Michael Gurian’s New Book Embraces Adult Development

Author/marriage and family therapist/researcher Michael Gurian has written a number of books with the word “wonder” in the title. This is partly because he has an endless curiosity about the complexities of human beings and living in the modern world. In particular, he, along with his colleagues at the Gurian Institute, has reached into the intricacies of science as it relates to gender and produced such bestselling books as The Wonder of Boys, The Wonder of Girls, Boys and Girls Learn Differently, and Leadership and the Sexes. These guides have helped countless parents and educators understand children and help them navigate growing up.

With his newest book, The Wonder of Aging: A New Approach to Embracing Life After FiftyMichael Gurian trains his considerable research and analytical skills on people who have already grown up, yet continue to develop in ways often over-looked by society. Especially because we are fortunate enough to be able to live longer, Gurian’s book takes on greater significance as he addresses such topics as community building, stress reduction, illness, sexual intimacy, and death. What makes the author so effective, here, is his constructive, positive approach and down-to-earth tone on the topic of aging. This is the kind of book worth reading for anyone, even before hitting 50, who wants to better comprehend his/her own changing life in order to live it with less fear and more fullness.

Posted in Adulthood, Aging, Blog, Books, Gender, Health, Perspective | Leave a comment

Thankful Dads Sing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’

To honor the heart surgeons, doctors, and nurses, that saved their babies who were born with congenital heart defects (CHDs), Life of Dad’s Tom Riles (the first dad with his daughter in the video) and friends present dads singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” This is genuine, unfiltered inspiration.

Posted in Blog, Health, LifeofDad.com, Video | Leave a comment

Acting From Within: Thoughts on Preventing Tragedy

By Gregory Keer

As hard as it is, the only way for me to sort through what happened in Newtown, Connecticut is to put myself in the middle of the tragedy.

Because I am a parent, I imagine I am the perpetrator’s mother, who looks at her son in the instant before he shoots her. I die before I can even think.

I am a teacher, and I shudder at what those charged with caring for those children must have thought in their last minutes as they sacrificed their lives in a desperate attempt to stop a madman.

I am a child in one of those first grade classrooms. Perhaps I have a fleeting blip of time to fear this man. Maybe I am the first to die, or maybe I am one of the other 19 children. In this case, I think, “Will he shoot me? Can I run away? He hurt my friend! Will someone save me?”

Now, I am a parent who hears my child has died. I feel blinding pain, hopelessness and anger, among so many other emotions — all of them searing. I think, “My child is gone forever? I sent my child to school, and he never came back. How can that be? How can I keep breathing? Please tell me this is not real.”

I am none of these participants. Yet, I am still a parent, a teacher, an American, a human being. And I feel so many things.

As I write this, the news is still horrifyingly fresh. There are so many unanswered questions. Some things, we will never know. What could have been in the mind of a young man, barely out of his teens, that would prompt him to slay 20 innocent children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary?

Even though we may never understand, I feel motivated, more the ever, to work to prevent this kind of tragedy from ever happening again. I fiercely believe this requires long-term thinking, and I worry too many people lack the patience and dedication to commit to that. Already, we are caught up in debates over whether better gun control will thwart a violently disturbed person from doing what he wants to do. While I believe we must improve background checks before selling guns to anyone, I want to focus on something we can all agree on.

As adults, we have a duty to fashion a world that’s safer and healthier for our children. We must make things better.

We have to care more about the well-being of people than we do now. We may never be able to stop a lunatic hellbent on destruction, but we can try much, much harder to do better as a society. We have to turn the discussion around so that we are not intent on preventing tragedy but working to promote goodness.

I know that to some, this may sound Pollyanna. I know I am flirting with idealism and optimism. So be it. What good is constantly reacting defensively to what is wrong in the world? Let’s go on the offensive to crush the kind of disconnection that makes outcasts of the mentally ill and socially misfit. We do woefully little to help those we cannot understand, and then we cry and shout when they hurt us.

Among the strategies are making mental health check-ups as normal as physical check-ups. They need to be affordable and not stigmatized. As a society, we are so averse to having anyone question whether we’re equipped to handle the ups and downs of life. We’re still supposed to fight through it without well-trained health professionals, and that’s not working — especially in an age where the resources exist but are not nearly as accessible or socially accepted as they should be.

Then, there are even more painstaking tasks we, as parents, must tackle with firm commitment. As President Obama said days after the shooting when he announced an interagency federal effort to combat violence, “Any actions we take must begin inside the home and inside our hearts.”

