Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Guest Post: A comment from a daughter

This was left in our comments section. We think it is worth sharing.


Being the 18-year-old daughter of an OB-GYN about to leave for college...I want to tell you all something, and I hope that it will mean something to you. Whether you forget it, remember it, hate it so much that you yell at me in comments afterward, or love it so much that you post it on your refrigerator, I think it just needs to be said. I am terribly sorry for intruding on this site, and I do not remember even exactly how I found it. Still, I am glad that I did for the sake of this message. I only wish I could post it on the main page, however intrusive that may be, and that you all might understand the message even if I don't articulate very well (and I know I often do not when I try to sort through my thoughts). The OB-GYN in my family is my dad...but I think that it has less to do with which parent is the doctor in the family and more to do with how much we, the children, can't help but love our parents.

My dad was the head of the department at a hospital down here for 7 years. He worked even more then than now. He had wanted kids for years but waited because my mom wanted to work on her career a little more and settle (she was a bit wild and decided to quit her job [special ed teacher] after my older brother [1st baby] was born.)

Growing up, I don't remember much time with him. ...but I remember that we'd lovingly pack up a little of everything we had for dinner and put it on a plate, cover it in plastic wrap, and only then would we serve ourselves the food, so that he could "share" dinner with us, even though some nights he wouldn't be home until long after we were sleeping.

I remember him forgoing eating that dinner we saved some nights--no matter how hungry he was after being held late, or even if he only got there by rushing home for a short stop while he was on-call--so that he could give us three our night-time baths and tuck us in (we all fit in one bed back then, WITH him to tell us a story of growing up so far away in NYC up north, of all places!)

I remember that waiting eagerly for the time when his one day off a week after his on-call night would be "my" day, and I could spend time with him one-on-one. (We took turns, though I admit I was impatient for mine.)

I remember throwing tantrums and getting upset, with him yelling and me yelling...and looking back on it, I realize that I was just a little kid being a little kid, and he was just my exasperated father trying to get me to behave after a 36-hour day of being on-call and scared for my brother with one of his famous, crazy, one-oh-six-degree-Fahrenheit-breaking-point fevers keeping him worried while some poor mother cursed at him while birthing her baby and apologized afterward, crying and laughing, saying she didn't mean it while hugging a wriggling red baby with silly hair.

I remember eating a snack at 5PM and taking my shower early when I was just a little bit older to hold myself over while we waited for him to get home at 8PM before eating dinner and rushing off to bed.

I remember my dad taking time off work to come meet up with us for a week of vacation up north to visit some family. Then he’d have to fly back for work, spawning memories of the miserable, lonely phone calls we and my mother had with him while we were driving back, visiting more family all the way down the coast back to home.

I remember my dad getting in his scrubs to take us to the doctor and explaining everything he discussed with said doctor to us in words we could understand--whether it was the optometrist, the pediatrician, or the radiologist, respectively.

I remember crying because I thought my dad couldn't make it to my award ceremony, spelling bee, or school play; I also remember various feelings of relief, satisfaction, and sometimes more crying when my mom would video tape it and I'd watch it with him later, or when I'd see him rush in--still in scrubs--from the back in the middle of the competition, or when my teachers snuck him in backstage even though I had already calmed down because they knew I'd be so relieved and happy that he had made it after all.

I see now that my dad is overworked, overstressed, doesn't exercise well enough (not that he has much time to hit the gym, with my grandmother with Alzheimer's living with us and also requiring tons of care), and that he has always, always been there for me, loved me with all his heart (and these things count for big-brother and little-sister, too!), and has always wished he could have even more time with all of us (and still does, especially with my brother away at college).

My dad works a hard and difficult job with terrible hours because he feels it's his calling. Even when it's very difficult, there's a certain joy in it for him, in the miracle, as I'm sure you all understand. His partners are also loving parents with the same kinds of challenges of having families and careers--and all but two of the six others are women, a mother/doctor group may be interested to hear. However, I also realize that my dad works so hard also because...he loves us. Not only is he giving other people the chance to have the wonders he has, but the hard work he does makes sure that my mother can care for us and her slowly dying mother with Alzheimer's, despite those difficulties (our other grandma also lives with us, but is perfectly sound of mind, if not of eyesight). He keeps food on our table so, though things with insurance companies have made things more difficult over the years, we have never worried about food as many Americans now do--including ones nearby, ones in my school, or friends that I visit. We have never wanted for clothes to wear, a place to live, or even "extras" like a second car to drive--meaning we never had to walk the just-over-a-mile road to our school, but that we could go by car (since we're too close for bus). We have the luxury of a really cool PS2 that was an incredible gift for the three of us years ago and still serves us remarkably well for its generous age--not to mention an assortment of games we've "collected" through the years; I might add that those came mostly from birthday and holiday gifts from "Mom and Dad" that I'm sure my parents bought with the money my Dad works hard to earn.

I've lived a very privileged life full of experience and love, and I feel blessed to have had both of my parents. They are strong people who have raised me remarkably well, so I feel I have the great advantages of knowing right from wrong, the importance of learning and respect for others, and the much-forgotten value of courtesy and good manners. (And that those last two count even when things are bad or you're in a bad mood. We're all only human, but so's everyone else. Then again, I’m sure he sometimes wishes his patients taught their children that way, or lived it themselves, too...)

