Blog Posts

Protecting the Child, Preserving the Family, and Honoring Life

Welcome to the Blog page of the American College of Pediatricians, which we call Scribit Veritas.  Each issue of the Blog is intended to assist parents, encourage children, and enrich the family.  Read our most recent issue below, and scroll to the bottom of this page to read earlier issues.

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Every Star is Different

stars“Ev’ry star is diff’rent,

And so is ev’ry child.

Some are bright and happy,

And some are meek and mild.”

These are the words that are often sung in my children’s religious group on Sunday. This song teaches children that everyone is different. Do parents truly realize and remember that though? Being a parent to five children, I have seen these differences manifested many times. Sometimes I find myself trying to parent them all the same way. Just as different plants and animals require a different kind of care, so do each of our children.

Robert Plomin did some research back in the 1980’s about why siblings are so different from each other. We would think that if they share the same parents and live in the same home, there would be more similarities. “Children in the same family are more similar than children taken at random from the population,” Plomin says, “but not much more.” To read his theories about why this is so, you can read the rest of the article here.

My focus of this post is not about why siblings are different, but just to remind parents that they are. Take the time to notice each child for who they are as individuals. Give them love and attention in a way that they will understand and appreciate. Finally, let them be individuals without comparing them to each other. Every person has their own strengths and weaknesses and as parents, we are here to help our children develop and make them stronger.

To hear the song mentioned at the beginning, feel free to go to this website!

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Incompatible with Life

baby in handThe phrase “Incompatible with Life” has been used to describe “unborn children that may have a life-limiting condition”. This is NOT a medical term (given that ANY unborn child, regardless of their prognosis, is obviously a human life) and parents who are struggling with this are wanting this term to be changed. Parents dealing with the prognosis of a stillborn baby or an early death after delivery have a difficult enough situation to deal with. Using words as heartless and unapologetic as “incompatible with life” to label such tiny, helpless human beings seems like a disservice to those parents who are dealing with one of the most difficult things they could ever experience.

To see what some parents are saying, go to their facebook page. Read their stories and feel of their heartache.

In an effort to abandon this phrase from any medical records and/or conversation, click here and sign the petition! Every voice makes a difference and every signature gets us closer to supporting those parents that have to go through these unfortunate events.

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Encouragement for Parents

Screaming ChildWe’ve all heard them. We’ve all seen them. They can be loud, disruptive – even annoying sometimes. It happens in restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, and church meetings. You know what I am talking about: Children! They seem to be everywhere! They make messes, scream in high pitches, and run around like little tornados wreaking havoc of all kinds. Rather than making snide comments or giving glares of disgust, I propose a different approach. Tell me what you think!

Instead of judging the parent(s) for their inability to correctly discipline, tell them they are brave for what they are doing. Give them a pat on the back. Instead of reaching for the nearest set of earplugs, give those children a smile and be grateful that they are healthy and active.

Children have to learn how to behave properly in society. They aren’t born with that knowledge (though that would make our job as parents easier!). A parent can teach a child everything they need to know. However, unless they are given opportunities to practice that knowledge, it won’t mean anything. Children have to go out into society to learn what is appropriate. So instead of acting annoyed that there are children in the grocery store, be proud of those parents. They are doing their best to teach their children what is appropriate behavior in various environments. Expect mishaps and rowdy behavior sometimes. Be happy to help and give the parents an encouraging smile. We all need each other’s support!

And parents if you are seeking advice, visit this page on the College website, Discipline of the Child.


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How Far is Too Far?

Intimacy promotes attachment & trust

Intimate behavior floods your brain with a chemical that fuels attachment.

Cuddling, kissing, and sexual contact releases oxytocin, a hormone that announces: I’m with someone special now. Time to switch love on, and caution off.

When oxytocin levels are high, you’re more likely to overlook your partner’s faults, and to take risks you otherwise wouldn’t. So you certainly do not want your brain drenched in this hormone when making critical decisions like, What do I think of him? How far do I want this to go?

When it comes to sex, oxytocin, like alcohol, turns red lights green. It plays a major role in what’s called “the biochemistry of attachment.” Because of it, you could develop feelings for a guy whose last intention is to bond with you. You might think of him all day, but he can’t remember your name.

