Paul B. Langevin, MD

Dr. Langevin is a dad of a 17-year-old son and a cardiac anesthesiologist and critical care doctor at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia.

What’s the most surprising lesson that being a dad has taught you? I’ve been overwhelmed by how many traits our children learn from passive observation of their parents. Certainly, we all know things might be genetic or environmental, but the degree to which our children’s characters mimic our own because of passive observation is far beyond anything I could have imagined. In my case, my son is adopted, so there’s no genetic basis for similarity. Yet the way he thinks, his perception, and his response to his environment is very much like mine, good and bad. I think the reason we don’t realize the impact of our typical behavior has on our kids is because it’s imprinted on them long before they’re old enough to exhibit it.

What’s the one thing about being a new dad that shouldn’t be missed? Spending time, a lot of time, with your kids. Pediatricians say they see a new patient every time a child returns to their office. As parents, we have to remember that children become slightly different people every day as they grow up. They express new behaviors, but, alas, at the expense of the old ones. So don’t miss anything. Savor ever stage they go through because once it’s gone, if you missed it, you never get it back. It’s really hard to balance medicine with parenting. Getting it right is the challenge.

What’s the most overrated thing about fatherhood? Thinking that anyone is going to realize you do anything significant.

What’s the most underrated thing about fatherhood?  The importance of the seemingly most trivial things.

Why are fathers important? Fathers can have as much impact on children as mothers even if our society undervalues their role. The reason we frequently don’t value fathers, I think, is twofold. First, we just aren’t around as much because we’re working all of the time. Second, it’s easy to acquiesce to letting someone else take the lead in raising the kids.

In my case, there was no mother really, so the relationship between my son and me is very close. This came largely from the amount of time we spent together. Obviously at home it was pretty much just us from the time he was small, but also I coached his teams, did Scouts with him, attended his school functions, and volunteered to be involved at his school. It was hugely rewarding, and today I reap the benefits of that investment. I have a great kid. We still do things together. When things are difficult, he respects me as his father. I remain his primary counsel when he seeks advice.

Career, marriage, kids … how does a guy stay sane? I think some guys have this desire to continue wanting what they had before the kids came. You have to be ready to have kids before they come and that includes being prepared to trade, NOT SACRIFICE, some enjoyments for others. For example, a guy might like to play golf, and there will be little time for that for a while, but I would trade those hours on the course for the hours on the little league field in a heartbeat.

Also, involving your kids and if possible your wife in what you like to do is an all-around win. If you like to bicycle, then encourage the kids to bike with you. When they’re small, put them on your bike. When they’re bigger, teach them to ride and then lengthen the distances. Be patient as they develop the skill. They need your patience, but if you are, they develop.

I like to scuba dive. I couldn’t do that with my son when he was little, but I taught him to love the water. Then when he was older, I taught him to swim. Then I taught him to snorkel, and by 13 he was dive certified (junior of course). Now we can dive anywhere.

The more activities you share with your children, the fewer activities you have to do without in the long-term.

Profile by Wyatt Myers

Dr. Langevin’s Q&A

Should I be nervous about my child undergoing anesthesia?