On behalf of children everywhere with doctor parents who worry, fret, and guilt themselves over the time they have to spend apart from their children...I want you to know that we love you, and even if it's hard when we're little to understand what you do, or why you're gone so long sometimes (though we tend to vaguely grasp even then the idea that "work" is very hard and busy and keeps you away even though you love us very much and wish all the time that you were here with us), we're proud of you and love you very much. We do our best to understand and accept these struggles with you, and we see better while looking back from older ages all of the sacrifices and difficulties you've endured for us, and just how much you've always loved us--and at all ages young to old, we love to hear you say it on nights when you're around to tuck us into bed.

17 comments:

  1. Beautiful. That's all I have to say.

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  2. Thank you - this is the most wonderful thing to read. I bet you made your dad's day too!

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  3. I hope I've given my kids half the warmth and values that your father has given to you. No doubt you are his pride and joy! I commend your mom for being a stellar and able role model. Hold your head high and know they've taught you to do the right thing as you make your way in life. Best of luck!

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  4. I'm the son of a doctor and not all physician parents are like that. Hell you father had so much on his plate and still put his kids #1. My dad on the other hand put everyone and everything after his comfort. I hope he gets to read this and learn from the mistakes he did.

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  5. Okay, get me some more Kleenex...

    This is so beautiful.

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  6. Dear Anonymous,
    I'm not a child of a physician. I'm a mother of a child who is planning on being one. I'm also going back to school to become a psychologist. So we'll have 2 docs in the family, just 2 different types.

    But let me tell you, with all my heart, I hope you don't put the blame on the medical profession for the shortcomings in the relationship you are seeing with your parents.

    There are loving fathers, mothers, aunts, and uncles, grandparents within the field of medicine. There are selfish, self serving fathers, mothers, aunts and uncles grandparents within the field of medicine who use their careers as an excuse to not be there for their famililes.

    But THAT ... is exactly it. IT is an excuse. If your father was not there for you .. he could have been a doctor, a pharmacist, a plumber, a teacher, a college professor, a grocery store manager, a carpet cleaner ... he could have worked for someone else or owned his own business ...
    if he chose to be there for you .. he, like this young ladies father, would have found a way.
    It would not have mattered the career ... it would have happened.

    The careers are what people do. How they interact with those around them is who they are.

    Please don't blame doctors, nurses, or any one else in the medical field ...for that matter, don't blame yourself either.
    find a way to find the good within yourself ..and realize that it wasn't *YOU* he was avoiding, but something within himself that he didn't know what do deal with.

    When you do have a family, stop the pattern ...and be there for your kids regardless of the career path you choose.

    I hope and pray that you find the best way for you, and that you find peace.

    To the writer of this post. Just beautiful!

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  7. wow. that brought tears to my eyes. what a lovely and generous post.

    I sincerely hope that my daughter-- who currently asks often at bedtime "are you going on a birth tonight, Mommy?"-- can grow up with a perspective like this. And with as much grace and eloquence.

    Your parents are certainly very proud of you. And they should be.

    Thank you so much for this perspective.

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  8. Poster-daughter, please print this and let your father see it...and thank you for sharing with us.

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  9. This brought tears to my eyes too.

    While I know that not all physician parents are able to strike the same balance of working so hard AND making their love and devotion so clear to their children, your story gives hope to those of us who are desperately trying to do so.

    I agree with the previous commenter - please, please let your father read this. And your mother too.

    Thank you for letting us all read this and be inspired by the love in your family.

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  10. Thank you for sharing - and helping me to recognize that (perhaps) all of the extra driving and schedule-juggling I do to make it to parent-teacher conferences, mid-morning ceremonies, presentations and after-school activities may not be for naught!

    A

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  11. You have made the day of doctor parents everywhere. My girls would probably say much the same thing. However, even though they are bright and good with science neither one had any inclination whatever toward a medical career. And I would not have encouraged them, either.

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  12. My God, how beautiful an expression of love and of being loved.
    I was so glad to have been in stateside duty in the USAF when my girls were little - 2-6 - and had three meals a day with them. Even after starting private practice, we always had church together, parts of most holidays, and I did a LOT of Soccer/Gymnastic Dad duty, with joy and fascination. We are "due" our first grandchild any day now, literally, and I have made arrangements to head on in when it starts to happen, from 300 miles away; I feel so blessed by their patience with my profession, and with the grace, support and love of their mother, my loving wife. I only hope I never let them down.

    TX Dad

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  13. This post moved me to tears, and hit very close to my heart. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful story, and yes, definitely print this for your father, he needs to hear it.

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  14. Simply awesome. Man, it is telling me to re-consider clinical medicine than the field of public health and working in projects and NGOs.

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  15. That was really awesome, I'm a peruvian doctor and I have a little daughter, in some years I would like to hear the same words of satisfaction and love from my daughter... Thanks a lot.

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  16. Beautiful words. I hope you shared it with your dad. He sounds wonderful. :o)

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  17. Very beautiful post, which did make me cry. I have an almost 2 year old and some days it breaks my heart to leave him to come to work.

    I agree with the others, you should show this to you Dad.
    Kellie (Surgeon and Mother)

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