether or not it should be a “big deal.”


Remembering David Bowie – As a Parent and a Fan


The news of David Bowie’s death saddened so many of us. He was a true artist: a singer, songwriter, and musician, but also an actor, painter and record producer. His innovative – and constantly changing – impact on pop culture was enormous, from his androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust, to the Thin White Duke, to a producer who influenced the nature of rock music that followed him.

David Bowie opened a path for many doubting adolescents that gave them permission to feel good about themselves and that non-judgmental approach and openness to being an individual is something I have tried to share my own children.


Singing The Working Mom Blues to Some Very Special Ladies


I was very pleased to be able to spend some time with a truly inspirational organization last week. On September 19 I went to Houston to give a talk to Houston chapter of Dress For Success’ Professional Woman’s Group. Dress for Success does great work and I was struck by how organized, focused, and compassionate everyone was.

The women in the Professional Woman’s Group were truly inspirational. They came from all walks of life, including women from abusive situations and recovering from addictions and personal setbacks.


Tis the Season…. for Separation Anxiety


Tis the season. No, I don’t mean THAT one, although Labor Day has just passed and we seem to amp up our “ho-ho-ho’s” earlier and earlier each year.

It’s Back To School Season… much to the chagrin of kids everywhere, and even many parents who find themselves dealing with separation anxiety, especially with the wee ones heading off to Kindergarten for the first time.

Most Moms and Dads feel that twinge of worry and doubt as they see their 5 year old climb on a school bus or walk through the school doors. It’s often the first time a parent is away from their child and the first time they have to fend for themselves in the real world.

While a stay at home Mom may be experiencing this separation anxiety for the first time, countless working Moms have dealt with it before. Because they need to place their kids in others careful watch long before Kindergarten, many have felt guilty about doing so, about “abandoning” their child for work or career.

But should they?


Participation Trophies “Just Because”?


Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker James Harrison Harrison created quite a stir this week when he returned his 6 and 8-year-old sons’ sports “participation trophies.”

Harrison posted a picture of the two trophies to his Instagram feed with the caption: “I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe they are entitled to something just because they tried their best.”

That post led to countless debates on social and the mainstream media about whether or not the “everyone’s a winner” mentality is helpful or harmful to kids.

While many parents feel that kids can never get enough encouragement and positive support, others, like Harrison, are clearly afraid that it will somehow spoil his kids’ chances of truly excelling.

It’s true that it can be a rude shock for some kids when reality eventually teaches them that they aren’t rewarded for just showing up, that they are only awarded for accomplishment. Nor does a high school student get put on the honor roll or get into college just by having perfect attendance.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a pediatrician, it’s that it’s not that easy to fool kids. They know perfectly well who ran the fastest or got the most runs and who didn’t, and the trophies just don’t mean that much to them. In fact, when my older daughter was ten, she started calling them her “just because” trophies and stashed them in a corner to collect dust.


The “Working Mom Blues” Hits A Higher Note


Working Moms have a difficult challenge trying to balance career with raising a child the way they ideally want to. Fatigue, frustration, guilt and feeling under-appreciated leave many women singing The Working Mom Blues.

One of the most plaintive refrains of The Working Moms’ Blues is that they believe that the fact that they’re working is essentially bad for their child. In fact, a full third of Americans believe that the best thing for children is to have a mother who does NOT work, while only 16% say a Mom who works full time is best. That’s a whole lot of guilt for working Moms to be contemplating!

But is this common assumption – that Working Moms hurt their child’s development – really true? Or is it a throwback to idealized black & white TV shows where Moms stayed home wearing an apron and a smile, preparing meals for perfectly-behaved kids, while the sole bread-winner – Dad – left every morning with a briefcase? (And isn’t it ironic that the actresses who played those Moms were all working mothers themselves?)

How Working Moms impact their children is, admittedly, not an easy question to answer. The studies are complicated, given all the variables that affect child development. Researchers can’t do a double blind experiment, so how much is correlation and how much is true causation?

Yet analyzing the studies that have been done, there is no real evidence that women working hurts their children’s development.


Parenting Personality or Parenting Ego?

Dad and son

Every parent I’ve ever met, or worked with as a pediatrician, has wanted what’s best for their children and has wanted them to be happy and successful.

Yet those same parents often find themselves projecting their own likes, desires, dreams, and biases onto their children. It makes sense: if there is something we enjoy or think is important, it’s only natural that we try to share it with our children.

But there’s a big difference between “sharing” and “imposing” and it’s important to be able to distinguish when we truly have our child’s own best interest at heart and when we have our own. Wanting to communicate our beliefs and hopes is one thing, wanting to force our children to conform to them is another thing entirely and reveals an unwillingness to respect the child’s individuality.