On a regular basis, we need to talk with our kids about their friends. We need to teach them how to be fair and caring. We must work with them on the nuances of resolving conflicts and understanding each other’s feelings. We must help our sons and daughters recognize and reach out to those who seem alone, and educate them about physical and mental differences that make people unique but no less worthy of our attention. In these ways, we might help our kids at the ground level to improve society’s connectedness.

We need to speak with the parents of our kids’ friends and classmates about their children. We should take notice when they are in need of support. We often get so wrapped up with our own needs, we fail to reach out the way our parents or grandparents did when society seemed smaller and more manageable. We have to create a village-like atmosphere where we help each other so that no parent or child feels outside the circle. If we encounter parents or children that resist social connection, then we should seek counsel or assistance to ascertain what might be causing it and do something to assist them.

We must rely on each other and on the professionals who can make our lives better, and be willing to seek help. Children come with a wide range of emotional and physical challenges. What matters is that we be proactive. This may result in our children needing therapy or medication — or even in us needing those things ourselves. If we make the effort to get help and act in our children’s best interest, we will not only be aiding them and ourselves, but the society around us.

It could take years, even decades for these strategies to take effect. But I have to believe that if we work together, we can create a better world for our children. The alternative is just too horrible.

Posted in Columns by Family Man, Health, Perspective, Protecting Children, Social Action | 3 Comments

Best Places to Be a Mom: U.S. Ranks Number 25

One of my favorite philanthropic organizations, Save the Children, just published its annual report on the State of the World’s Mothers. The report is intended to raise awareness about the need for health care and other means of support which mothers require to raise their children. The United States ranked number 25 in the world for its “scores for mother and child health, educational attainment and economic status.” The top-ranked nations for mothers include Norway, Iceland, and Sweden.

In a time in which our country must tighten its belt on so many expenses, it is also a time to prioritize where our money goes. On this Mother’s Day, let’s resolve to show our support for moms in this nation and around the world so that our children may be raised with the resources to help them grow healthy and strong. In this way, we can better ensure a future of healthy and educated adults who will better care for us and the world in general. As fathers, let’s also make the effort to provide for our women and our children, as caregivers ourselves. I look forward to a day when we have our own report on the status of global fatherhood.

Posted in Blog, Child Development, Health, Mother's Day, Newborns, Protecting Children | Leave a comment

April Highlights Autism Awareness and Child-Abuse Prevention

April is both Autism Awareness Month as well as Child-Abuse Prevention Month. Both of these concern the welfare of children and deserve our attention whether they affect us directly or not. As a father and educator, I have met a number of children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or autism. As I write this posting, I know I need to teach my own children more about the friends they have who are affected by autism, though we have had discussions about the need to include people with differences in our lives rather than separate from them.

The Autism Speaks site explains that, “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.” The site goes on to explain that “the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify around 1 in 88 American children as on the autism spectrum–a ten-fold increase in prevalence in 40 years.” The CDC also cites statistics to show that autism is diagnosed more commonly in boys than in girls. To learn more about autism, a couple of key Web sites include the one for Autism Speaks and the Autism Society.

With regard to child-abuse prevention, this topic is more relevant than ever, given our needed increase in sensitivity to children bullying other children. One reason bullying exists is because kids are abused, either physically or psychologically by the adults in their lives. A new book is coming out that has an interesting approach to making us all more sensitive to the subject. Written by Magdalena Gómez and María Luisa Arroyo, Bullying: Replies, Rebuttals, Confessions and Catharsis (Skyhorse Publishing, May 2012) is an anthology of stories, poems, and plays that help illuminate the experience for children, from an inter-generational and multicultural perspective.

Please share your thoughts and suggestions about these topics by posting a comment whenever you wish.

Posted in Anger Management, Blog, Books, Child Development, Health, Protecting Children, Special Needs | 1 Comment


By Gregory Keer

As we pack for a day on the soccer fields, my wife looks at my clothes and shakes her head.

“You know those shorts will not be khaki colored when you get home,” she says.

“I have to match them with my assistant coach’s jersey,” I respond, half-hurt she’s not fully admiring me in my uniform.

“You’re such a geek,” she confirms.

So we pile into the minivan with the ice chest, soccer balls, and three sons all gleaming in their various team colors.

