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Tag: Fatherhood

How to Be a Neurosurgeon

How to Be a Neurosurgeon

A friend of mine is in his mid to late 30’s and he just accepted his first professional job.  He didn’t get a late start. He didn’t take time off. He has spent the last 30+ years of his life preparing for his profession. Let me say that again, over 30 years in school learning and practicing his trade.

That seems incredulous to many people.  That’s 18 years AFTER High School.  18 years. For what? To be a neurosurgeon. He has his MD and PhD.

This has included:

  • Four years of undergraduate school with a triple major
  • Eight years in med school getting his PhD and MD
  • Six years of residency for neurosurgery
  • One year of fellowship

He has a family with three kids and he is just now getting started officially practicing his trade.

Think about the value he’ll be able to add to people’s lives. Performing life saving surgeries on the most critical and delicate components of our body.

If anyone was going to touch my brain with a knife, I’d sure want them to have that much training and experience. I’d want the smartest, most well trained, disciplined experts in the world. I’d feel pretty comfortable knowing that they had 19 years of training and experience before touching my brain.  I have no problem with them making loads of money either.

So let’s think about this for a minute. For those of us who are not doctors, that career path appears daunting.

I’ve watched some friends go through the medical doctor training process. The process is not easy, but it’s not terribly complicated.

So how do you think this was actually accomplished?  Many small things done consistently over a long period of time.

In primary education you build a foundation of math, science, reading, and writing.
In undergraduate, you learn you start to focus on biological sciences.
In medical school, you learn about medical care and deeper into human biological sciences
In residency, you learn the specific craft as an apprentice.

But when you break it down and look at what they’re doing each day, we can learn from their path. We can learn about vision and discipline. We can learn about taking the long path to achieve distant goals by taking one step at a time. We can learn about the value of sacrificing something in the present for something more in the future.

Let me repeat, becoming a doctor is not easy. It takes a long time, and requires smart disciplined people to make it through the process. I don’t believe that everyone should become a doctor. If you think this is about how to become a doctor you’re missing the point. It’s a story we can learn from on how we can achieve something that seems distant and hard. It is about taking it one decision after another. It’s about cultivating discipline so we can improve as human beings.

You want to be more flexible and have better mobility.  Our connective tissue takes 210 days to turn over. That’s at least 7 months of stretching everyday.

You want to lose 30 pounds.  That’s 4-12 months of making small consistent sacrifices at every meal.

Say we want to learn a foreign language, become a project manager, or just be a better father. You have to do something everyday to move those forward.

Set a goal, learn what it takes, develop a plan, and then start taking one small step at a time and don’t stop.

Fatherhood is a similar marathon. We all have ideas of what we want for our children when they grow up. We want them to have a strong moral foundation. We want them to positively contribute to this world through discipline and selfishness. We want them to find happiness. Not the fleeting happiness from an ice cream cone, the fulfillment of making the world a better place and by connecting deeply with other human beings.

To get there, it’s a long road that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But it also needs to be viewed through one step at a time. Start by reading with your child, telling them that you love them, disciplining them regularly to learn our social constructs. Be present, not on our phones or watching TV, but there, right next to them. Listen to them. Watch them. Teach them and show them how to set and achieve goals. Teach them and show them how to help others. Show them how to love and be loved.

Raising children to become independent adults requires a lot of discipline and patience over a few decades, not unlike becoming a neurosurgeon. You just need to take it one step at a time.

The Best Times of My Life

The Best Times of My Life

My oldest son just turned five years old. While reflecting on the last five years, it is very clear that my son has brought tremendous joy and fun into my life and I’m extremely grateful for it.

Our boys are 2 and 5 and they are starting to play together. What I love is that they really get excited for all kinds of different adventures. Even, if it’s just heading into the backyard with a shovel in hand. Recently I was talking with my mom about the stage of parenting that we are currently entering.

When my sisters and I were young, my parents would regularly put us all in a van, with friends, and travel a few hundred miles south to Lake Cumberland, KY for some boating and recreation. It must have been a ton of work for my parents, who were both working full-time jobs. They had to coordinate with our schedules, communicate with our friends’ parents, grocery shop, pack suitcases and boxes of food, pack the van with 8 people and all weekend luggage and supplies, and drive 3-4 hours to get there.

Then while we were there, they had to clean the house and the boat, make sure we the proper life jackets and safety equipment on the boat. They had to make beds and cook all the meals, do all the dishes, repair the house as we did our usual wear and tear that only 6 kids can do. They paid for everything, gas, food, games, boat gear, activities in the car.

And this, my mom says was the best time of her life.

With the ability to reflect on a few years of my oldest son’s childhood, it is very clear to me why my mom feels this way. Children have the ability to bring immense joy into our lives. And while they require a tremendous amount of work and sacrifice, nothing else is nearly rewarding.

My mother has had some significant adversity at various stages of her life, and this middle aged phase that she reflects on with such fondness was no different. She and my father worked their tail off and sacrificed a ton to give us children an absolutely tremendous, joyful, adventure filled childhood.

The hardest things, closest to your highest values in life, are the most rewarding. Parenthood offers this tremendous opportunity. 40 years later, I’m pretty confident that nothing else in this world brings my parents more joy than spending time with their children and their families.

