This weekend Helen & I had the joy of spending Christmas evening and several days afterwards with our son Charlie and his dear wife Dawn, and our granddaughters Abby and Naomi. It was a wonderfully exciting time for us. Charlie has just accepted a really good job with a large company and we are rejoicing with him. It will allow Dawn to be at home more with our two lovely granddaughters. It does require them to leave Texas and move to Washington State.

And, that is the rub I guess. Now our two beautiful grandchildren will be 2000 miles away instead of a thousand. Of course we had hoped that they would be moved closer by the providential hand of God who always attends to the wants and desires of grandparents. :-) We are so glad & grateful to God that their house is nearly sold and that they have found another. But, today I find myself saying goodbye as my adult child heads off on another adventure.

It reminds me of when Charlie volunteered for the army over a decade ago. I drove him to the hotel where he stayed the night before he shipped out. I said goodbye in the sincere hope that time and the tide would bring him back home someday. It did, but since then life has been a succession of moves and goodbyes each time with the hope that someday soon he would be back.

I know that all of this is a learning/growth opportunity for me. It is the bittersweet last lesson of parenthood. The path The Lord has for me and for my adult children will head in different directions. I know this. So today I will smile give them all a hug and head back to Indiana with Helen as I learn how to rejoice when God chooses to bless others in a different direction.

I am sitting in the airport again reading articles and waiting on a flight to visit grandchildren in Texas. I just finished an article that raises a question about whether or not it is good for 18month olds to use a tablet computer. The article also questions how much time the 18month child should spend playing with an I-pad or similar device. Pros and cons were presented in the article. The main concern was that when children this young spend any significant amount of time looking and interacting with a screen that it affects their ability to interact with people.

The average child in the US today is spending more than 4 hours of screen time a day either watching television or playing computer games. At the same time childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions while achievement test scores have declined. The problem with TV/screen time as I see it is threefold. It requires physical inactivity. It prevents actual physical interaction in the process of learning. It presents content that can either be useful, mediocre or even destructive in nature.

As a family doctor, I often see children who weigh more than is good for them. The heart of the problem is physical inactivity. Childhood obesity is mostly blamed on soda and junk food. While I can agree that excessive amounts of these kinds of foods can add on the pounds, I do not think that Twinkies are the problem. We had them when I was a kid and we did not struggle with childhood obesity. The difference was and is television or screen time. When my brother and I were drinking an occasional Pepsi and eating oatmeal cookies we weren't watching 4 hours of television. We were allowed 30 minutes and then we were told, "Go out and play." And, we gladly did. It is inactivity today, not the quality of our diets that is the main culprit in obesity.

The second destructive aspect of television/computer use is that it takes time. It takes up time that children need to interact with parents, siblings and friends. It takes up time that is needed to explore their environment, learn their colors, numbers, letters, and yes how to read. Television and tablets take up precious time that the child needs for learning how to play with other children and interact with adults. Tablets and television are no substitute for learning how to build real human relationships.  For humans relationships there is no such thing as virtual reality!

The third reason television/screen time is trouble for children is that the content of most of television and computer games is an absolute disaster. Programs are rarely even morally neutral. Political and sexual agendas are chronically injected into programs that are supposed to be educational. I suggest that no parent set their child in front of a television to watch unsupervised content.

Raising children is a hands-on occupation. Someone will do it. Parents have the blessing and privilege to invest their time in raising and discipling their children for God’s glory.  Moses told us in Deuteronomy 6 that we are to be teaching our children when they rise, on the way to work and home, and at the dinner table and on the way to bed. We can substitute screen time in that process, but we do so at our children’s and our own peril. And, no I do not think it is a good thing to put an 18 month old in front of a TV or a computer screen!

“Tablets a Hit with the Kids but Experts Worry”, Associated Press on the web.  Bree Fowler,  Dec 24th 2013

Choking children at 35000 Feet.

Here I am flying out to California to visit cousins and about 15 or 20 minutes into the flight a child 18 months old or so chokes on something. The stewardess came to help and I asked what was going on. The stewardess asked me if I am a doctor and when I said yes they hand me the child. It sounded like she had choked on some formula so I just re-positioned her a bit and shortly she was back to breathing normally.

It reminded me of the movie Field of Dreams when the young ball player walks off the field to become the old doctor played by Burt Lancaster and saves the child choking on the hot dog. This is the second time in a year that I have been privileged to help someone in distress on an airplane. Events like this remind me of why I went to medical school.

It is easy today to lose track of why I went. Very little about medicine is very much like what it was when I started practicing in 1975. It was fun then. I was part of a profession that served people. I worked for patients not insurance companies or the government. It was simple then. People came if they wanted to, and I took care of their problems. And, yes they paid me mostly.

Now we are in the grip of a titanic change in the way we deliver and pay for health care. It is not simple. I daily read about people who are losing their insurance, having their premiums double and their deductibles double. I read one man who asked us to pray for him because his insurance company was leaving the state and he feared that he would not be able to see the doctor who saved his life any longer.

It would be enough to make a fellow think about retiring I suppose and I know that many will. But, then at 35000 there is a baby choking. And, I can remember why I went to medical school. And, for just a moment medicine is fun again.