In an upcoming “Behavioral Consult” column in Pediatric News, Johns Hopkins University pediatrician Barbara Howard talks about the many ways in which fathers uniquely contribute to their children’s health and well-being, and encourages pediatricians to make them feel comfortable and necessary during visits, right from the start.
Her many suggestions range from the utilitarian — offering Dad-friendly magazines and an extra chair in the exam room — to the insightful: emphasizing the infant’s strength and engagement during the well-baby exam and showing Dad how comfy his progeny feels in the “football hold.”
The discussion made me reflect on the fathers in my life and their connections with pediatricians. My own father seemed to know Dr. Snyder, but mostly from my mother’s amused recountings of our doctor’s dry wit and straight-faced pronouncements of medical truths (or falsehoods?) My husband, on the other hand, was a regular presence in the pediatrician’s office, always setting a bad example for the kids by playing with the blood pressure cuff or checking out the “knee hammers” in the drawer.
Where my husband’s great value lay was in negotiating the minor emergency phone line when one of our kids had a fever, gash, or cough. While my calls always seemed to be met with bored professionalism on the part of the triage nurse or the front desk assistant, we quickly realized that a call from DAD meant there must surely be an EMERGENCY. My hunch was that the voice of fatherhood was so unusual in the daily rhythm of the pediatric office that everyone took notice when a real dad was on the phone. The appointment was made pronto. The doctor called back immediately. We were no longer alone in our child crisis.
If pediatricians take Dr. Howard’s advice and brush off the welcome mat for Dads, I guess that eventually they’ll have to sit on hold just like moms have been doing for years.
— Betsy Bates