Last night, my wife and I asked our oldest son what he wanted to do for his birthday dinner and gave him some ideas to get him thinking. Without hesitation he wanted to invite his grandparents over for a pizza dinner. So we called, and they came with joy and love.

Now that my sisters and I are a few decades into being adults, my parents can see the fruit come to bear from the seeds they planted in our lives. Now that some of us are parents ourselves, they are able to reminiscence about when they were in our shoes. They were working and sacrificing almost continuously to provide us as much joy and opportunity as they could.

It was selfless and hard, yet it was the best time of my mom’s life. It was filled with purpose and generosity. It was full of love and patience. They had all kinds of heavy responsibility and yet it was still the best time of their lives.

On my son’s 5th birthday, I spent the quiet morning before he woke and reflected on the last five years. And I feel the same way that my mom does. My son is high energy and at times strong willed, but he also brings me more joy than I ever could have dreamed. He challenges me, makes me grow, always finding a new way to test my authority. But he loves me tremendously and gives me the sweetest, and most tender moments filled with pure joy and innocence that only young children still possess.

He has renewed my ability to find joy in the simplest of blessing that life brings.  Whether it is a silly dance song, a train, or a beautiful sunrise, he lights up with glee and it is absolutely infectious.

Parenting is absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but just like my parents, it is the best time of my life.

The Power of Saying No to Your Children

The Power of Saying No to Your Children

The other night as I was putting my four year old to bed, and he started asking some questions about Santa. The one that I remember the most and which has no perfect answer was, “Dad, why doesn’t Santa get us all the presents that we ask for?”

This question could be replaced with many things my son asks for. “Dad, why didn’t you let me watch another TV show?”  or “Dad, why didn’t you let me have another cookie?” These represent the daily tension we currently have in our house with a four, almost five year old. He asks for things, and sometimes we say yes and sometimes we say no. And often when we say no, the drama, questions, and conflict come quickly. It is almost guaranteed to come when it involves snacks, treats, TV, or going to bed.

“Dad, can I have another cookie?”

“No.”

“Dad, you are not my friend. I hate you. You can never play with me again!”

All for just a cookie?  Sheesh.  What’s gonna happen when I tell you can’t have a phone or car in a few years?

We teach our children to ask good questions and be willing to challenge the answers so they can be independent, thoughtful people. I love to foster my children’s questions and encourage them when they ask thoughtful ones. As they get older, I will encourage them to occasionally challenge authority in a respectful, and peaceful manner.

But then our children quickly turn these new found skills around on us when we tell them no! We are immediately being tested as they ask us questions that are skeptical of why we denied their request. Why cannot I not watch another show dad?  But mom said.. But so and so got…

Why does saying no as a parent have to be so hard?

Saying no is hard, but, it’s also powerful. It’s exhausting and it tests our patience and memory. It requires my wife and I to over-communicate so that we can be on the same page. And it requires resolve.  And did I say patience yet?

But in my heart and soul as a father, I relish at this opportunity. I want nothing more than the ability to shape my children’s character for the good. These are some of the best moments to do so, even though the emotional turmoil we feel in the moment tries to tell us otherwise.

The moments when we give them presents and say yes is not how we shape their character. It’s when we choose to say no and how we communicate it that will leave a bigger impact on their character. It allows us an opportunity to help them be grateful for what they do have. This test and challenge helps make me a better man by often testing my convictions and consistency.

These moments and conversations with us are the training grounds for real life. Sometime life isn’t fair, doesn’t make sense, yet we still get the short straw. Sometimes our children need to be told no without a rational explanation and learn just deal with it.

But saying no is hard. We don’t want them to be mad at us. We don’t want them to miss out on many wonderful experiences life has to offer. We want to be cool and like us as a friend.

This inner conflict can test our judgement and throw us into emotional turmoil. We need to acknowledge that we feel this way and we’re a bit afraid of making our child upset, especially in public. But we want to do the right thing which often requires us to stick to our guns and say no.

We will be tested, after a stressful day at work, when we’re tired and sick, or when we’re distracted with something else going on in life. This all the more reason to be present when we’re with our children.

We’ll also be persuaded. The puppy dog eyes and manners will come out in full force. Promises of chores and obedience will rain down like we’ve always dreamed and hoped of.

But sometimes we need to just say no. Often saying yes is easier, but that doesn’t mean we should.

Saying no is a habit or a muscle that requires practice and training. And it should get easier over time. Our children will learn where the regular boundaries are and if we’re consistent, they may not ask for the same thing over and over again.

We also need to stop negotiating all the time. When they are emotional about a situation, we will not be able to persuade them effectively to understand why we say no. We do not have to continually provide detailed explanations. Sometimes this is hard in the moment but we have to remind our children that they do not run the house.

Younger children will benefit by hearing us say no to certain things to older children. They may learn to not even ask for them or if they do, not put up a fight knowing it’s futile.

Currently my kids are asking for more cookies, more TV, more french fries, and to stay up later. Soon it will be sleepovers, staying up even later, and video games. Then it will become cell phones, graffic video games, and fancy clothes. Later it will be a car, no curfew, and money. I imagine that the conversations will get harder as they get older as their intelligence grows. This makes it all the more important to set the standard now on what no means.

So as we approach the holidays, ask yourself this question, is saying yes to every request our children ask really loving them after all, or is just easier in the short-term?