Charles T. Price, MD

Dr. Price is a dad of two grown children and the grandfather of seven-, six-, and three-year-old grandchildren, a professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine, the director of International Hip Dysplasia Institute, the past president of the Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America, and a co-founder of the Institute for Better Bone Health.

What was the biggest challenge you faced while your wife was pregnant and/or as a dad, and how did you overcome it? The biggest challenge was finding time to spend with family. My work and career have been very fulfilling and enjoyable, and so has my family. I always wanted to be in two places at once and found it difficult to keep both of those aspects in proper balance. My wife also has had a brilliant career in law beginning at a time when the traditional mother was still a stay-at-home mom. We didn’t have role models who had achieved a two-career family with a successful family and marriage. Together we seemed to overcome these challenges by focusing on family when not engaged in our careers. Other interests seemed unimportant to us because both of us cherished time with family as well as enjoying our careers, so it was easy for us to spend all available “free time” with our children rather than pursuing personal hobbies or interests outside of our careers or family.

What’s the most surprising lesson that being a dad has taught you? Being a dad has taught me to be more patient, loving, and mature without expecting a perfectly harmonious relationship. Somehow, I thought being a parent would be constantly joyful and fulfilling. I was a fairly young father and had to learn to reward desirable behavior and impose consequences for undesirable behavior without labeling that behavior as good or bad. A child engages in childish behavior all of the time. Sometimes this is amusing, and other times it is annoying, especially when the child wants something that Dad doesn’t think is appropriate, when Dad is tired, or when Dad wants some peace and quiet for his own purposes. I learned the importance of being the adult in such confrontations rather than resorting to a raised voice, physical dominance, and withdrawal from communication, or imitating the child. Children are not capable of understanding or learning when adults engage in childish behavior any more than the parent is likely to give in to childish efforts. From that perspective, I hope I was able to become a more patient, loving, and mature father after learning that children may test your nerves regularly until they become about six to seven years old.

What’s the one bit of advice about fatherhood you wish someone had given you much earlier? Enjoy young children as though they are little crazy people with strange ideas of how and why things happen. The father’s job is to bring them back to reality in a caring way. They cannot understand adult logic, and grown-up people have magical powers. Use those powers like a wise king. In other words, relax and enjoy your children even when they are behaving badly. They will turn out okay if you love them, praise good behavior, and constantly correct any misbehavior in a kind and caring manner.

My second piece of advice as children get older and even into adulthood is to defend and protect your children even when they mess up. The world is a harsh and unforgiving place when children get into even minor trouble. The world will teach your child a lesson, but your children need to know you will stand beside them regardless of how bad it gets. Eventually, they will come around if you do not abandon them.

I would like to note that my comments are not only from the perspective of a father and grandfather, but also from the viewpoint of a pediatric surgical specialist for 35 years. I only hope that I would have the ability to be like the parents whom I admire for accepting and loving their children as they are without attempting to mold them into something that is impossible for the child to achieve. This seems to apply equally to parents of able-bodied children as well as to parents of disabled children.

The awareness of a child’s limitations strikes earlier for the parents of disabled children and that can upset the emotional balance. However, parents of able-bodied children often expect too much too fast from their own children. The love of a parent for a child is a wondrous thing when it is pure and without anticipation of what that child might or might not become. The mother of a totally vegetative child can see light in the child’s eyes and know that a soul is inside who loves her and whom she loves back. The parent of a highly gifted child may only see himself or herself in the child and expect that child to live up to parental expectations of greatness so that the parent can be satisfied in their role. My advice to parents is to love openly regardless of failures and difficulties. Do not be embarrassed by a child with limitations and do not be overly proud of a gifted child except to revel in the child’s achievements, whatever they may be.

What’s the one thing about being a new dad that shouldn’t be missed? Holding and nurturing the baby. I appreciate small infants much more as a grandparent than I did as a father. They are fun to feed and hold, but not much fun to diaper.

What’s the most overrated thing about fatherhood? The first six months of infancy are the most overrated thing about fatherhood and motherhood in my opinion. The joy and responsibility of having a child outweigh the work involved. No one except the new parents knows the anxiety and the burden of having a totally dependent infant who would not survive without their constant attention. It is the nature of human infancy that total dependence on the parents is essential for life. Fortunately, strong instincts come into play as soon as the baby is born so that the new parents are willing to protect and nourish the infant until there are some personal rewards, but that comes much later.

What’s the most underrated thing about fatherhood? I think the most underrated thing about fatherhood is the personal growth that occurs as a result of unexpected successes or difficulties that occur to your children. Parents grow and develop new perspectives on life, love, success, failure, strife and relationships whether children achieve all that is possible or whether they fall short of their own expectations.  The journey of fatherhood makes a richer perspective if it is viewed as a journey of unexpected events and outcomes that can all be turned into positive lessons.

Why are fathers important? Fathers are important as role models and mentors from birth until at least age 30 years for most children. Fathers who assume that role are more likely to be successful than those who want their child to be an equal friend or companion. The friendship and companionship can occur, but only in the context of the father’s guidance.

Career, marriage, kids … how does a guy stay sane? Recognize that how a person spends his or her time is a personal choice. Physicians who work long hours do so because of the enjoyment and rewards of the profession. Families and children want Daddy to be happy so he should come home happy instead of exhausted and without any reserve for them. When Daddy comes home grumpy and in need of emotional support, then it is hard on everyone. If you are not happy in your job, then you will not be happy at home, but come home happy even when you’ve had a hard day at work. Being happy is also a choice regardless of the circumstances. You can stay sane if you maintain a positive outlook, recover from stress as rapidly as possible with exercise or brief interludes rather than long absences from home.

Profile by Wyatt Myers

Dr. Price’s Q&As

My child has disabilities. How can I handle or deal with children who tease him?

What are some things that I can do to help my baby’s physical development?