This excerpt was taken from Sense & Sexuality – A college girl’s guide to real protection in a hooked-up world written by College contributor, Miriam Grossman, M.D.

For a practical survival guide read How Far is Too Far? written by College member, Dr. Patty June.

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Faith in Medicine

FAITHMany of us in healthcare still believe in the power of prayer, especially for our patients. We see this as a way of life – not a replacement for medicine and therapy but, rather, a complement to both.  In society, however, many have abandoned the notion of prayer and are more likely to express their concern with statements such as “my thoughts are with you.”

Such offers are typically made by those either with no faith or with a misguided notion of “tolerance” bordering on paranoia in which secular (and, sometimes, religious) leaders bend over backward to “not offend.”  When someone offers to spend time “thinking” of you or offers up a moment of silence in your honor, what exactly are they providing?

Thoughts, on a biological level, are simply electrical impulses powered by chemical neurotransmitters.  Silence, strictly speaking, is the lack of sound waves moving across a medium (such as our atmosphere).   Personally, I’d prefer to know that someone was spending those chemical reactions soliciting the aid of a higher power that can actually help me in my time of need.  Yes, it gives one a warm, fuzzy feeling to know that a “special someone” is thinking of them…heck, even the idea of strangers offering up some of their precious ATPs to produce images of yours truly dance around in their head makes me smile a bit.  But is that it? Is that all we can expect from others?

And therein lays the irony.  Non-believers, the clear minority in this nation, by definition, don’t believe in prayer.  They also recognize the futility of spending thoughts or marking time in “honor” of some specific person or persons.  Believers, on the other hand, aren’t going to waste their time on silence or random thoughts when they know the benefit of intercessory prayer. So why don’t we cut the p.c. talk and return to an era where our prayers are offered up on behalf of those in need?  People don’t need our silence, they need our help.  Letters of consolation, monetary donations, time spent listening to the heartbreak of others – those are all worthy deeds made for the benefit of someone in need:  As is prayer.

Those of us in this nation who claim a faith in God – and that is apparently more than 80% of us – recognize the benefit of prayer.  We can personally do little directly for most of the people in the world who are currently suffering from one cross or another – such as the victims of violence in the Middle East or the young American physician stricken with the Ebola virus – but we CAN offer up our prayers.  Petitions to God turn our simple, even frail, efforts into effective tools of comfort and, in some cases, avenues of resolution.

As G.K. Chesterton observed, tolerance is the virtue of those without convictions and atheists are people capable of believing anything rather than someone who believes in nothing.   I’m afraid, in the end, that’s all of what’s left when you strip down prayer to words – mere thoughts, even:  Nothing.  Let’s offer the hurting something of value. They deserve nothing less.


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Fender Benders

fender benderI have been in enough fender-benders to earn the moniker “crash dummy” from my family. One of these fender benders occurred when I hit a parked car in an office complex. I dutifully sought out and found the owner of the red sports car that I had damaged.

Unbeknownst to me, her fine looking automobile had been retrieved from the body shop five days earlier.  When the owner saw the damage I created and saw that my old clunker was not damaged in the least, she was livid. She informed me in a loud voice what a horrible person I was. She could not believe that I was treating her this way!

My response was to speak softly and apologize. For a period of time, she would yell loudly and I would apologize softly. Finally, her anger was spent and she asked me in a normal voice “are you a psychiatrist?” She could not believe my lack of reaction to her anger and thought it must have been due to some special training.

I am not a psychiatrist. I do know that a fire that does not receive fuel will die out and that an angry person who is met with calmness will eventually lose their anger. Choose carefully how you respond to anger directed your way – diffusing that anger is often a better choice than fueling it.


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Food for the Journey

canoeingI survived another overnight canoe retreat with my kids.  Mind you, I enjoy these outings; both because they give me an opportunity to spend quality time – and quantity time – with my boys and because I also, by nature of the father/son character of the group, get to visit with men of stellar character who, like me, are attempting to raise their families to appreciate the importance of faith in a world that has by and large decided to do without.  People ask me if I’m ready to go back and I answer with an emphatic: “well, I guess so.”

