Just Call Him Dr. Dad


December 06, 1992|By MARYALICE YAKUTCHIK

The office of Dr. Leslie M. Gray 3rd houses the obligatory diplomas, skeleton and medical texts and some not-so-expected furnishings: a travel crib and infant seat. A blue and yellow rattle sits atop a pile of charts on his desk. Gerber apple juice is the beverage of choice here, and bottles with bunnies on them are the means by which the juice is guzzled.

The baby paraphernalia belongs to Sean Hunter Gray, the doctor's son, age 4 1/2 months. Dr. Gray, who maintains a busy practice with his father at the Hereford Chiropractic Center in Baltimore County, brings Sean to work every day.

His wife, Linda, is a registered nurse working full time. Dr. Gray didn't want Sean to be sent to a day-care center. But most of all, the father says, he didn't want to miss any of the milestones in Sean's babyhood.

"This is my first -- and most likely my only -- opportunity to spend time with an infant," says Dr. Gray, 42. "I would like the baby to have as much of me, at this point of his life, as possible."

Q: This is a bit non-traditional. But it doesn't seem to faze you at all.

A: Traditional day care was never an option. I spent 17 years in California [where he studied at the University of California at Santa Cruz and the Palmer College of Chiropractic West] and suppose I developed something of a non-conventional attitude about many things.

Q: But, when you have a patient in there and Sean's in here crying . . .

A: Usually it works out that that's not the case. I'll put [Sean] in his little seat there and have the door open and he watches. If he does require being picked up, then I just pick him up and put him on my lap like this. And it works out fine.

Q: And on the rare occasion that it doesn't?

A: My mother and father are here [in the complex] also. So it's an entire family operation and when things get really desperate, they help. And the attention he gets in the waiting room is another big plus. But I am definitely the primary caregiver.

Q: This is a decidedly different tack. Rarely does the father go to work and take the baby along; you must not be easily intimidated.

A: This is a unique environment and I recognized this would work. I have everything I need right here. I did my office like a nursery with him in mind: soft colors, full-spectrum lighting. He takes nice long naps -- usually in the afternoons.

Q: You are the primary caregiver here in your office. But what are the roles like at home, after you and your wife have both put in a full day at work?

A: We pretty much share everything. This morning, for instance, we were up at 6:30; she bathed him and I dried and dressed him and loaded him up in the car. She's breast-feeding and we're also supplementing with formula.

Q: Does your wife envy you a little for all the time you guys get to spend together?

A: She says that a lot of times she wouldn't know she had a baby except for the fact that she has all that extra weight still. But the answer's definitely yes; I'm sure she'd like to have him with her for a lot more of the day.

Q: Can't you even recall one trying time? Or is it always like this? [The baby is sleeping contentedly, even though his dad is doing a three-way balancing act: conducting an interview, tending to a patient and watching him.]

A: OK. I was proceeding with an exam of a new patient while the baby was sitting on my lap and [the baby] just puked all over my arm. But fortunately, most of my patients are mothers, and understand.

About the only major lifestyle change [this has necessitated] is that my wardrobe is becoming increasingly wash and wear.

Q: Do patients ever feel slighted, that perhaps they don't have your full attention?

A: I myself never get the sense that I'm compromising my care and I think they feel that way, as well.

Q: How long do you intend to keep Sean at the office with you?

A: As long as it works. Of course, we'll have to play it month by month, developmental stage by developmental stage. Because once he becomes a bona fide rug rat, that's going to be a different story. At the point when he gets a real sense of himself -- saying "no" and being assertive, at the point it gets disruptive, then off he goes.

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