3 Things My 3-year-old Taught Me

This weekend my darling wife went away interstate for a training conference. Some Infectious Diseases clever doctorish stuff. Things we surgeons just do not understand, or even wanna try to understand. I always think, there are only 3 antibiotics in the world anyway, so why spend a beautiful weekend attending conferences on those 3 antibiotics?

So it was left with the trio of Father, son and the wholly MacDonald’s. (Noooo…. don’t worry, we did not go to MacDonald’s at all this weekend.) Anyway, we both survived the weekend. Mommy was surprised we both maintained healthy weights.

During the weekend, my son taught me 3 little things. I’ve been taught these things in the past, but being the simple surgeon that I am, I always need frequent reminders.

1. The Discipline of Unhurriedness

As a trainee surgeon, time is limited. I’m always in a hurry trying to get things done. I have books to read, jobs to do, patients to cut, research to complete, etc, etc. I often have the problem of bringing home that kind of surgical mindset and applying it to the general running of this household. I need to remind myself that this is not a hospital to run, but a home to enjoy. I need to stop being in a hurry. My plans for a 7am wake up, 7.30am out the door for breakfast and 0815am arrival at the Aquarium were not appreciated by my son. He wanted to chill. He wanted to take time choosing his cereal. He wanted the cereal sprinkled across the kitchen room floor. Then he wanted to run around the house in his nappies expecting me to run after him in my underwear. It didn’t matter what jobs we had to do and how much we had to accomplish by the end of the day. We just needed to play. There wasn’t a list of Reminders and To-dos. There was just me, and him. And I admit I had to fight this surgically-trained urge of goal-oriented time-managed behaviour. I had to let time go. I had to be unhurried. It was not time ‘wasted’. It was time ‘invested’ in my son.

2. HIS Happiness Matters

My workplace is full of sickness, pain, diseases, blood, sputum, saliva, snort, negativities, stress, complaints, anger, frustration, etc. Sounds like I work in a bank. No, hospitals in general aren’t the happiest place on earth. Hospitals are full of the egos of doctors, the pride of nurses, the pain of patients, and the anxieties of families colliding. It is a highly charged environment. So when I spend a weekend with my son who smiles and hugs me and says, “I love you, daddy”, that softens my calloused heart. My son’s happiness detoxifies all the poison that I’ve drunk during the week. My son’s happiness reminds me that all the hard work will one day be worth it as long as I keep my life in balance. My son’s happiness does something to my heart that no amount of fame, fortune, alcohol or even the most successful of operations could ever do. My son’s happiness reminds me to be humble and to strive for the simple things in life.

3. MY happiness matters.

Twice this weekend my son asked me, “Are you happy, daddy?” Almost brought tears to my eyes. He must have known that I am a surgeon. I am always angry, upset, uptight, obsessive-compulsive, and short-tempered. He probably sees me angry more often than happy. He knows that I bring home the stresses and demands of work. This 3 year old just wants his daddy to be happy. How could a 3 year old know that? He does not like being near an angry daddy. He wants me to be happy. My happiness matters to him.

And how often does my happiness matter to my wife, my son, my family, my workmates and my patients. I have been asked many times at the end of an operation by patient’s families if I was happy with the outcome. Patients do rely on a surgeon’s happiness for their sense of hope. Nurses sometimes say at the end of an operation, “you’ve gotta be happy with that.” Even the surgical team takes pride and walks out happy when they see the surgeon walks out of theatre happy.

My happiness matters. Not in a self-centred egoistical way, but in an others-focused way. My happiness does matter for others.

Thanks, my lovely Little E.