Kristin Lyle, MD
Dr. Lyle is the disaster medical director at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, both in Little Rock
How many children do you have? We have three girls, ages 7 years, 4½ years, and 22 months.
What’s your specialty? My specialty is pediatrics, and I practice pediatric emergency medicine.
What’s the best parenting advice you’ve ever received? Slow down. Parenthood is a marathon, not a sprint. When our oldest daughter was first born, my husband and I were both working so much because we wanted to provide for our kids’ future.
But you should enjoy your kid while they’re young. It took us awhile to realize that when they’re young is when they like us. This is when you build the base for a good, lifelong relationship. My husband and I got so wrapped up in the future, that we forgot that the basis for the future is now when they’re young. It doesn’t matter if you can pay for their college education if they don’t want to talk to you by then.
What’s your own favorite parenting tip? Be prepared for anything that might come your way. So many of the things that we face could have been mitigated, if not completely avoided with proper preparation. For example, install baby gates, have your child wear a helmet when riding a bike, get properly installed child safety seats and turn down the temperature on your hot water heater to prevent burns. Take the time to fill and prepare a medicine cabinet with all the things you might need in the middle of the night with a sick child. You do not want to have to run to the pharmacy in the middle of the night when you have a sick child!
Also, involve your kids as much as possible in preparing for emergencies. It’s a good learning process for the whole family. And it doesn’t have to be scary. Empower your kids to make good choices. For example teach them what to do if the fire alarm goes off. Hold fire drills and establish a meeting location for everyone outside. If your kids have gone through the procedure, they are less likely to panic if the fire alarm goes off for real. It’s not about fear; it’s about knowledge and empowerment.
Along the same lines, when you go away, such as to an amusement park, talk about what you’ll do if you get separated. My family and I choose a place to meet when we first enter a park. Then if your child gets lots, it will be scary, but it doesn’t have to be a complete freak-out. We also talk to them about how to identify a person who works at the park to get help or instructions.
What has surprised you most about parenting? How much my kids have taught me. Few days go by when one of my kids doesn’t say something that makes me think, “She’s right! I should have thought about that!” Mostly they teach me about my own weaknesses and inspire me to be a better person.
Also, it’s surprised me how overwhelming parenthood is. I was 31 when my oldest was born. Before that, I thought I could handle it all. But parenthood is overwhelming every single day.
How do you get your kids to eat healthy food? It’s a whole lot easier to teach kids when they’re really young and you have control of their diet rather than trying to change behavior when they’re older.
I believe that breastfeeding is the best nutritional thing you can do for a child. Kids who were breastfed are likely to have a healthier weight when they’re older.
I also believe that a healthy breakfast sets the tone for the day. I find that if my kids have a healthy breakfast, they don’t eat as much later in the day. Plus, they have a better day period.
Also, when you open our refrigerator, the foods at eye level are fruits, vegetables, yogurt, and string cheese. Those are the first things everyone sees, and the most accessible. If the kids want to have nachos or cookie dough, they have to move the healthy foods out of the way.
How do you work exercise into your family’s life? I think it’s so much easier when kids are young because they yearn to develop their gross motor skills. We simply turn on music and dance. Dancing for my girls is usually a cardio workout! We have dance breaks a couple of times a day.
As kids get older, though, they want to do more sedentary things. For example, our seven-year-old daughter wants to do more quiet activities, such as art or piano. Some older kids get very wrapped up in video games or reading. We have a rule that at least one of her activities has to involve physical fitness, such as dance, karate, or soccer. She resisted at first, but now she asks, “Is this good exercise that will help keep my body healthy?”
How do you recharge your batteries? I’m not a morning person, and I never will be. So I’m not going to get up each day and meditate.
One of my favorite times of any day is when I can be alone in the car, not have anyone asking me questions, and pick the radio station myself—or even turn it off. I’ve learned to really cherish these times when I can be alone and think. I used hate running errands, but now I enjoy them if I get to them alone.
Another favorite time for me is at night after the kids go to bed, I watch The Daily Show or The Cobert Report while I do the dishes and take a shower. (Yes I have a TV in my bathroom!) These shows are brain candy for adults, and they make me laugh. And an uninterrupted hot shower is a little piece of heaven for me.
Also, I found a hair salon where I can get a pedicure while I get a haircut. That way, I’m not out of the house any longer, paying for an extra hour of childcare, but I’m still getting pampered while I’m doing something that I have to do anyway.