Father is…

Dr. Pablo Goldberg wrote the following reflection on what the word “father” means to him.  On Father’s Day, we honor the work that goes into parenting, and hope that Dads can find time to relax and enjoy themselves with their families. 

Father is big, powerful, immense, like a mountain, like the sea, like the plains….

Father encompasses, protects…like a shoe he fits us, warms us up like clothes…he is ubiquitous….

Father is a noun, an adjective and a verb at the same time, but beyond the grammar…it exists, qualifies and conjugates the Universe of us.

Father is the beginning of us, the teacher, the ancestor, the root, the anchor.…

Father, feder, pater…Dada, Papa, Popp…Indo-European…Latin.

Father is not a degree conferred by any school, but by life….achieved by doing, by caring, by loving,  providing, by laughing, by crying, by supporting…by instilling confidence….

When I think about a father, I do not think about a generic or abstract one; I think about my father, I think about my grandfather…I think about my lineage….

I then go to Adam, to Abraham and his sacrifice….I go to Abraham Lincoln, to San Martin, my country hero…to Otto Frank…to  the character  Atticus Finch…to Jean Valjean…to the Roberto Benigni character, being that protective father in Life is Beautiful or Jimmy Stewart being a sacrificed one in It’s a Wonderful Life…or the suffering father losing his bike and his job in The Bicycle Thief…the steady one, ready to be a mother if necessary in Mrs. Doubtfire, or  Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather, or Will Smith  doing everything for his son in The Pursuit of Happiness and so many heroes and unsung ones……many ordinary fathers……getting up every morning to be there, to exercise their role with or without their partners…to strive for the life of their families, for their nest, to go hunting for the daily survival, the daily loaf of bread.

It is the ultimate job, the calling of the blood and of the genes, the biologically strong magnetic role: like a father, like son…like daughter….

Father goes with mother and mother goes with father….

Nature dictates that way…and that is the way we see it: a sperm cell cannot make a living without an ovule and vice versa!

Yet, in our field (psychiatry) we do not always see the fathers with virtues…we see them as well detached, perhaps abusive, depressed, alcoholic…as well…and yet the father figure represents and influences a lot…..because at the end a father is a father!

He can be present, he can be absent…he can be good, he can be bad.…yet…impossible to unlink…to our lives….

He has seen my eyes closed when I barely could breathe and sleep….

He has held my hand in my first steps….

He has held my spoon along with my Mom in my first bites.

He has rocked my cradle when I cried inconsolably.

He has played ball with me and climbed the trees I wanted to climb.

He has timed me out when I had a tantrum without a reason or with a reason.

He has taken me to school and picked me up from there.

He has pushed my bike to give me security when I did not dare go on my own.

He allowed me to partner with him in the fishing by the beach in the early dawn ours.

He taught me to listen to Bach and Beethoven and Tchaikovsky and helped me understand what the cannons of 1812 were.

He taught me a myriad of his childhood tales that I hear mesmerized and I memorized….and I tell to my children.

He sat with me and did not leave my side till I finished the first fifteen pages of a book, pushing my intellect.

He inspired me to taste nature, the forest and the lakes and rivers, the good food and the good wine.

He planted seeds with me and, with me, spelled the botanical Latin jargon for plants and flowers.

He was caught under the rain with me on a long pier, and we had fun splashing through water till finding cover.

He pushed me back to shore when we swam together too far into the ocean.

He taught me not to accept injustice and fight for my right.

He coached me in punching when I had to learn to defend myself.

He taught me that history…and geography…and physics and mathematics can be beautiful, solely if looking at them with passion.

He taught me that D-Day was not only an alphabetical day.

He has been my friend and my mentor.

He has shown me that happiness does not come automatically but is an attitude… that in order to obtain a reward, sacrifice is needed with hard work.

And most importantly that freedom is our capacity to choose our destiny and be responsible for it.

Adding to the medley, which makes a constellation of shooting memories and shining moments: Celluloid of life: is the starting point: I, me.

I toil with children and with their fathers, their mothers.

Cicero once said, “Of all nature’s gifts to the human race, what is sweeter to a man than his children?”   I would tell him, these gifts are not for granted, and these children are of that man!

My father is me and is my children and the children of my children: my father is history and my father is destiny: and as when we see through a telescope and we see the light of a solar system that no longer is…..his light will kindle and will kindle through: I just hold the torch, never dimming throughout.

Mother’s (Mental Health) Day

Photo (c) Ivan Jekic
Photo (c) Ivan Jekic

What does Mother’s Day mean? For many families it signifies roses, brunch, breakfast in bed, gifts, cards and phone calls to moms and grandmothers to say “thank you for caring for us each and every day.”

Any mother will tell you, though, that the very most important Mother’s Day present is the acknowledgement that Mom, the caregiver, needs care and support, too. Emotional, mental, and physical health is the gift toward which we all strive. Mom is no exception.

Scott Hirose, Ph.D., senior psychologist at the Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian says the recognition is important to help sustain mothers to do their jobs, day in and out. “It’s nice to have a day where everyone in the family is asked to think about how their mothers have been there for them,” says Hirose. “It is such a complex job and it really never lets up.”

It’s fitting that Mother’s Day falls during National Mental Health Awareness Month and National Maternal Depression Awareness Month. Nearly 44 million adults (one in five people) in America experience a mental illness.  Mood disorders are twice as prevalent in women compared with men, particularly during the childbearing years.

Being a parent can be challenging, even when Mom is not dealing with specific mental health issues. “In addition to all of the joys and rewards that come with parenting, there are also a significant number of stressors,” says Colleen Cullen, Psy.D., also a Senior Psychologist at the Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Cullen noted that it is important for mothers to prioritize their own well-being, in addition to that of their children. This may take the form of self-care activities, like taking time to exercise, socialize with friends and loved ones or just spend a few quiet minutes alone.  “For mothers who are struggling with symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns, it may be helpful for them to seek treatment,” says Dr. Cullen.  “By taking care of themselves, mothers set a healthy example for their children and are also better able to manage the everyday challenges that come along with parenting in an effective manner.”

Here are four steps for improving mental health:   

  1. Get support:  Help can come from many people and places–your social network, your family, your physician, or a trained professional such as a social worker, a psychologist, or a social worker.
  2. Know that you are not alone:  As First Lady Michelle Obama recently said, “It’s time to tell everyone dealing with a mental health issue that they are not alone, and that getting support isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.”  The Importance and the Opportunity.
  3. Manage stress: Everyone experiences stress. But sometimes stress becomes more than we feel we can manage.  The National Institute of Mental Health has these tips for handling stress in your life. If you feel you can’t manage on your own, repeat steps one and two!
  4. Be kind to yourself:  This really falls under managing stress, but we can’t stress enough the importance of being nice to yourself and mom on all days–not just Mother’s Day.  Take a mental health day (or minute) now and then. Breath, relax, rejuvenate.