Playground Potential

There’s a new playground in town, except it’s an old playground with a new facelift.  Of course, the reopening quickly attracted every parent looking for weekend entertainment, including us, and after a short walk we were back at Seger Playground, exploring the new slides, swings, and twirling things.  Any parent who walks past Seger regularly knows how highly anticipated this opening was for the preschool scene.  Once interested in gallery openings, where we discussed the art, fashion, and wine, we now find ourselves on playgrounds analyzing the climbing equipment with the same scrutiny.

playground

A red rope course linking pieces of playground equipment enticed kids big and small, but once on it the little ones were overwhelmed by how challenging it actually is.  A rescue by dad and we were back on track.  There were plenty of options for climbing though besides the ropes and I think we tackled all of them.  For sensory-seekers like N, there were not only swings, but see-saws and spinning pyramids.

Playground 2

As parents we enjoyed the cushioned terrain for the inevitable toddler stumbles and the well-gated and separated toddler area.  It took a whole 15 minutes before N realized there was another area for the “big kids.”  The only complaint was there were not enough garbage cans around for disposal of the tissues that I always end up stuffing in my pockets.  As I’ve mentioned here before, we have a garbage obsession in our household, so in some ways the lack of garbage cans in the play area limited that distraction.

Playground 3

It’s amazing how quickly I remember the excitement of a new playground: exploring new places, playing new games, and meeting new people.   My husband has a story he tells about “painting” a wooden playground boat with water with a preschool friend and they reminisce about this childhood innocence as adults.  I met a friend when she broke her clavicle falling from the McDonald’s playspace slide and we ended up roommates nearly twenty years later.  It is this sort of impact that childhood play has on us that I am excited to watch unfold as we venture to the various Philadelphia playgrounds each weekend.  I love watching N’s imagination develop and in entering his pretend world, I get to relive my own.

Here are some of my other favorite Philly playgrounds/parks:

Palumbo Playground

Sister Cities

Smith Playhouse

Nest

For more information about playgrounds and things to do with kids in Philadelphia (I have no affiliation with these blogs/websites):

http://phillyplaygrounds.blogspot.com/

http://www.phillyfun4kids.com/

http://kidsincentercity.com/

Trashed

Recycling

I knew that in parenting a son I would be out of my comfort zone on more than a few occasions, however, I had no idea how often we would be discussing garbage.  “Gar-gar,” as N affectionately calls it, is the topic of almost all conversations.  Sometimes when he wakes, yet to be rescued from his crib, I hear him babbling about gar-gar and it makes me laugh.

He brings garbage that he finds to the nearest garbage can, points to any garbage cans or trucks he sees on the street, and drives his toy garbage trucks around our house– it’s all about garbage.  At first, having him pick up pieces of garbage and run them to the trash can was helpful: “here, put this in the garbage for mommy.”  Then, when he started collecting garbage on the playground it became less cute and I became more germaphobic.

Back Camera

I’ve learned that many little boys are obsessed with garbage trucks at this age (and I’ve been reassured that they usually outgrow it).  If your son is as well, I recommend the Green Toys Recycling Truck as it has provided many hours of durable play at our house.  I like to think of N’s garbage obsession as a sign of a budding environmentalist and so his toys reflect that.

One of the most peculiar garbage experiences yet though occurred as we watched our garbage being collected one Saturday morning.  N yelled “hi” from our doorway as he watched the men fling bottles and cardboard into the monstrous metal machine.  He squealed with excitement as the driver honked and waved.  Then, the driver came running up to our door and handed me $3.  Baffled by this generous gesture, I immediately refused it.  However, he waved the dollars at me with pleading eyes and said, “come on, it’s for the baby.  Trash men have a heart too.”

Garbage truck

Three dollars richer, I thought about what to do with the money.  N already has a savings account, so I thought about doing something more frivolous with the money.  I could buy him a new gar-gar truck, but our playroom already has at least 4 and I’m thinking that’s over-quota.  So, I decided to use the money as an inspiration to invest in some stocks and created an Education Savings Account.  I bought some child inspired stock to get it started and hope that as it grows along with N we can learn together about saving, investing, and taking risks.  While my hope for his savings accounts are that they help pay for his education someday, I hope he also learns from the man who helped contribute to it and shows kindness to strangers.  I know he will pay it forward.  After all, gar-gar men have a heart.

Adopting Hope for Orphans Everywhere– the Russian Chapter

I just put my son down for a nap and have a million household chores to complete during his slumber, but my heart is heavy with the thoughts of the 650,000 Russian orphans (120,000 of them available for adoption) who will fall asleep today without being rocked, read to, and kissed as sweetly as my son was before his nap.  Yesterday, Vladimir  Putin signed the Yakovlev Act, which bans intercountry adoption between Russia and the US, limiting the possibility of those orphans, many with complex medical conditions, finding a loving forever family and 1,500 of them who have already had the promise of a family given to them now with an uncertain future. Image

Thirteen years ago, my parents traveled to China to bring home my sister.  Despite that she was born in a region of the world that I have never seen and a family I can only imagine, she has always been my sister.  She was young enough at the time that she doesn’t remember the loss of her birth family, but I assure you that as she enters her adolescence that loss is palpable.  A recent documentary film, Somewhere Between, does an amazing job of exploring the coming-of-age of adoptees from China, so I won’t attempt to duplicate it here but rather refer you to this beautiful film.  While the loss of her birth family and culture is something that my sister will have to grapple with in finding her own identity, she now has a family who will always be there to help and support her along her journey.   I can’t help but think of the Russian orphans who will someday be facing these issues alone, without the unconditional and profuse love of parents or siblings to provide a secure base from which to explore the splendor and sadness of the world.

