The Most Difficult Thing I’ve Ever Done

The pandemic has given me plenty of time to reflect back on my life. I have faced many challenges and have achieved some wonderful milestones including becoming a physician, writing and publishing a book and speaking with confidence to an audience of hundreds.

I have even had the chance to push beyond my comfort zone through learning challenging activities such as rock climbing, windsurfing, snowboarding, learning primitive living and survival skills and long arduous hikes in foreign countries.

Out of all of my achievements, the one that I continually fall short in is the one that is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. This is raising my children. I am blessed to have three adolescent children, two daughters and a son, whom I love dearly, however, I am continuously challenged by them.

When they were newborns, infants and young children, I was in the midst of my residency and specialty training and starting out in medical practice. Needless to say, I was not there for them as much as I would have liked to have been. I feel this lack of presence on my part, when they were very young, to be a shortcoming, which prevented me from bonding with them as deeply as I would have liked.

This is one of the reasons why I am challenged by them more than I have ever been challenged by any other pursuit in my life. They are not a checkbox that I can tick off when I’m done, like working out or writing my next article or creating an online course. They require something which I admit I lack: patience.

This is why I often find myself being short with them and often yelling at them when I lose my patience. Soon after that I lament over the interaction and realize that I have lost that chance. It soon passes and more opportunities come to spend time with them, help them with their own challenges, listen to them and just simply be in their presence.

I know that this is one area of my life which I will never master because there is no training manual or course for raising children. It all comes from being in the field and experiencing it firsthand. Although I often fall short of their expectations, my comfort is in the fact that I will always strive to be the best father I can be and, although I may not always be who they want, I know that, despite my shortcomings, I will always be there for them through their triumphs and challenges and will love them no matter how much they push my buttons, which they often do.

Take a moment to reflect on the greatest challenge in your life right now and how you are navigating it. Use this as an exercise to cultivate self-compassion in the knowledge that you are doing the best that you can with where you are and what you know and, if feel you’re not doing the best you can, make the commitment right now to give it your full attention and most sincere effort. You may surprise yourself!

Dr. Nauman Naeem

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