I recently learned of two fellow developmental behavioral pediatricians who had passed away. Both, at different points in my life had been teachers and then mentors to me. They taught me to look beyond the surface of what a child was doing to the underlying reasons, which frequently came from confusion, anxiety, and then anger. They were not that old, or so I feel as I get closer to being eligible for Medicare, and I feel still had much to offer the children they cared for and the students and fellow practitioners that they taught.
The mentor I miss the most, however, is my father. He truly understood that being a parent was much more than being the genetic source, the supplier of food, clothing, and housing. He had a deep sense of loyalty to all to whom he was related to, and to his friends and employees. As a father, he spent many evenings sitting with me at the round table in our living room, or on warm nights like this Memorial Day weekend, on the front steps, sharing the story of his life. He would discuss choices and fate, and his belief in how God had a plan for all of us. He would listen to my fears, dreams, and plans, understanding the true meaning of being a sounding board. He also died too young, at about the same age as my other mentors. I guess the saying is right, the good do die young.
We always felt that we had received love, acceptance, and most of all respect from our father. This then became the mantra when working with families and professionals. I try to teach everyone that children are born wanting love, acceptance and respect. The rest we have to teach them.
This weekend we are celebrating our freedoms, given to us by our armed forces. One of the freedoms they gave us was the time to give love, acceptance, and respect to each of our children. They need us to be teachers, coaches, and most of all mentors. We need to spend the time to get to know them, how they process what is around them, how it makes them feel, and then we will understand why they do things the way they do. We can then provide them with the needed guidance, modeling, and constructive feedback (not criticism) to grow into the competent, confident adults that we imagined when we first met them, at birth, or in the classroom.
Take time to live the life as a mentor. It will make you a more fulfilled person.