I am also reminded of the orphans in our own country.  Fifty-three years ago, my father was one of them until adopted into a family of his maternal aunt and six cousins.  His aunt, my Nana, did not see him as a commodity or political statement, but as an innocent child looking for the love of a family, which she could provide.  Without this adoption, he may have ended up in the US foster care system, where 423,000 other orphans experience the transient affection of semi-permanent families, with repeated loss and disruption, and 30,000 of them come-of-age without a forever family.

In my work as an adoption medicine specialist, I am often counseling families about the risk of adopting a particular child, based on their medical, developmental, and emotional needs.  We have never discussed the risk though that the child whom they fall in love with and becomes their own will be prohibited from joining their family due to retaliatory political laws.  We do not discuss that they may have to parent their children across an ocean, for years, or a lifetime.   We do not discuss that while they have a warm bed, plush toys, and endless affection waiting for their child that a crowded, cold, silent room will be their home indefinitely.   My heart breaks for these broken families and the children, who already orphaned by a family are now orphaned by a country.

For more information about the above topics, check out:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/28/world/europe/putin-to-sign-ban-on-us-adoptions-of-russian-children.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/12/202401.htm

http://www.davethomasfoundation.org/

If you are already in the process of adopting from Russia, the U.S. Department of State requests that you email the Department of State at AskCI@state.gov and state the stage and status of your adoption.  Use “Intercountry Adoption in Russia – Family Update” in the subject line of the email.

To subscribe to email alerts regarding Russian adoption, click here:

http://adoption.state.gov/country_information/country_specific_alerts_notices.php?alert_notice_type=alerts&alert_notice_file=russia_5

New Year, New Mom

Back Camera

A year ago was my second ever blog post: Resolutions.  At that time, I was still writing for myself and had not yet shared publicly my 2012 resolution to use my experiences doctoring to be a better mom.  A year later I can say that I have honored that resolution and use my daily experiences in the office to inspire and guide my parenting decisions and reactions.  I am definitely a better mom as a result.

This year I have been thinking a lot about what my resolution should be, and now I have a much broader audience to hold me to it.

Parenting a toddler makes you feel powerless.  It’s hard to predict when the next tantrum will strike, what food will end up in his mouth or on the floor, and how quickly he will learn new skills (like jumping off the stairs).  Our parenting approach is often a tag-team effort, meant to give one of us a break while the other keeps our toddler alive.  While we each get quality time with our son, we end up seeing less of each other.

On vacation with family for the holidays, my husband turned to me on day 3 and said, “Oh hey, how are you?  I feel like I haven’t seen you.”  This is representative of our lives currently, where we see each other all the time, but we aren’t actually connecting due to the many interruptions of life.   In the process of becoming better employees, homeowners, and parents, we have become worse spouses.  So it became obvious that my 2013 resolution should be to work as hard at being a wife as I do at being a mom.  These roles should be complimentary and not contradictory.   Reflecting back to the lessons learned in 2012, I’ll listen to the advice I’ve given many parents: a cohesive team of loving parents will lead to a happier toddler and teach him valuable lessons about relationships as he begins to navigate his own.

What’s your 2013 resolution?

The game of Life

Back CameraI’m a working mom, but being a mom doesn’t define my career goals.  Long before I ever thought about having children, I had decided that I wanted to be a primary care physician.  In fact, I went to medical school to become a primary care pediatrician and felt so strongly that this was my path that I would have switched professions rather than settle for another specialty.  It’s true that primary care affords me many luxuries as a working mom though, including no overnight calls in the hospital, office hours that allow me to do daycare pick-up and drop-off, and flexibility in scheduling.  These are just added benefits to a job that I love.  These lifestyle factors are increasingly becoming more important to women in medicine and are why so many more women end up in general pediatrics and primary care, whereas fields like cardiology and critical care are predominantly men.  It makes me feel bad for the women in these fields who have to make significant family planning decisions based on their career interests.

Recently though, two physicians have asked me if I was only doing this job for a few years or when I was going on for my fellowship.  The assumption here being that a former CHOP chief resident wouldn’t do primary care except for the lifestyle factors and that motherhood must have contributed to this decision.  I doubt that this question is asked to men in primary care.  I resent that there are still pediatricians who look down upon the important work that primary care physicians do and view my career as a loss of potential.  I am also saddened that while being a working mom in primary care is viewed as a “good choice” for raising children that the opposite is then thought of the working moms who follow their passion to the PICU/NICU/Onco [insert your favorite fellowship].  These moms face different work-life balance challenges than I do, but this doesn’t mean they love their children less or are less committed to motherhood.  I don’t think we should judge working moms based on how competitive we think their careers are, or aren’t.  I have many great mommy role models who work 30-hour shifts, weeks of nights, and 9-to-5.  We all do the best we can as mothers and doctors within the construct of what our specialty allows and in the more inspirational cases, we change the definition of what is allowed.

So the answer to your question is, I’m doing this forever.

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