Asking so soon whether I’m ready to brave such an adventure again is akin to asking a woman who has just spent 18 hours in hard labor – including 30 minutes of painful pushing – to give birth to the beautiful baby she’s holding in her arms whether she’s “ready for another one.” I mean, eating stale MREs (meals ready to eat), sleeping on rocky beaches (bad back and all) and picking off ticks two days after the return home may not be nearly as traumatic as giving birth, but it’s still too close to the drama for me to think of such a thing.  Like a new mom, however, given enough time, I’m sure only the warm memories will shine through and I’ll be back in the saddle, or uncomfortable canoe seat, again.

Having been on this particular journey so many times, you might think I’ve gotten all the kinks worked out and that I’m a veritable pro at tent camping/canoeing. Well, you would be wrong.  I don’t know if it’s laziness, poor memory or inattention, but for some reason I never seem to be fully prepared for the journey.

It’s a similar story when discussing that final “journey” we must all take.  Those without faith don’t have to think about it.  Sometimes, those of us with faith aren’t much better.

In the end, I’m glad I’ve got godly men – and a loving wife – to challenge me along the way.  They will no doubt help me “pack” what I really need.  Who knows, when the time comes, I may be better prepared than I give myself credit for.  Heck, I sometimes even look forward to it.  Well…kind of.

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Tree Surgeon

tree surgeonI had a summer job during college working with tree surgeons. This was a crew of three – Jim who climbed trees and cut them down, Bill who went to prospective clients, gave estimates, and lined up future jobs and me. My job was to pick up the logs and put them on the truck to then be hauled away.

On my first day of work, it exhausted me to pick up these logs and get them on the truck. I had to drag these heavy logs to the truck and then strain mightily to lift them onto the flatbed. As I was working, Bill, the fellow who lined up future jobs, came by and helped pick up logs. Only instead of dragging the logs to the truck and straining to lift them, he picked them up with one hand and threw them 20 or more feet into the truck. I was amazed at how strong he was.

As the summer came to an end, I put in my two weeks’ notice and they hired a new guy to take my place. During the entire time working I always struggled to get the logs on the truck. When this new hire started, I was suddenly able to pick up the logs and throw them 20 or more feet just like Bill did on my first day on the job.

What changed? What changed was that every day I worked, Jim would cut the logs a little longer and they were thus heavier. This meant that I always had to work hard to get the logs on the flatbed. When the new guy started, Jim went back to smaller, lighter logs and I could throw those into the truck with ease.

While not many will have a career as a tree surgeon helper, most of us are or will be parents. Consider using this gradual approach when teaching your children new skills.

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fireI was a young child playing Cowboys and Indians with my friend down the street. At the same moment I shot my cap gun, I heard a siren. I looked down the street and saw a fire truck pulling into my driveway and flames pouring out of the back of my house.

My two year old twin sisters had been sent to their room for a nap. They didn’t want to go to sleep, and instead quietly played with the lamp in their room. Somehow they created a short and started the house on fire.

Fortunately everyone got out safely. My mom says that after she got everyone out of the house, she called my dad to let him know what was happening. The receptionist at his office explained that dad had given instructions not to be disturbed.  “Ok,” she said “when he gets free, let him know his house is on fire!” Then she hung up the phone.

The receptionist didn’t interrupt dad. She let him know what was going on as soon as he was free.  And he dropped everything and came home.

So, watch out for twins – they really are double trouble! And make arrangements to respond to your family when they call you at work!

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Hedge Trimming

trimmingI always welcome offers of help from my children. While their help might mean that whatever I am working on will likely take longer to complete and might not be as elegant as if I did it myself, I value the time together and the opportunity to teach them new skills.

One day I was using an electric cord powered hedge trimmer and my 12 year old asked if he could help. Of course I said yes and instructed him in how to trim the hedge I was working on. As he was doing this, he wasn’t paying careful attention to where the cord was.  I warned him three times to pay attention to the cord – otherwise he might cut the cord. Each time he was careful for a while. The fourth time he wasn’t paying attention, I didn’t say anything and sure enough, he cut the cord. Sparks flew and he jumped. Lesson learned!

We all learn lessons from the school of hard knocks as my son did in this case – and we can learn by embracing what others before us have learned. I have learned plenty in the school of hard knocks. With the passage of time I’ve become better at learning from others’ experiences. I hope my children will learn more often from the mistakes of others rather than their own.

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