Sunday, January 22, 2006

it's not me, it's you

I was thinking the other day that being a doctor sort of uniquely prepares you for being a parent. You're already used to totally sublimating your own self-interest in favor of that of someone else. Having a bad day? Not feeling well? Extremely sleep-deprived? Doesn't matter. When it comes to taking care of your patients, you don't bring your own problems or baggage into it. Once you're with them and introduce yourself as their doctor (well, one of their doctors), nothing else should matter but them and you doing your best to do the right thing for them while they're in your care.

So you see where I'm going with this analogy to parenting. The problem is, sometimes the interests of your patients and the interest of your child are at odds. Should I, for example, stay another half hour chatting it up with my patient, going that extra mile to be The Good Doctor and making sure that he's all tucked in, or do I go home and spend that precious half hour with my kid? And that's when it gets hard.

What I've been trying to remind myself lately, especially when I start buying in too much to that whole "A Working Mother Is Not A Good Mother" propaganda, is that while my time at home is for Cal, my time at work is kind of for Cal too. Because it's also partially for him that I want to be a good doctor, so that I can model good and responsible behavior (blah blah blah) and maybe at some point even get a Real Job, so that we can have the means to travel and expose him to the world and send him to good schools and give him enough allowance to buy only the finest of Columbian weed. You know, none of that cheap stuff.

* * *

So Cal is six months old today. Well, that was fast. Back in my Peds days, I used to love this age, the four-to-six month olds, because they were just so darn happy all the time. You made a noise! With your lips! And then you took that stuffed dog and waved it around! Oh, how droll! I shall laugh now! (Also, another plus, they had no memory of prior wrongs, so this was before the age when they'd start screaming the second they walked into my clinic.) To mark the occasion this morning, I cleared out all the 3-6 month clothes from Cal's drawers. He'd long outgrown them, really, but I had been keeping them around for nostalgia pieces. Looking at his newborn clothes now is, like, ridiculous. Was he ever really that small?

Oh yeah, I guess he was.

Reaching the six month mark has meant a thaw in infant-canine relations. For the first five months or so, Cooper and Cal largely ignored each other. Cal would look past Cooper like she wasn't even there, and Cooper would occasionally run up when Cal was crying, or lick at his feet, but mostly was resigned to giving us baleful looks upon realization that the baby was, unfortunately, not bacon-flavored. Then, suddenly, Cal noticed that Cooper had a face. I'm sure this marks some sort of big developmental milestone, but I don't see "recognizes animal face" anywhere on the Denver, so I don't know. Cooper had eyes! And a mouth! And fur! Lots of fur! We've been trying to teach Cal to pet Cooper gently, but just try to get a baby who's just gotten cool with the fact that he can actually CONTROL HIS OWN HANDS TO DO HIS BIDDING to do anything gently. So there has been some fur yanking. Cooper, however, has been remarkably tolerant of this manhandling, possibly because any good behavior on her part (i.e. staying still) has been reinforced with copious amounts of freeze-dried liver snacks and Jerky Treats.

So who knows, they may become friends yet.

* * *

I get approached a lot by tourists asking for directions. I don't know why, if it's just because I'm small and look non-threatening, or if it's because I live in a neighborhood where a lot of tourists get lost. Yesterday I got approached by a woman asking me, in a German accent, which way Rockefeller Center was. I pointed her in the right direction, but warned her that it was going to be quite a walk. She didn't seem to mind. I would have suggested the bus, but I guess when you're visiting a city, you don't mind walking around as much. Lord knows we walked all over the damn place when we were in Paris last year, but that was mainly to increase the number of crepe stands that we could patronize.

Sometimes I think it's a shame that I actually live in New York, because it would be such a fun place to visit. And then I realize how crazy that sounds. Something about living in a place makes you not ever want to do any of the touristy things, even if they would be kind of fun. For instance, I've lived in New York practically my whole life, but I've never been to the Statue of Liberty, nor have I gone to the observation deck of the Empire State Building. (There was a school trip to the Empire State Building back in third grade or so, but I think I missed it because I was sick that day.) I haven't taken those self-guided walking tours of Chinatown, or gone to the Planetarium at the Natural History Museum since they renovated and jacked up the price of admission to EIGHTEEN DOLLARS A PERSON, and I haven't gone ice skating in Central Park since I was a kid. Maybe we'll try to get out and about a little more this Spring. Seems like a shame not to take advantage of all the fun that people travel hundreds and thousands of miles to experience. I mean, we live right here.

I went to college on a beautiful campus with an arboretum and a lake that could just about knock you out with how gorgeous it could look in the fall. Do you know how many times I walked around the lake my entire four years at Wellesley? Maybe five times. Because I was VERY BUSY, I was PREMED in case you didn't know, and GET OUT OF MY WAY, you're blocking my path to the SCIENCE CENTER, where I have to spend many hours SCRIBBLING THINGS IN A NOTEBOOK. Oh, narrow-visioned youth. That was my big regret, upon graduating from college, that I didn't take advantage of things while they were right in front of me, and now I no longer lived next to a world-class arboretum, overlooking a lake. Regrets are sad things. Maybe we can use Cal to allow us to become tourists in our own city again. After all, he's never been here before.

Currently reading: "The Great Influenza." Man, med school must have been a lot easier back when there wasn't really that much to teach.

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