Musings of a Dinosaur

A Family Doctor in solo private practice; I may be going the way of the dinosaur, but I'm not dead yet.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Now I Get It

It's been said that the only way you can understand your parents is to have children. Having had both parents and children, I agree with this statement. Yet even raising your kids lets you come to know your parents better, there are things about them you still don't get. And every now and then, new moments of insight present themselves.

When I was a younger physician, the following interaction with my parents used to annoy the hell out of me:

Parent: Hello, Doctor Child, I just got the following prescription filled. [starts to spell name of common medication]

Me: [cutting to the chase] Oh, yes, that's such-and-such; it's used for (this condition), and its side effects include (this, this, and this.) Anything else you need to know about it?

Parent: You're right!

Me: Why are you so surprised?! I do this for a living. Of course I know about medications, diagnoses, and all kinds of treatments and stuff. Hell, you paid for my education; I'd hope you would expect me to know this stuff.

I thought they were idiots to get so excited over something so obvious.

Then I had kids. The start out as blobs and progress to rug rats. Finally they become bipedal and learn how to talk. But as a parent, in the beginning, you already know everything your child knows. His world is a subset of yours. You already know the answer to every question you ask him. And just think about how much of your conversation with an infant or toddler consists of questions. ("Where's that baby?"; "What color is the kitty?"; "What's this?" pointing to common object like a cup)

As he begins to go out into the world -- even if it's just daycare -- his experience expands beyond yours. I was kind of surprised at how incredibly cool I found this to be.

I'll never forget the first time I asked one of my kids a question I didn't know the answer to:

"Where's your baby brother?"

"Upstairs getting his diaper changed."

For the first time, I had an exchange with my three-year-old wherein he provided me with information I did not already have. I was amazed and thrilled! This was so cool!! And I'm sure he thought I was an idiot for getting so excited over something so obvious.

As time went on, my kids knew more and more stuff I didn't already know. And every time they did it, I was amazed and thrilled. And I suddenly realized that this was how my parents felt whenever I told them something they didn't already know.

Still, I didn't get what the big deal was about birthdays to my parents.

My father was 30 when I was born, which means that each time he turns the corner on a new decade, so do I. Each time he had one of those milestone birthdays, he'd recite the same old litany:
I don't mind turning 60/70/80, but I can't believe you're turning 30/40/50.
Geez, Dad; what's the big deal? I certainly don't mind any of those "zero" milestones any more than you do. Hell, you're the one who spawned me. Why is this such a significant event for you?

Now I know.

Today, my youngest son is 20. No more teenagers. He's 20. How did this happen? He's 20. I didn't mind turning 50. I loved it! It doesn't feel any different at all. No big deal. But this, my baby turning 20, has caught me unawares.

And all of a sudden, I understand my father a lot better.

Happy birthday, NinjaBaker; my little one, little no more, but always a baby in my heart.

(Gee, now I know why my father says that about me, too.)


At Fri May 01, 06:52:00 AM, Blogger OHN said...

I am your age and I COMPLETELY relate to this post.

We got started a little later in the spawn creation department so I still have a 14 (and 1/2 as he keeps reminding me, as he inches closed to that elusive learners permit) year old, a 19 year old and one that will be able to buy me the bottle of wine I will need when he turns 21 in a few months.

So often I look at them, and seriously think, how in the hell are they getting so old when in my head (though sadly not my mirror) I am still in my 20's.

At Fri May 01, 08:01:00 AM, Blogger rlbates said...

Happy Birthday to you son!

At Fri May 01, 09:12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy B'day NinjaBaker, from dino-Aunt, dino-Uncle, and dino-Cousin!!

(Hey this is even easier than sending an e-card!)

20 years. Un-friggin'-believable! Have a wonderful day!!

Love from Kensington MD

At Fri May 01, 04:50:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Fellow 50 year old:

MY "baby" hits 26 in a few weeks, and I feel your pain. His older brother is now officially "pushing thirty" which is much worse, almost as bad as three years ago when I realized I was sleeping with a GRANDFATHER!!

My parents have both moved along to the next world, but I had the same experience as a nurse. No matter what question, it was always met with "That is JUST what the doctor told me/your mother/your father." GEEZ--maybe we all read the same books??

Pattie, RN


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