A Child's First Year

at 12:35 AM

He had his choices presented to him on a silver platter. An assortment of objects including a small scroll, a doll sized bow and arrow and a shiny medallion. Each a symbol of his future. Which would he choose?

A child's first year of life is packed with excitement and as a pediatrician I get to take part. At one visit the baby makes eye contact and in the next she claps and giggles as I walk in the room. The sitters become crawlers. The crawlers become walkers. It is a year full of mastery and success.  

This month, my son turns one and I am reminded that it is all too easy to take a healthy child for granted. At one time surviving the first year was cause for celebration not just for a family, but for an entire village. Many babies died from infectious disease, malnutrition and injury. Sadly, those days are not behind us. Too many places around the world today have high infant mortality rates. In fact, the United States has one of the highest rates in the industrial world. Not all communities are equally affected. For example, the infant mortality rate for African Americans is more than twice of that of Caucasians. Prenatal care, childhood immunizations and taking steps to prevent injury like falls can make a crucial difference.

In keeping with Korean tradition, on his birthday I placed a silver platter of objects in front of my squirming son; a scroll for a scholarly life, a warrior's bow and arrow, a dollar bill for wealth, a government service medallion and a thread for long life. He reached his hand out, fingered the wooden scroll then clenched his fist around the dollar bill to cheers from all around.

For me, enjoying this day with my healthy smiling child was celebration enough.

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With a Perspective, this is Ricky Choi.

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Ricky Choi is a Bay Area pediatrician and father of three.

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