Living on 4 Wheel Drive

By Anthony Kovatch, M.D., Pediatric Alliance — Arcadia



Musical Accompaniment: “Baby Mine” from Disney movie “Dumbo”.


Dear Baby Boy McCormick,

I was astonished indeed by your heartwarming card to Aunt Mary thanking her for attending your baby shower and gifting you with “whale curtains” for your nursery; with genes boasting a father of six foot seven inches and maternal uncles much the same, the theme your mommy picked out was grounded in scientific evidence rather than emotional hogwash. I fear that you have heard all about me from Cousin Ramon — that I am computer illiterate, that I am of the conviction that all babies in your extended family are “advanced”, and that I am constantly belching out unsolicited philosophies.

I am also afraid that you are hesitant to enter this world until you have finished the “reading list” in the womb assigned to you by the quintessential English teacher, Auntie Em;  she has a habit of designing the most demanding of curricula for her favorite students! So I will make it easy for you — as I did for grandchildren Miles and Mary — to smoothly navigate your transition from the realm of the fetus to that of a creature of Earth. You will already know all the rules; let’s call the game plan:  “Living on 4 Wheel Drive.”

I specifically formulated this plan for babies born into the most privileged homes — into the kind of families Leo Tolstoy had data on when he told the world: “All happy families are the same.” Tolstoy was a great writer and “surgeon” of human nature, but not a legitimate philosopher. Soren Kierkegaard was. The father of Existentialism, Kierkegaard declared what we all know: “We live life forward, but understand life backward.”

Owner manuals are helpful. Both of your parents are pharmacologists extraordinaire and will certainly treat you for every medical and psychological issue that crosses your path; however, every life has its “toll gates where you buy your way with tears” and survival is predicated on the philosophy of life you have privately formulated over years and years of these tears. Believe me, it is prudent to have a prefabricated game plan in your back pocket at all times. Islam has the 5 Pillars, Judaism has the 10 Commandments, Christianity has the 7 sacraments and Buddhism has the 4 Noble Truths. Here is one man’s opinion of the 4 guiding principles:

1. Acceptance. It is crucial to know when the good fight has been fought and it is time to let go. Many of life’s vicissitudes are well beyond our control. We win sometimes — we lose much more. As novelist and opponent of social injustice George Orwell (“Animal Farm,” “1984” — you will find these classics on your  reading list someday) simply stated: “Happiness can exist only in acceptance.” I was always inspired by the plaque in your grandparents’ home which reads: “He who knows he has enough is rich!”

2. Forgiveness. No injury is so serious that it cannot be forgiven. Although it is at the foundation of not only Christian theology but of all human conduct based on “good versus evil,” forgiveness demands conquest of all our mental and visceral powers to overcome its resistance. You might say, it is the “breakfast of champions.”

3. Perseverance.  Another virtue easier said than done.  The “yin and the yang” of Acceptance. As inspirational basketball coach Jimmy Valvano made us promise on his deathbed: “Never give up — never, never give up.”

4. Giving.  Always look outside oneself for happiness. When you become sick and tired of giving of yourself to the world, give more — give until you have nothing left. Remember, Baby Boy McCormick, the great poet Rudyard Kipling (I believe he is one of Auntie Em’s favorites) inspired my generation with his much-quoted personal owner’s manual titled “If”.  The masterpiece ends:

“If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,  

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   

And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!


Of course there are many spin-offs of these four and many other principles that are higher on the list of priorities for the rest of the world. However, it will be helpful to bank on these 4 wheels on your drive through life and, also, to fasten your seatbelt, because, no matter how much we all love you, at times it is going to be a bumpy ride!  Be that as it may, your arrival is going to be a whale of a celebration!


Love always,

Uncle Tony  


PS:  See you at Magee — please do not be too late! Miles and Mary are waiting to see grandma and pap-pap in Virginia on the Labor Day weekend. Here is a picture of Miles at your age. Wave to him on Facebook!

See “The Education of Master Miles” on The PediaBlog here.