At the field, nary a blade of grass can be seen. The city has been miserly conserving water so what remains are playing surfaces resembling the vestiges of a scorched earth campaign by a rival park organization. Worse yet, the wind picks up and blows mini dirt twisters.

“A boulder just landed in my eye,” Ari (5) wails in the middle of his match.

“It’s just a speck of dust,” I yell back, hoping the tiny tornadoes don’t throw a Dorothy or Toto at my kids.

Later, as we trudge over the barren prairie toward the next game, we see our friend, Dave, who coaches his daughters’ group of 10 year olds.

“The other day my girls didn’t want to run on the field because it had just rained,” he explained. “So I picked up some mud, wiped it on my face, and said, ‘See, it doesn’t hurt!’”

We all laugh knowingly, then continue our grimy experience. After three games amid the thick grit and occasional mud puddle, my shorts are indeed milk-chocolate brown and my kids are streaked like farmers in an onion patch.

And I like it.

At a time in which Americans have gone clean crazy, scrubbing ourselves sterile with anti-bacterial soaps and sanitizers, it’s a joy to get dirty. When my family gets home on a soccer day, we do shower and drop the grubby uniforms in the wash. But putting in a good day of throwing our bodies into the elements feels great.

I’m not advocating for a lack of hand washing or sneezing into our sleeves. I want to help keep my kids and the general population free from swine flu and other airborne illnesses. Yet I do think that in looking at the world as a war zone of germs, we’re taking a lot of fun out of childhood. We’re losing too much by going overboard with sanitation.

These days, many of us fear our kids will transform into Charlie Brown’s buddy Pigpen should we allow them to dig in the soil for bugs, fool around with paints, or (as infants) fiddle with their food. Over the years, I’ve been prone to blood-pressure surges upon seeing disorder and have discouraged my children’s normal, but not harmful, tendencies toward messiness. Because of this, my kids have been shy to make mud floors in shoe boxes for school dioramas or get bicycle grease on their hands despite a desire to learn how their vehicle works.

In his first two years of life, my middle son, Jacob, liked to put everything from the ground in his mouth. He ingested rocks and pebbles from the park, sand from the beach, and spare change from the sidewalk. Aside from the fear that he would choke on the objects, my OCD tendencies caused me to imagine Pokemon-like germ characters mounting bacterial attacks on his immune system. We tried everything to keep him from mouthing things and even learned about a condition called pica (or pika) which causes people to crave dirt to alleviate iron deficiency. He didn’t have pica. What he had was a natural curiosity in the world and a habit of using his mouth as one of his tools.

Six years later, Jacob thankfully shows no permanent damage from his early childhood earth consumption. In fact, there’s even a whole legion of researchers who have found that kids need exposure to germs to strengthen their immunity to various illnesses. They even suggest that (yuck) having tiny worms in our digestive tracts are good for our long-term health. This is why these scientists recommend keeping dogs and cats around for casual but fairly safe contact with dirt.

I will likely continue to struggle with my tendency for cleanliness but plan to let my kids get filthy. I will draw the line at Benjamin (11) and Jacob continuing to use their shirts as napkins, but I vow to revel in Ari coming home from preschool looking like he wrestled an overgrown paintbrush in a sandbox. This year, I’m keeping a dirty mind.

Posted in Columns by Family Man, Health, Humor | Leave a comment

Itchy and Scratchy

By Gregory Keer

With dozens of other anxious parents, my wife and I wait for our son to return from a month at sleep-away camp.

“It’s good for him to be independent,” I rationalize to a nearby dad. “The kid could barely pour his own milk before he started overnight camp two years ago.”

“The last two weeks were awful,” Wendy says to a fellow mom. “But the last few days actually hurt because we missed him so much.”

“Are you kidding?” another mother chimes in. “It was such a pleasure to get a break from parenting a preadolescent for a month.”

Wendy and I smile knowingly. Yes, there were days when we enjoyed the absence of our son’s random crankiness. Still, a month without our usually sweet-natured first born was too much.

The buses rumble toward the lot and all but the most jaded parents cheer its approach. The children wave wildly from the windows. As each bus parks, Wendy and I try to see which one our son will disembark from, jostling with other parents like crowd members at a rock concert.

We finally find him. He looks tanned, tired, and so happy to be home.

Back at our house, Wendy takes his duffel bag of grimy clothes straight to the laundry room while Benjamin heads to his room. He flops down and sighs heavily.

“I missed my bed,” he exhales dreamily.

