20 July 2009

Dr. Steven Parker, RIP

In: Health

drparker.jpgWow. Just got a shocker while going through the backlog in my very-neglected feed reader. Dr. Steven Parker, author of the WebMD blog Healthy Children, died unexpectedly back in April.

Dr. Parker was many things -- a beloved doctor, expert pediatrician at WebMD, director of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Boston Medical Center, co-director of Healthy Steps, and co-author with Dr. Benjamin Spock of Baby and Child Care.

I'm sure you know that "parenting expert" credentials aren't my thing...in fact they're often a red flag. But Dr. P was the brightest exception. (There are more, but he was by far my favorite.) He was a loving advocate for kids. He didn't medicalize people, or pathologize them, or see them as collections of symptoms and syndromes, or as intellectual puzzles to be solved. He saw them as children. Individual children with their own quirks and problems and gifts. He was there to help.

What's more, he didn't criminalize parents for making the "wrong" choices when diapering their babies, or putting them to sleep, or helping them grow up. His feet were firmly planted in the real world, and he recognized -- even rejoiced in -- the many, many right ways to raise a child.

I got to know Dr. Parker after I wrote this fawning post about him in 2006. He became familiar with Parent Hacks, and I regularly read his blog and linked to his posts. We emailed on and off, and one day he asked to call me. Soon we were chatting on the phone about blogs and technology, and how the future of parenting advice (pediatric and otherwise) was online. Here's what some would call an old-school pediatrician evengelizing the "virtualization" of a big part of his cohort's practice. Many docs would be threatened -- he was thrilled.

Turns out he loved what was happening here at Parent Hacks. "Parents give each other the best advice anyway," he said in characteristic fashion. He had plenty of ideas about how we could work together in the future. We periodically emailed our ideas to each other while both getting busy with life. As you know, for me, that has meant plenty of time offline, so I had no idea he passed away. I'm very sad to find this out today. I'm grateful I got to know him a bit better than simply admiring him from afar.

There are lots of good guys in the "field" of parenting, but Dr. Parker was one of the best. His passion and humor and good nature (not to mention his incredible contributions to the field of developmental pediatrics) will be missed.

Parent Hacks posts featuring Dr. Steven Parker:

Accept them as they are

I heart Dr. Parker

Cheap, no-comb lice treatment

Now I really heart Dr. Parker

Simple diet changes for overweight teens

Dr. Parker on dealing with childhood fears

Babies and dirt go together just fine

Raising book lovers in a media-rich world

How to supervise your child's online conduct

Dr. Parker on why parents should obsess about sun protection

Tips for raising bilingual children

When pediatricians make mistakes

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Here is a link for a great parenting book written by fathers http://www.diyfather.com/callmedad

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