A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


I'm an experienced father. I've been a parent for 25 years, so I know about being a dad. There are times when I think I'm pretty good at it, and times when I think I'll never get it right.

Take last Thursday, for example. Eleven-year-old Jonathan was scheduled for a medical procedure that would require him to be anesthetized. As the doctor explained it, Jon would be totally out for 10 minutes or so, which sounded like no big deal to me but was a Very Big Deal to Jon. I assured him of the expertise of the doctor and anesthetist, and explained how great it will be for him to be able to sleep through the procedure.

"This will be an adventure!" I told him enthusiastically. "A life experience! A quest!"

So maybe I was over-selling it a bit. I was trying to calm down a nervous boy, OK?

Jon was brave (not counting some stress over the insertion of the required I.V. tube) and everything went well. This is probably because they had me leave during the procedure, knowing perfectly well that I was the one mostly likely to freak out. When the doctor allowed me to re-join my son in the recovery room, Jon was fighting his way through anesthetic grogginess. He noticed the I.V. tube in his right arm and the pulse monitor attached to a finger on his left hand.

"Hey," he said, slurring his words heavily, "I got attachments!"

About a half-hour later the nurse said he was good to go. He was still not all the way back from his chemically induced stupor, and even though he was clinging to me he staggered and stumbled a little as we made our way back to our car.

"I'm so clumsy," he said, sounding more than a little tipsy. "Nothing moves right."

This, it seemed to me, was one of those real life teaching moments that veteran parents learn to recognize and seize.

Or fumble, as the case may be.

"You know, Jon," I said, "what you're feeling right now is a lot like how it feels to be drunk. Like you're out of control. Like you can't make your body do what you want it to do."

Now, I've got to be honest: I've never been drunk, so I don't really know how it feels. But I have been under anesthetic a time or two, and I hated that doped up feeling. I figured my son would hate it too.

I figured wrong.

"This is so cool!" Jon said. "I like this feeling!"

Suddenly this parental veteran had NO idea what to say. Instead of taking advantage of a teaching moment, I had somehow managed to slip inebriation into an exclusive list of Things Jon Likes To Do that includes basketball, computer games, roller coasters and eating pizza.

"But don't you feel kind of woozy and light-headed?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said. "It's great!"

I was in trouble here, and I knew it. So I did what any veteran father would do: I lied.

"Actually, this isn't at ALL what being drunk feels like," I said.

"It isn't?"

"No," I said, scrambling wildly. "Remember when they put the I.V. in your arm?"

"Yeah," he said. "That hurt!"

"Yes it did," I said. "Being drunk is like that."

"Oh," he said, disappointed. "Well, I don't want to do that."

"No, you don't," I assured him. "Now, let's go get some ice cream."

I know, I know that was probably the wrong way to handle it . But at least I bought myself some time until I can figure out the right way.

Like the cagey, veteran, experienced father that I am.

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--- Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through