An Environmental Avatar! Is Our Teen Son Okay?
September 22, 2020
by Dr. Plastic Picker
The first picture is the Eco-Avatar of Maggie P. She is one of the members of our AAP Climate Change and Health Children’s Art Council. She drew a super cute and colorful Yoda. The second drawing is the Eco-Avatar of my teen son. He had to apply to our council also. We are gathering Eco-Avatars from all 11 of our volunteers for a group project. It’s really being organized by our premedical intern #1 who is doing a very professional and fantastic job. It’s hard not to compare your children to other people’s children. It’s a fault of probably 100% of parents out there, even your local litter-picking pediatrician. This morning I’m looking at both avatars and immediately comparing my son’s avatar to Maggie P’s who is still in elementary school and one of my patients. Is my son okay? His avatar has two red horns and a yellow halo? Is he trying to tell me something? Or is it that he’s a sophomore in high school.
Mr. Plastic Picker and I were discussing our son late into the night last night. This is a little bit why I am tired. I fed our prodigal son vegan curry last night with eggplant, carrots and potatoes. Dinner was rich in vitamin C and fiber. It was good for him and good for the earth. But reviewing nutrition articles yesterday, I was reminded that eggplant (even our home-grown organic ones) and potatoes are nightshade plants. They are thought to be pro-inflammatory. I know that everything is good in moderation but even as a pediatrician I doubt myself in my parenting. Did I feed him too many vegetables of the nightshade family? Will it bring out darkness and what about those red horns?
Our son was recounting his day at dinner, as the four of us shared our vegan generally less-plastic home cooked meal. We are generally a happy family and the kids are talkative, reviewing their days’ adventures with us. Often they compete for conversation time. Our son was telling us that most of his classmates who are taking honors classes are taking both AP Physics and AP Chemistry. Many of his friends took chemistry this summer to qualify for AP Chemistry, whereas he took advanced video game programming and creative writing in a summer college virtual course. He loves writing, computer programming and music. We want to nurture him and allow him to explore his intellectual interest. But because his school is “cohorting” during COVID-19 blended school, he sits through AP Chemistry. He is taking advanced programming unlike some of his other friends, and stretching himself with honors Spanish. He is also in honors history. Essentially he is taking all honors classes and did very well on his first AP test last year which was Computer Science. He is in AP Physics, just not in AP Chemistry. Isn’t that crazy? Isn’t it crazy that Mr. Plastic Picker and I spent the evening discussing things late into the evening. We don’t discuss it with our son, as we try to gently guide him and allow him to make his own decisions.
But we doubt ourselves. Two doctors raising two kids. He is doing fine, and I don’t think the two red horns really mean anything. His entire generation is living in a dystopian reality which is reflected in much of the young adult literature that they read. Look at his bookshelf and they are fantastic novels that he loves, but they are dark reflecting the angst of his generation.
I just checked in our son, as he is home today and virtual school starts in 20 minutes for him. He looked up and his handsome face asked me, “did you get my avatar?” I replied, “yes, I forwarded it to the intern.” And I thanked him and he is back getting ready for classes. And then I remembered that he decided. He decided last summer that the last thing he wanted to do was take chemistry after applying himself diligently all year freshman year, when he had a pretty heavy load. He was proud of how he did but he said he was tired and didn’t want to take summer school for a grade. And Mr. Plastic Picker reminded me that he had decided that he will take advanced chemistry this summer, and then AP Chemistry junior year and then AP Biology senior year. So essentially will take more AP science courses that I ever took. I had been worried that his course load which was approved by his advisor looked different than his classmates. But Mr. Plastic Picker reminded me that I always say when the crowd goes right, you go left. So I’m not worried about the two red horns anymore. Because he also drew a halo on top of his avatar. He’s a good boy and I need to stop comparing. He is on his path. And in the end the most important thing is that he is healthy and happy. I’m going to make him a vegan burger now.