Over the next week, our son tells tales of outdoor adventures, late-night chatter, and deep friendships he made during his month of living in Never Never Land.

But Peter Pan references are not the only things flying around my child’s head, as we soon learn when we get a phone call from our friend Karmi.

“Jaime has insect eggs in his hair,” she proclaims.

Benjamin is with my mom-in-law that day, so we call her to check his head.

“I don’t see anything in his hair,” she says. “But, tell me, was the other little boy dirty?”

Brushing aside generational misunderstandings – and the reality that Jaime is hygienically sound — of what really causes lice infestations, we immediately re-check Benjamin. When I pull back his follicles, I notice the animated activity of several winged bugs.

Along with lifelong memories, my son has returned from camp with lice.

Somehow, in seven days of walking around our (relatively) clean house and taking more regular showers than his one every two weeks that he did at camp, Benjamin failed to notice his noggin was a playground for tiny insects. I look more carefully at my boy’s scalp and notice his skin is raw, even bleeding a little from constant scratching.

“My head has been kinda itchy,” he confesses as Wendy looks for herself. She freaks out as if we’ve been invaded by miniature monsters from the third ring of hell.

After calming down a bit, Wendy and I set to work on the relentlessly complicated task of ridding our house of lice. It turns out that all of us have bugs or eggs living in our hair following a week of Benjamin hugging us and sitting around the house. Because my wife looks at this crisis like a platoon leader, she marches all of us through a regimen of medicated shampooing, hot water laundering, and top-to-bottom house scouring.

At the advice of our pediatrician and friends whose kids have come home from the same camp with a similar scalp affliction, we then call in the heavy artillery, an expert from a company mystically called the Hair Whisperer. This woman comes to our house armed with a variety of combs as well as a cocktail of tea-tree oil and other secret ingredients. She proceeds to nit-pick her way through each of us, rooting out the enemies and extinguishing them in bowls of scalding water.

For more than a week, we scrub everything and check our heads for return attacks. Wendy and I have to juggle our summer work schedules because the kids cannot go to day camp until they are lice-free. Barbers refuse to touch us. Friends politely decline playdates and dinner plans, waiting until we are given the all-clear.

Mercifully, our follicle fiasco ends and Wendy and I sit with our big boy, the scent of tea-tree oil lingering in the air. We go over next summer’s plan to shave and disinfect Benjamin before he steps foot in our house.

“But we love having you back from camp, Benjamin,” I say.

“I miss my friends,” he responds wistfully, then laughs to himself. “Just not the little ones with the wings.”

Posted in Columns by Family Man, Health, Humor | Leave a comment

Saving Face

By Gregory Keer

On a break from jury duty, I pay for a tuna wrap that I’m beginning to regret when I get a text message from my wife. It reads: “In ER. J OK but needs stitches on face. Have an appt with plastic surgeon at 1:00.”

The stomach that sandwich was intended for drops to the floor. I speed-dial Wendy.

“Jacob got attacked by a dog at the animal shelter,” Wendy says, trying to keep her voice steady.

“The dog bit through his cheek and slashed his arm.”

“Oh, God,””I mumble as horrific images twist madly through my mind.

“We’ve been trying to reach you for two hours,” Wendy says wearily.

My head rings as guilt hastens my exit from the café.

“The jury room is in a basement and there’s no cell reception,” I stammer as I head toward the parking lot.

“I’m fine,” Wendy assures me. “Take care of your jury duty. Your dad is with us.”

“No, I’m coming,” I say, shoving aside anxiousness about the legal ramifications of shirking civic responsibility. I don’t care. I have to see my boy.

“I’ll put Jacob on the phone,” she says.

I try to breathe, bracing myself.

“Hi, Daddy,” my 6-year-old speaks into the cell. “I’m OK. Don’t worry.”

I squeeze my watering eyes tight, relieved to hear strength in his voice.

“I wanted to pet the dog and he jumped at me,” he explains.

I draw back, as if the animal had leaped at me.

“Who helped you get the dog away?” I ask.

“Benjamin yelled for Angie,” Jacob responds proudly about his older brother. “If it wasn’t for him, I would be more hurt.”

“Were you scared?” I say, poorly focused on driving out of the parking lot.

“Yeah,” Jacob says, “but I think the dog was more scared. That’s probably why he attacked me.”

In the midst of his own crisis, my son has greater concern for the canine than himself. This is why he had gone with Angie, our babysitter who works with dogs, to the shelter so he could pet and feed the lonely creatures.

