As my kids have moved up to new schools (middle/high) this year, I’ve found myself reflecting on how I’ve changed as a father. Like many of the parents in my practice, I’ve been on a journey, slowly but surely integrating more “green living” in our lives – as much as my kids will tolerate. But I also recognize that I have an unusual job that informs my parenting and vice-versa. As a pediatrician, I am keenly aware of the influence my role as a dad has had on my practice and how working with thousands of families over the years has changed who I am as a parent. In this light, I wanted to share with you an interview I did recently for a neat web site, “The DaddyMD Guides.” I am honored to join the list of physicians/fathers who have shared their experiences.
(Profile by Wyatt Myers, original posted for The DaddyMD Guides)
Dr. Rosen is a dad of a 14-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter, a board-certified general pediatrician in private practice, and co-author of Treatment Alternatives for Children.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a dad and how did you overcome it?
One of the greatest challenges as a pediatrician and a dad has been to let my kids “just be” at times, not always thinking of the worst-case safety or health issues. Whether it was when they were toddlers or now as pre-teen/teenagers, I’ve learned to allow them (to some degree) to explore the world around them in the ways I remember doing. Let’s just say it’s always a work in progress. I’ve been trying to be more mindful and take a big-picture view. I think this is something most dads struggle with; I hear this a lot in my practice and from friends.
What’s the most surprising lesson that being a dad has taught you?
That every child has a unique temperament from the day they are born. This is something I knew intellectually but it only really sunk in emotionally after we had our second child, my daughter. Sure, everyone is the product of their genetics and their environment, but I’ve been amazed at how much of temperament/personality there is from day one. At MIT, through my undergrad research work with evolutionary psychologist Dr. Steven Pinker, I learned about this concept, but it wasn’t until I became a dad that I “lived it.” The challenge as a parent is to not only acknowledge this fact but to find the best way to parent each child.
What’s the one thing about being a new dad that shouldn’t be missed?
I know it sounds cliché, but I really do encourage every new dad in my practice to take every day as it comes. Every phase comes and goes so quickly — the first smile, the first steps, the first baseball game — it’s way too easy to get wrapped up in the swirl of minutiae of life. Especially for dads with busy medical practices, it is really easy to forget to be present with our kids, each and every day. “Be here now” is a good motto taken from my meditation and yoga experiences. I’m still working on this one, too!
How has being both a pediatrician and a dad changed both roles?
Interestingly, I started my medical practice (after residency) the same year I became a parent for the first time. I like to joke that I’m really good with advice up until a child is 14 years old now, but after that it’s all theoretical. I think both roles have helped me be a better pediatrician and a better father. We learn most from our experiences — and yes, that includes mistakes as well. I encourage parents to take control of their children’s health (and their own) as much as they can. In our practice, we have an integrative philosophy, helping parents incorporate many self-care remedies that are both safe and effective, ranging from homeopathic and herbals over-the-counter products to mind-body therapies like yoga, biofeedback, and guided imagery. The wonderful partnerships I’ve developed with parents in my practice have helped create healthier families and helped me stay energized and happy in medical practice. In fact, it was one of these connections to a dad in my practice, Jeff Cohen, that led to the publication recently of my first book for parents, Treatment Alternatives for Children. The partnership that Jeff and I share (with his wife, Carol) in keeping his kids healthy is mirrored in the book, giving readers the best natural health advice from a pediatrician and from two dads.