Just Be Yourself

The other day, as I walked into a patient room, a young 4-5 year-old patient of mine quizzically looked at me and said, “Why did you change your hair?” The thing is…I didn’t change my hair. I’m just slowly losing my hair. He then pointed to my hospital ID badge (which is as old as the little patient himself) and explained, “See! You changed your hair.” I then let out a sigh and said, “Trust me kid! If I could change it back, I would.”
My hair 4 years ago- Artwork by Saleh Heneidi
In the field of medicine, and especially in pediatrics, much of our time is spent teaching patients or parents about this or that aspect of their health, although not always successfully. I once was telling a mother about the benefit of vitamin D infant drops to her breastfeeding baby and she responded, “Oh, so I drop them onto the baby’s forehead?” But, for as much time that I spend trying to teach patients what I know, I spend an equal amount of time learning from my patients.

Now, one might ask what a grown man learns from a child. There is beauty in our youth. Children are excellent at being who they truly are. In the story that started this blog post, the child wasn’t concerned that his comment might make me feel sensitive about my hair (and that it did). He just said it because that’s what he really thought, and that’s who he really is.

 Somehow as adults we lose this ability to be comfortable in our skin. I often find myself being a different person depending on the situation; and it seems quite clear to me that everybody else around me does the same. If only I could be more like the kids in my office and always be ok with being me!

On a different occasion, I offered a 4 year-old patient a Batman sticker at the end of his visit, but he rejected it because he wanted a Superman sticker. He wasn’t concerned whether that was the greatest possible insult one could give me, he just liked Superman more. As a response, I informed his mother that if he made a similar choice in the future, he would have to find another pediatrician since we obviously had irreconcilable and conflicting interests. There are 2 things that are hard to stomach in my practice as a pediatrician, refusing vaccines, and rejecting Batman.
Will I mention Batman in every blog post?
In a world where as we age we grow weary and experience all kinds of change around us, including witnessing terrible human tragedies (today is the one year anniversary of the chemical weapon attack in Syria), it is no wonder that we become less certain of how to be ourselves. We worry more about how others perceive us than how we actually feel about ourselves. Perhaps we need to be a little more like how we were at age 5, and let the world see us for who we really are. Maybe then we could all know each other better, and maybe, just maybe... I wouldn’t care that I was going bald.

Don't kill all the beautiful things
I was searching for truth, in the dust of my days
I was so lost, and I was so young.- The Lawrence Arms


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