The Future of America

Posted by mwallach on July 5, 2012 in My Kids |

Dear That’s Life,
Like many college students, I changed my major a number of times. Always within the same genre, they were more like minor corrections rather than drastic career changes. It was not as if I was a biology major only to decide that art history was really my calling. Some people aspire to a certain profession because that is what their parents did, although my inspiration came from an otherwise unconventional source. Parents are often afraid of the influence television has over their children, and for good reason. But I wanted to be a criminal psychologist who worked for the FBI because Jodi Foster’s Clarice Starling in “Silence of the Lambs” was insanely cool and practically genius. Once I started sleeping again after seeing that movie, and it took a while, I decided that was what I wanted to do. Let’s just say, however, it did not last long.

Of course, declaring myself a biology major would have been doubly ironic since I only showed up to bio three times that entire semester – on the first day of class, the day of the midterm and the day of the final. Anything I needed to learn, I learned in the library, since that was where the professor’s old tests were stored. The questions on exams I needed to take came directly from previous ones and I aced the course. It was nicknamed “Bio for Poets” simply because it was a requirement for all students, regardless of one’s major or interest. There were plenty of students who attended class regularly, despite attendance never being taken and the questions to all exams located in the library. Frankly, I did not understand those students and they did not understand me.

Needless to say, before changing my major (again) I was sure Clarice did not need to know bio in depth. My strategy for doing well in this class was going to suit my needs just fine. I turned out to be right, specifically because I finally changed my major one last time to history, deciding to pursue a career in education. It turned out I had no interest in psychology and after a very brief introspection realized I would not make a good psychologist.

Simple basic facts and personality quirks will forever prevent me from being a therapist. To begin, I talk too much to listen to other people’s problems professionally. In addition, I tend to interrupt people with a one-liner or a good joke. When something funny or sarcastic strikes me, I have to let it out. That habit is sometimes a problem when I am on the air, let alone if I had been a therapist. While there is a time and place for everything, I still struggle to believe that there is a wrong time or place for humor.

Finally, the #1 reason I could never be a therapist is because for better or for worse, I am brutally honest. Put that all together, and it’s a disaster waiting to happen . I have even imagined a nightmarish therapy session in which a patient says, “Doctor, voices in my head are telling me to jump out that window” and my only response is, “Well, thank G-d we are on the bottom floor.” Lucky for all the patients I may have had, education beckoned and the rest is history.

I often wonder what will inspire my children to pick their career paths in life. One of my daughters wants to cure cancer because she has three friends who have lost parents to that dreadful disease. From his fascination with rockets and NASA, one of my sons wants to be the first rabbi-astronaut. And while it is still very early, my youngest seems to have an affinity for medicine. She is often found walking around with her toy stethoscope or my husband’s real one, insisting on listening to people’s heads, hands or feet, instead of their heart.

Though they are not commonly confused, her inspiration is a new television show called “Doc McStuffins” about a girl who fixes the various ailments from which her dolls and stuffed animals seem to suffer. It is all very cute, until you try and take her stethoscope away. I am not trying to squash her creativity – I just don’t want her sleeping with it at night. So after she is done diagnosing me with itchy-itis (no clue what that is because I am not a teddy bear) or announcing that “The doc is IN!” it is time for her to go to bed.

My other son has also expressed some interest in medicine. Unlike a good friend of mine who has told her only son that he has no choice but to become a good Jewish doctor, I have set no such expectations upon my children. This son of mine, however, has also donned the coveted stethoscope. Most recently, he has asked me if he could listen to my heart and even knew where it was.

“No problem,” I said, as I proceeded to properly position the flat metal surface so he could hear the beating of my heart. Unfortunately, he did not really understand what he was hearing. As a result, he decided my heart was not there. I reassured him that it was, in fact, exactly where it was supposed ot be but he insisted it was not. He then changed his diagnosis. “Well, if it is there,” he said, “it is definitely not working.” (Insert death stare here.)

Luckily I know that his medical training, and his bedside manner, have years to go before he’s ready to actually see patients. By that time, he’ll have amassed a wealth of medical knowledge, including the names of each bone in the body. That information would have come in very handy last weekend when he struggled to explain what part of his foot hurt.

“Mommy,” he said, his face filled with pain, “my foot really hurts.” Knowing just by looking at him that he was in serious discomfort, I asked him where it hurt. “Here,” he said as he pointed. “In my foot hip.” Without smiling or laughing, I asked for confirmation of the pain’s origin. “In my foot hip!” he said again, frustrated by the need to repeat himself. I smiled. “That’s your ankle,” I explained, which brought a smile to his face. “Oh,” he said, with a tinge of embarrassment. “So, that’s what it’s called.”

Suffice it to say, I think he’ll need to go to bio class everyday.

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