As I race to meet my family, I am torn up by jagged thoughts. Why did I let him be in harm’s way, even though I want him to care for other beings, even though I do not want him to live in fear? Why didn’t I go with him? Could I have been the hero and prevented the attack?

In the plastic surgeon’s waiting room, I gather Jacob into my arms. His left cheek is heavily bandaged, blood smeared beneath the gauze. His left arm is similarly wrapped around the forearm.

In the exam room, the surgeon gingerly undoes the bandaging. On Jacob’s cheek are puncture wounds from the canine teeth that clamped down on his face. One gash reveals muscle tearing. I wince, but Jacob needs me to look fearless.

After an initial anesthetic shot proves too painful for him to bear, it’s determined that Jacob will be operated on in the hospital later that evening.

A few hours later, we take Jacob in for his surgery. He worries it will hurt. I tell him the Bill Cosby story of “Tonsils,” in which young Bill gets the gas to make him sleep, then awakens to buckets of ice cream. Jacob likes that prospect.

Wendy and I send our little guy into the capable hands of the surgeon. We wait with Benjamin, who has insisted on joining us for every step of Jacob’s ordeal. Our youngest is with my mom, being kept happy on an impromptu sleepover. My dad and step-mom sit with us, providing comfort and food.

More than an hour passes before the surgeon emerges to announce that Jacob did well. He explains that we were lucky the dog opened its mouth before releasing from our son’s face or else the cheek might have come off. I can’t get this fact out of my mind, despite the doctor’s prediction that, as long as infection is prevented, Jacob will heal without complications.

More than a week passes. Jacob has had to take it easy, avoiding his usual running and jumping. His recovery has been enhanced by an endless outpouring of calls, visits and gifts from our family, friends, pediatrician and people we know only a little.

Generally, Jacob is in great spirits, unconcerned about the marks that will require he wear a bandage on them for another eight months then take years and further surgeries to fade. He loves his dog and remains unafraid of other animals, though he won’t volunteer in a shelter anytime soon.

Wendy and I are the ones floating in a strange, achy place, wishing we could have controlled fate. Wendy has cried a lot, unable to sleep for the first days following the incident. I feel a bit dazed at times and hug Jacob so often it annoys the heck out of him.

And yet, we are so thankful. Deeply grateful that our son’s face still reflects the energetic, creative and compassionate person that he’s always been.

Posted in Columns by Family Man, Health, Parenting Stress | Leave a comment

Dr. Keer on Kids: Interviewing a Pediatrician

By Kenneth R. Keer, M.D.

Q: We’re about to give birth and want to find the right doctor for our child. What questions should I ask?

A: Interviewing a prospective pediatrician is similar to interviewing and choosing other professional service providers be they accountants, attorneys, or dentists. You want your professional to be qualified, accessible, and affordable. There is however, one major factor that must exist between parents to-be-and a doctor. That factor is the ease of communication. Being a parent involves on-the-job training and parents must feel comfortable asking questions of the doctor without feeling rushed, intimidated or “talked down to.” A physician may be a brilliant clinician but if he or she cannot communicate with the patient or the parents, the effectiveness of the doctoring is severely compromised. Besides determining the ability to communicate, the interviewing parents should answer some other questions.

1. Is the pediatrician involved in a teaching program at a children’s hospital?

This is one of the best ways for a busy pediatrician to keep current on new advances in medicine.

2. Is the doctor board certified or board eligible in his or hers specialty?

This shows the doctor adheres to the rigorous standards of an organization such as the American Board of Pediatrics or the American Board of Osteopathic Pediatrics.

3. What are the office hours and what is the doctor’s availability?

It doesn’t help to have a pediatrician who isn’t available 50-percent of the time because of extensive vacations, splitting time between two or more offices or other situations that decrease availability. It is also wise to determine who is available for your family when your primary physician is not.

4. Does the doctor have a similar philosophy to yours with regard to the use of antibiotics, emphasis on breast-feeding, openness to alternative medicine, etc.?

Try to get a feeling about the doctor’s willingness to discuss topics that may be controversial or are of concern to you.

5. Does the office accept your insurance plan?

If you cannot afford an office because the doctor is not on your plan then you must go elsewhere. There are other competent doctors who will probably be on your insurance plan. It is a shame, though, that patients no longer have total freedom to choose doctors of their choice.

In summary, remember the 4 “A’s”





These are good guidelines for choosing a doctor for your children who will be part of your team for childcare and guidance.

