This post is dedicated to my friend David, who passed away on June 13th after a battle with leukemia, leaving behind two young daughters. While we have not been in touch for many years, we reconnected around his illness. We were roommates in medical school, and were very close before he moved to the West coast and life took us in different directions. Recently I spoke with a mutual friend, also a father of two girls, who is godfather to one of David's daughters. He described horsing around with the girls in the pool on a recent visit shortly before David died. Both David and my friend are athletes, and I could vividly picture the physical nature of David's relationship with his girls, and the important role our mutual friend will now play in their lives.
In my behavioral pediatrics practice I always encourage fathers to participate, and am most grateful when they come for visits. Sometimes a mother has been dealing with with postpartum depression, and the father can offer a unique perspective. Other times, the father himself has been struggling emotionally, and we are able to address these issues and their relevance to parenting. In a previous post Supporting Fathers Emotional Health, I address this issue in detail. The bottom line is that fathers have an essential role to play in supporting a child's healthy emotional development.
Recently I was interviewed for an article in Parenting Magazine about things not to say when a child is having a tantrum. One was, "Just wait till your father gets home!" While threats of this nature are never good, recognizing being "at the end of one's rope," and in such a moment drawing on the support of a perhaps more level headed partner is an excellent idea.
I never met David's wife, but my heart goes out to her. In addition to the grief of this terrible loss, she now is faced with the challenging task of managing these inevitable parenting moments without her other half to balance things out. l know from the chain of emails about his illness that there is an extensive support network of family and friends to take up that role. I hope she will make good use of them.
David is still very much alive in my mind. I have vivid memories of him as a thoughtful, smart and really funny person. While I never saw him in his father role, I am certain that he was much more to his daughters than a great playmate. Father's day will be one of many difficult days ahead for this young family. I know those close to them will help them to hold on to their many wonderful memories of David.
In celebration of his spirit, I give thanks for the fathers in my life- both the father of my children and my own father. I hope others will do the same.