NOTE: The information provided through “Dr. Keer On Kids” is for general education purposes. It is meant to aid you in discussing your specific medical or health issues with your physician or qualified health-care provider. The information is not intended as a substitute for personal health-care advice, or for diagnosis or treatment. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health-care provider as soon as possible about any medical or health-related questions. Do not wait for a response from our expert before this consultation.

Dr. Kenneth R. Keer is a board-certified pediatrician with offices in Tarzana, California. He has practiced medicine for more than 40 years. Send your questions to him at gregory@familymanonline.com.

Posted in Featured Moms & Dads, Health | Leave a comment

Breathing Lessons

By Gregory Keer

Early one week in January, I commented to my wife that little Ari — then only eight weeks old — was faring well during the cold and flu season. On the very next Saturday, he got a stuffed-up nose. The next day, he slept a lot and his breathing seemed slightly ragged. Still, being experienced parents, we thought he’d be fine with basic care.

On Monday, Ari became increasingly upset, so Wendy took him to our pediatrician. Dr. Esmond said Ari might have RSV and that hospitalization was an option. RSV is respiratory syncytial virus, which usually causes cold-like symptoms. Most children get it by age two, but it can affect a baby’s lungs more seriously.

With the first two boys, Benjamin (6) and Jacob (3), we had avoided hospital visits entirely. Although Benjamin contracted RSV when he was one-year-old, he was cured by a few home treatments.  We knew we were lucky but we were also deluded to believe we’d done everything well enough to keep our sons from grave illness.

So we took the option to treat Ari at home. We had to administer albuterol to clear his airways, but he stayed calm and it went well. He slept peacefully that night.

The next morning, Ari was worse. He labored to breath and his wails were muffled. I was at work when Wendy called to tell me that his temperature had risen too high. I felt guilty for not having taken him to the medical center more readily.

When I met Wendy at the hospital, she looked ashen and Ari appeared exhausted. A nurse, who seemed a bit nervous (she’d only been on the job a few months), had me hold Ari down as she ran a tube into his nostrils to deep-suction out the phlegm. Wendy could barely watch from a few feet away as Ari screamed.

More poking and prodding ensued as nurses attempted to draw blood for testing. Ari howled as I helped comfort him, but my stomach sank while witnessing the nurses dig needles in his veins before concluding that he was too dehydrated to give blood. They managed to insert an IV port into his hand, though he fought mightily before they got it in.

I finally went home to grab clothes for my boys who were to sleep over at Nana and Papa’s house. I ate dinner with them, trying to soothe their concerns but swallowed hard when Benjamin asked, “Is Ari going to die?”

“No,” I said. “But he’s going to need time to get better.”

“I miss Mommy,” Jacob moaned.

I kissed them goodnight and went back to see Wendy and Ari at the new hospital room, which we shared with a frazzled single mom whose baby also had RSV. Wendy cried, worn down by concerns for an infant she could no longer protect in her womb. I’d never seen her so worked over and I hope I never see it again. I, on the other hand, felt numb and tried  to figure out how to help her, our big boys, my students who were to have a final exam the next day, and little Ari.

I left late and slept for two hours alone in my house. It was eerie with my wife and three children away. I felt like a shell without them.

The next day, I gave my final exam and went to relieve Wendy, who had had a night of worry and beeping medical monitors. For the hours I then spent holding and feeding Ari, I felt strangely at peace. I was so connected to my son as I gave him the only things he needed from me – time and love.

Wendy returned to take the night watch. My mom brought the boys home and I went through the bedtime rituals as normally as possible, then let the kids sleep in the big bed with me.

In the morning, I took the boys to school and went home to tie up loose ends. Then, Wendy called to say Ari’s lungs had cleared enough for him to leave the hospital.

Wendy and Ari got back late that morning, but it wasn’t until the afternoon, when I brought home the older kids, that I felt I could really breathe again. Ari did need medicine at home for several days, though his smiles returned, bigger than ever.

Looking back, I realize that what we went through cannot compare to what other parents endure with children who have more serious illnesses. Those parents have courage I can hardly fathom.

Indeed, parenthood has plenty of twists and turns to make us all feel out of control. It’s enough to force us to hold our breath for fear of what might happen next. Yet, we manage to settle down, however cautiously, breathing in the fullness our children bring to our lives.

Posted in Columns by Family Man, Health, Parenting Stress | Leave a comment